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Radio in the Morning

One of the best parts of my morning commute is that it gives me time to listen to CBC radio. This morning there was a terrific segment about the creative mind.

The guest was a neuroscience journalist who interviewed several of the most creative minds of our generation, including Steve Jobs and Yo Yo Ma.

As the guest spoke more about the optimal conditions for creativity, it reminded me of something called 'Flow' that is a phenomenon in psychology. Flow is identified as the psychology of optimal experience.

Optimal experience exists in the space between anxiety and stress and boredom and entrophy. If we imagine a 90-degree space with three equal sections of 30 degrees, flow is the middle section. When you enter this space you are firing on all cylinders, you are completely engaged in the task at hand, you are unencumbered by self-doubt or other distractions and, most of all, you are wide open to the experience.

One of the key components for optimal learning experience is having the ability to complete the task at hand and having a good understanding of the goals and objectives of the task. This offers a feeling of being in control of the process. If we look at the other two zones in the model, we can see how being in control adds to the experience.

If I am bored, I am not engaged or in control of the learning process and, if I am feeling anxious and stressed, I am too distracted to focus on the task and therefore I am not in control.

When I am in the flow, time flies and my creative juices are triggered. I can see the connection between the dots.

When parents assist their children to find that space where flow happens, they can significantly improve the child's motivation. Has your child ever said, "I'm bored. There is nothing to do."

I think I've heard that a few times over the years. Boredom is the bottom third of the psychological model of optimal experience.

What will it take to move your child up to the middle range- the flow space? The conditions that are required to achieve 'flow' are as follows: purpose, interest/focus, a sense of control, defined goals, achievable tasks, immediate feedback/ gratification, immersion, and a suspension of self.

I have seen children in the flow zone and it usually involves structured play that is creative and flexible. I have seen kids playing street hockey who are in the flow zone. I have observed kids in the creation of a science project that consumes them and results in being in the flow.

Knowing that this space exists and that it can be achieved on a regular basis is good news. Most of us have experienced this space in between and it comes with all kinds of mental health benefits, not the least of which is the emergence of positive self-esteem.

Try creating the optimal learning experience for your family. It is worth the effort.