TEACHING KIDS ABOUT FLOW
I am a very curious person. I’m fascinated about all kinds of things. But of course, my MAIN passion is passing along all the cognitive tools I discovered in improvisation. So it shouldn’t be too surprising that I look at all kinds of studies for all sorts of things.
Well, I recently happened upon one that was pretty interesting to me. I am always reading different articles about my various interest, one of them being FLOW PSYCHOLOGY. “The Flow State” was discovered in 1975 by a psychologist named Mihály Csíkszentmihályi. Flow is a state where someone can become so hyper focused that time just stops and productivity can go through the roof. It’s usually the state we find ourselves in when we’re immersed in things we love doing. It’s that thing you love to do when all time just stops. You forget to eat, drink or have any real sense of time at all. You may think you were only there for 20 minutes, that you were just starting, when it was actually 3 hours.
Anyway, I was reading an article about flow and productivity in the workplace. It read that if someone can achieve flow in their work just two hours a day they can in fact get as much done as someone who is working 40 hours a week. I became aware of the flow state some years ago. I also have been trying to incorporate it into my classes by helping kids discover what it feels like. This was a real challenge until one day I discovered I could make any kids reach the flow state by using the Mirror Game, one of the improv games taught using The Fulton Method.
Often times the Mirror exercise is used as a way to explore synchronicity. However, I found it very useful to teach flow as well. I would have the students pair off and choose an initiator and a follower. They would stand two feet apart and make sweeping gestures with their hands and arms first to start. The object is for the follower to match the initiator as exact as possible. What I do is challenge them by having them then do the exercise in front of the group and try and fool the audience as to who was initiating and who was following. A lot of the times it was pretty easy to do. However, at some point I would call out “switch” and the follower would then become the initiator. But the transition had to be so smooth as to be imperceptible. Eventually they would get better at the transitions and I would just let them continue. But then I would play a trick on them and start calling out “switch” more often until I’m having them switch so much they lose track of who’s doing what.
Suddenly they would find themselves in a state of flow that they just couldn’t explain. This happens almost every time we play the game. I can actually question them and carry on a conversation with them while they’re doing the exercise and they still can’t determine who is leading and who is following…even while they’re actively doing the exercise! Then, when they have a frame of reference as to what flow is and what it can feel like, I can have a discussion with them as to what interest or activity it is that creates that feeling for them.
This helps with another problem. I discovered my students were so detached from themselves that they couldn’t tell me anything they were actually passionate about. They couldn’t even answer the question as they had no idea. Just think about how sad that is. Who wants their child to not be able to identify what it is that really interests them enough to want to keep engaging in it and get lost in their activity in a positive and productive way?
I’ve been using the Mirror game to challenge my students to find something in their lives that compares to the same feeling they discovered in the game. This not only helps them identify, but also can lay the groundwork for various pursuits they will take in their lives, careers, hobbies, projects, etc. It helps shape who they are and who they’ll become, which is the whole point of The Fulton Method.
I can’t stress enough the importance of kids discovering and appreciating the sense of flow in their own lives. To me the flow state can only be achieved when the heart is just as engaged than the brain. When that happens, look out! This is when incredible things can happen.
In this article below, it states that the “FLOW experience is a subjective state experienced during holistic involvement in a certain activity, which has been reported to function as a factor promoting motivation.”
I am also including the link regarding a study done on the Mirror exercise:
Take a look at both articles and contemplate the important of flow for all your students and challenge them to find something anything that interests them so that they can experience flow for themselves.