Wednesday, May 7, 2014
As the school year continues to wane and summer looms large, I find myself dreaming more and more of pedaling through the countryside and sleeping under the stars, day after day, for weeks at a time. It is when I’m doing these rides, many of them across states I’ve never traveled, that all the training I’ve done and coaching I’ve received allows me to escape into hours of serenity. I seriously lose time on these rides, and have gone for hours in that sweet spot. I have a zeal to be in “the zone” - that place where one doesn’t notice the effort being expended, the pain, the aching muscles or saddle-sore butt. It’s a place of untroubled delight, of being in harmony with my bike, fully immersed in the moment, and loving every second of it.
Another name for this is Flow. The psychologist who developed this concept, Mihaly Csikszentmihaly, refers to Flow as “a mental state of operation that one enters when engaging in an activity – becoming fully immersed in a feeling of energized focus, involvement and success.” He goes on to say, “The best moments usually occur when a person’s body or mind is stretched to its limits in a voluntary effort to accomplish something difficult and worthwhile.” So being stretched to the max can give us energy and allow us to embrace success? Yes.
I strive to experience Flow in my job as well as on my bike. Some might wonder why I’d want to stretch myself, voluntarily, to work harder. In a word: joy. Seriously. By pushing myself beyond my comfort zone and having a resolve to master some new thing, I’m able to develop a sense of control, which in turn leads to feelings of peace. This is not easy, and I don’t always succeed, but as my skill-sets improve, I am more productive and my stress decreases. Once one goal is accomplished, I’m eager to set the next one. I’m actively seeking new approaches and tools as I coach my peers to better leverage tech to facilitate increased engagement and student learning. And loving it.
If this concept intrigues you, give yourself permission to shift to this mindset. Begin by identifying a challenge, set your goal, and then go for it. Here’s an article that sums up the process. As with many new endeavors, this will require focus and resolve (and time). Practicing positive self-talk is necessary - be intentional about nurturing your inner coach and squelching your inner critic. Flow cannot happen by being passive. In the complex worlds of education, technology and assessment, this is a difficult task. But by choosing to embrace the challenge and stretching ourselves to succeed, we can find ourselves getting energized.