Thursday, November 28, 2013

Blurring the Lines Between Work and Play

We've posted before about social scientist Mihaly Czikszentmihalyi's thoughts on flow, a state of being where one is challenged and engaged because they're in the process of solving a tough problem, without being overwhelmed by the task of doing so. Czikszentmihalyi has said that most often people reach a state of flow at work, and Daniel Pink points out that in a study, those who were denied that feeling of flow in their work, after two days, began to show signs of generalized anxiety disorder. That's a pretty compelling finding.

Czikszentmihalyi goes further. Pink reveals that thirty years ago, the social scientist wrote, "There is no good reason to believe any longer that only irrelevant 'play' can be enjoyed, while the serious business of life must be borne as a burdensome cross. Once we realize that the boundaries between work and play are artificial, we can take matters in hand and begin the difficult task of making life more livable." (Qtd. in Drive, 128)

Pink also quotes Czikszentmihalyi on how children "work" and "play":

"A little kid's life bursts with autotelic experiences. Children careen from one flow moment to another, animated by a sense of joy, equipped with a mindset of possibility, and working with the dedication of a West Point cadet. They use their brains and their bodies to probe and draw feedback from the environment in an endless pursuit of mastery.

Then--at some point in their lives--they don't. What happens?

'You start to get ashamed that what you're doing is childish,' Csikszentmihalyi explained.

What a mistake. Perhaps you and I--and all other adults in charge of things--are the ones who are immature. . . . Left to their own devices . . . children seek out flow with the inevitability of a natural law. So should we all." (128)

We need to make school a place where students are in a state of flow and where they feel like the boundaries of work and play are blurred!