f l o w

The concept of flow, as described by psychologist Mihaly Csikszentmihaly, is “the state of total involvement in an activity that requires complete concentration”. When experiencing flow, an individual:  becomes completely absorbed in an activity, does the activity out of interest, receives a sense of joy, and has feelings of accomplishment. In his research study on the concept of flow, Csikszentmihaly writes that:

“People are happy not because of what they do, but because of how they do it”.

His theory dictates that experiencing flow will cause an individual to experience happiness. When doing an activity out of enjoyment and experiencing flow, you become engrossed in the activity. that you forget you are doing it. Some prime”flow-inducing” activities include knitting, jogging, playing guitar, or reading a good book. According to Csikszentmihalyi, the activity you choose has to “provide the potential of growth over an entire life span, allow for the emergence of new opportunities for action, and stimulate the development of new skills”. So, you might become totally engrossed in scrolling through your Twitter feed, but you are most likely not going to be able to experience flow. Experiencing flow leads to long-term enjoyment and increased feelings of self-autonomy. 

As I mentioned above, the experience of flow depends on what activity you are doing, and most importantly, why you are choosing to do it. If you are writing a poem for a class with strict rules and a due-date, you are less likely to become absorbed in the activity of writing – you will more likely be concerned with the end-product of your poem and getting a good grade.

The three learning outcomes of this class are:

1. Integrative Inquiry: To ask meaningful questions connecting personal experiences to academic study and co-curricular life; to synthesize multiple bodies of knowledge to address real-world problems and issues.

2. Application and Transfer: To adapt and apply skills, theories, and methods gained in one or more domains to new situations.

3. Reflection: To reflect upon changes in learning and outlook over time; to make personal, professional, and civic plans based on that self-reflection.

Before this class, I had never come across a syllabus that instructed me to reflect on my self and my experiences in class. However, it seems unfair that not all classes require a form of self-reflection to take place.

The act of learning should be more than acquiring academic knowledge.

Learning can be enjoyable, learning can be motivating, learning can be meaningful. Learning is valuable. Learning is a stepping stone to growing, changing, and enjoying life.

(Or, at least it should be.)

One of my favorite courses in my Geneseo academic career is Psych of Happiness with Dr. Allen. In that class, I was first introduced to the concept of flow. Our society has institutionalized various public policies and covert messages that prevents us from being truly “happy”.

Most classes in Geneseo are goal-oriented, and are structured on ensuring that students have learned and understood specific ideas.

In this class, we were asked to “expand our mind” and “go with the flow”. We were asked to “inquire, apply/transfer, and reflect”. As Dr. McCoy has consistently pointed out, there is a lot of value in the process.

“People are happy not because of what they do, but because of how they do it”.

I have valued and thoroughly enjoyed the process of this course.

Being able to read class-mates’  blog posts, have discussions, speak, listen, reflect, share ideas, learn, and (finally) reflect as a group has been so interesting and rewarding.

Using the tools and information Dr. McCoy provided us, we have all been making sense of what we were learning. We have all been going with the flow. As a group, we have been communicating and connecting in order to better understand the art, our selves, and the world we live in.

(And isn’t that exactly what Steve Prince would want us to be doing?)


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