Learning in “The Zone”

Do you know what it’s like to be in “the zone”? People who train for sport competition experience this often; that feeling of timelessness, almost effortless moving forward, losing track of one’s self and things just click.

It also happens for creative sorts like artists and writers. It can happen to mathematical sorts like engineers or scientists. It can happen to thinkers like philosophers and historians.

Daniel Goleman calls it “flow”. This is how he describes it:

“Flow is a state of self-forgetfulness…In this sense moments of flow are ego-less. Paradoxically, people in flow exhibit a masterly control of what they are doing, their responses perfectly attuned to the changing demands of the task. And although people perform at their peak while in flow, they are unconcerned with how they are doing, with thoughts of success or failure—the sheer pleasure of the act itself is what motivates them.”

Learning and living a life without school is like being in the “zone” or finding “flow” on a daily basis. Unschoolers/life learners and people who aren’t being constantly fed other people’s have-tos move in and out of the zone naturally, and often.

When one is in the zone, there is no concern for how well one is doing, no self-doubt, and practically no emotion whatsoever; it’s one of the best times to learn, and to learn seemingly without effort. When in reality, there’s a whole lot of work being done; work which, if one weren’t in the zone, would seem quite difficult.

Being in the zone feels good. The more people are allowed space to find their own zone, the more they will seek it out. But you can’t force the zone. That’s the thing. You can’t make a person find their zone, and as soon as one is cognizant of the fact they are in the zone, it goes away. In order to enter the zone, one needs to be free, have time and be allowed to proceed in their own way. As soon as someone else interferes with that natural process, it disappears.

Do you know what the zone feels like? Have you noticed your children when they are in the zone? What kinds of projects and efforts are the most likely to allow your child space to find his or her zone?

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One Response to “Learning in “The Zone””

  1. anna Says:

    I have enjoyed reading Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi. His writing about Flow has broadened my view of learning.
    I think as a homeschooling parent I can help guide my children in and out of flow moments by helping provide that “flow” balance, between the challenge of the task compared to the skill of the performer of the task.


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