Another element of positive psychology is that of positive engagement.
Mihaly Csikzentmihalyi (yep, what a name!) wrote a book in 1990 called ‘Flow’, that tries to capture and document that feeling of being ‘in flow’, in the ‘zone’, in the moment.
Rather than feeling best when we are relaxed or passive, he believes that the best moments of our lives are when we are in ‘flow’ and everybody has ways to achieve that feeling. For some it is sport, for others music or the arts. As a teacher I find the idea of flow to be fascinating and obviously, want my students to be able to experience flow. Simply put, it is when skill level and challenge level are roughly similar.
Theoretically speaking, it doesn’t equate to ‘learning’, in fact it is probably best described as the moment a skill is mastered and the feeling of applying that new learning successfully. The big question is, how to differentiate learning environments that allow all learners to match skill with challenge at any level. A challenging task but one well worth the effort!
The other fact that I found really interesting is that people tend to feel flow 54% of the time in work activities, and only 18% of the time in leisure. Considering we are planning to retire and ‘all’ of our time could be considered leisure, is to increase that statistic, at least for us!
One thing that I have done is to write out a list of things that we enjoy doing that aren’t just passive: Learning a new instrument or language, gardening, reading on new topics (such as mindfulness) and learning new skills for renovationg our house should ensure that more than 15% of time is in flow, and it is definitely something that I will keep in my mind as we transition into our retirement!
Watch this clip of the juggler Chris Bliss to see someone truly in flow!