The Formula for Happiness

Creating learning experiences that last a lifetime.

Being in ‘the zone’

Have you ever been in ‘the zone’? That rare blissful state when you’re so engrossed in what you’re doing that absolutely nothing else matters.

Let’s make a distinction here. This is not about the type of happiness you might feel when looking at a beautiful view with a glass of wine, it’s about how to use the Formula for Happiness to make a step change to your teaching. It’s about the essential conditions needed to create a ‘zone’ experience, or, as Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi puts it in his book: ‘Flow: the psychology of optimal experience’ – a state of ‘flow’.

The Formula

  • Happiness comes from control.
  • Control requires rules and the learning of new skills.
  • The learning must be goal orientated and provide feedback.

In short: a goal-directed, rule-bound action system that provides clear clues as to how well one is performing.

It takes a combination, if not all, of the following to get a learner (or indeed anyone) into ‘the zone’:

  1. Enjoyment normally occurs when we confront tasks we have a chance of completing.
  2. We must be able to concentrate on what we are doing.
  3. Concentration is usually possible because the task has clear goals, and
  4. Provides immediate feedback.
  5. One acts with a deep but effortless involvement that removes from awareness the worries and frustrations of everyday life.
  6. Enjoyable experiences allow people to exercise a sense of control over their actions.
  7. Concern for the self disappears, yet paradoxically the sense of self emerges stronger after the experience is over.
  8. The sense of the duration of time is altered; hours pass by in minutes, and minutes can stretch out to seem like hours.

How can you use Csikszentmihali’s criteria to challenge the way you plan your lessons?

The easiest way to begin using this formula is to take one of your extended assignments, say over a six-week period, and aim to get your learners into the zone in week five.

Strategies for creating zone experiences are discussed in detail in the session: HoT2 – Techniques for engaging learners