goal of the lesson. When you were
experiencing your own flow moment
were you thinking “I am going to be
in flow”? Probably not. The reason for
this is because flow is not a destination,
but rather a by-product of the process.
Csikszentmihalyi describes this further
(the brackets are mine):
DIFFICULTY OF TERRAIN/TASK
“It should be stressed that the body does
not produce flow merely by its movements.
The mind is always involved as well . . . .
Without the relevant thoughts, motives, and
feelings it would be impossible to achieve the
discipline necessary to learn to swim [or
ski/ride] well enough to enjoy it. Moreover,
because enjoyment takes place in the mind
of the swimmer [or skier/rider], flow
cannot be a purely physical process: muscles
and brain must be equally involved.”
While flow cannot be the goal of a lesson,
it is possible to set the students up to
experience it. This can be accomplished
when the student is pushed to the
edges of their skill sets in an effort
to accomplish a goal that the student
views as difficult and worthwhile. It
is necessary to note that the phrase
“difficult and worthwhile” will apply
differently to each of your students, and
your ability to find what the student
views as worthwhile will make your
lessons that much more effective.
Aside from giving immediate
feedback and using student-centered
goals, it’s important that there is a
balance between our student’s skill level
and the difficulty of the task we are
asking him or her to perform. As you
can see in figure 2, if this balance does
not exist, students will drift into either
a feeling of boredom or anxiety—
both of which are detrimental to the
learning environment. By keeping them
near the edge of their skill set, our
students will stay engaged in the lesson
and achieve a high level of learning and
Figure 2: The balance between challenge and skill is essential to ensuring
that students get the most out of their learning experience.
A good rule of thumb is to perform
a new (or slightly more difficult) task
on old terrain and an old task on new
(or slightly more difficult) terrain.
Referring to figure 2, combining new
tasks on new terrain is a sure-fire recipe
to incite fear and anxiety, while old tasks
on old (familiar) terrain will probably
result in boredom or apathy.
It is in the pursuit for perfection, or
mastery, that we will refine our skills
and provide our students with an
excellent learning experience. As John
Wooden says, “It’s what you learn after
you know it all that separates the great
coaches from the average ones.”
A WORTHWHILE QUEST
The pursuit of mastery is a very
rewarding and lifelong process. In his
best-selling book Drive: The Surprising
Truth about What Motivates Us, Daniel
Pink describes the process of pursuing
mastery in any field.
“Mastery is an asymptote,” he writes.
“You can approach it. You can hone in on
it. You can get really, really close to it.
But . . . you can never touch it. Mastery
is impossible to realize fully. The joy is
in the pursuit more than the realization.
In the end, mastery attracts precisely
because mastery eludes.”
Cody Mallory is an instructor and lead
snowboard trainer at Michigan’s Crystal
Mountain Resort and Spa. He is also a
member of the education staff in PSIA-AASI’s Central Division.
Coyle, Daniel. The Talent Code: Greatness Isn’t
Born, It’s Grown. Here’s How. New York: Bantam
Csikszentmihalyi, Mihaly. Flow: The Psychology of
Optimal Experience. Chicago: Harper Collins, 1990.
Mack, Gary, and David Casstevens. Mind Gym:
An Athlete’s Guide to Inner Excellence. New York:
Pink, Daniel H. Drive: The Surprising Truth
About What Motivates Us. New York: Penguin