Helping children find flow

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Helping children find flow

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Our children, if they’re lucky, discover flow very early, some of them, and that may become then their lifelong interest or even a profession. One person I interviewed years ago, Vera Rubin is one of the well-known astronomers in America, and she was 7 years old when looking around out of the bedroom window noticed the movement of the starts, because they just moved to a place in the city where you could see the stars and she couldn’t believe it. And she said, “Oh, I want to understand how these things work.” And now she has written books on the galaxies and how they move and so forth, because after age 7, she constructed a telescope with the help of her father and she started looking at the stars. And every new planet or star that she could see, she would check it off and this became her lifelong passion. And she is… there are many examples like this. But most kids, unfortunately, forget the flow that they experienced as children and become kind of routinized by school and by their jobs and they never recover that feeling. Or they have to seek it in something else, something they do as leisure. Whereas the really nice thing is when a person can get flow from their job, make a living in something that is constantly challenging and… because challenge is very important to flow. You have to find something you either need to do or understand like Vera Rubin’s challenge was to make sense of the stars and how the galaxies move. That’s a challenge. But you can have all kinds of challenges – the world is full of them. And if you take them on and try to do your best at it, you have a lifetime job that you enjoy.

Watch Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi, PhD's video on Helping children find flow...

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Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi, PhD

Psychologist & Researcher

Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi was born in Italy of Hungarian parents. He came to the United States at age 22, became a psychologist, taught at the University of Chicago for 30 years and was Chairman of the Department of Psychology. Since 1999 he has been a Distinguished Professor of Psychology and Management at Claremont Graduate University in Southern California. Of the 13 books he wrote or co-authored, Flow: The Psychology of Optimal Experience is the best known; it has been translated in 29 languages. He and his wife Isabella spend the summers in Montana, where the rest of the family comes to visit and hike in the mountains.

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