Going with the flow

 Yesterday I found a perfect description of what Ground Hog Mum has tried to describe as the zen like state you have to be in as an active parent when you’re looking after two young active children.

Its a feeling I know from writing code, but its taken me a long time to realise that it is there with kids too. Kids as the psychologists would express it are ‘a deep immersion activity’. Lose concentration for a moment and you’ll be rescuing your youngest from the debris of the telephone table. The trick to staying sane is not to worry about all the things you want to do but can’t. That when you let go you paradoxically get your control back to enjoy what is happening.

The description Michaly Csikszentmihalyi gives of flow is:

  • The experience usually occurs when we confront tasks we have a chance of completing
  • We must be able to concentrate on what we are doing
  • The task has clear goal and provides instant feedback
  • One acts with a deep and effortless involvement that removes from awareness the worries and frustrations of everyday life
  • Enjoyable experiences allow people to exercise a sense of control over their actions
  • Concern for the self disappears, yet paradoxically the sense of self emerges stronger after the flow experience is over
  • The sense of duration of time is altered; hours pass by in minutes, and minutes can stretch out to seem like hours

Of course it doesn’t always work like that. There are many, many times when I rage against it. I have other things I want to do. There just seems too much going on. The times when I throw my hands in the air in frustration like a comedy Shylock.

But as Mr Csikszentmihalyi rightly says when it works its one of the most valuable things there is.   


East Lothian dad. Likes bad jokes and comic songs. Mostly tired, tries to stay cheerful. Thinks space is awesome. Would like to write more code and better docs.

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