Creativity and Getting into Flow
June 22, 2011 2 Comments
For Father’s Day, my husband and I went out for dinner. We invited the girls down the street watch our boys. When we came home, both boys were happier than you could imagine. For, after running around and playing outside, their sitters suggested they try their hand at making paper airplanes. After making a few “expected” airplanes, the four experimented with making the “coolest” airplanes possible. All of the airplanes (a half ream of paper worth) were proudly displayed on our coffee table when we returned home.
For the rest of the weekend my oldest son couldn’t stop talking about the airplanes. He even showed me how to make a couple of the designs. As I listened to the excitement in his voice, I couldn’t help but notice how totally and utterly engrossed my son had become in making paper airplanes. It was as if I were watching Edward Scissorhands. The paper seemed to fold itself into daring, yet functional airplane designs.
In asking my son how he was able to create so many different kinds of airplanes, he said, “It just comes to me.” He didn’t seem to have any preconceived notions of what folds to make first. It was like he and the paper were of a single mind.
My son’s love for making paper airplanes reminded me of Michaly Csíkszentmihályi’s definition of flow,
Flow is the mental state of operation in which a person in an activity is fully immersed in a feeling of energized focus, full involvement, and success in the process of the activity.
I truly loved seeing the joy in my son’s entire being as he crafted airplanes. It was wonderful to see him enjoy doing something so much that he lost all sense of time.
I took some mental notes from the paper airplane experience. Some day when my son struggles to figure out what to do after high school, or what to become when he grows up, these insights (his engineering and design oriented mind, his enjoyment of digging in and creating physical things, his preference for “winging it” without instructions/directions) may help steer him in the right direction.
As adults, flow doesn’t happen nearly enough. What I love about creativity, is the positive energy it provides. This leads me to a question, what would you be doing in your professional life if flow were your goal?