Source: Juggling and Flow

Many jugglers talk about the therapeutic, almost meditative state they experience while juggling. It is not uncommon for people keep three bean bags in their desk at work and take juggling breaks. After juggling, they notice they are refreshed and alert, better able to get the work done.

One characteristic of flow is that a person is challenged by an activity while not being overwhelmed by it. There is a goal-directed, rule-bound action system providing feedback to the participant, so that he or she knows how s/he is performing. In flow, one’s concentration is so focused that there is no attention left to think about irrelevant concerns or problems. Self-consciousness tends to disappear.

People report a distorted time sense. While an outsider may see a frantic pace, the participant engaged in flow senses that time has slowed down, allowing ample time to do what is necessary. Activities that provide access to this state of flow are so gratifying that people will engage in them for their own sakes, not just for external rewards.

It is possible to be in a state of flow during one’s leisure time, or while at work. People who experience flow while at work report an increased autotelic attitude towards their jobs. “Surgeons speak of their work: ‘It is so enjoyable that I would do it even if I didn’t have to.'”

When describing optimal experience , we have given as examples such activities as making music, rock climbing, dancing, sailing, chess, and so forth. What makes these activities conducive to flow is that they were designed to make optimal experience easier to achieve. They have rules that require the learning of skills, they set up goals, they provide feedback, they make control possible. They facilitate concentration and involvement by making the activity as distinct as possible from the so-called “paramount reality” of everyday existence.

People in a state of flow report experiencing an increased sense of awareness, confidence and ability. The idea of taking a juggling break at work, or while studying seems most beneficial.

The flow model recognizes that jugglers bring different abilities and skills to their sessions. Depending on the individual challenge (or lack of, in relation to the individuals’ abilities) offered by the task, jugglers may feel either bored, anxious, or motivated. While it may not be possible in all cases, the flow model offers jugglers to a technique to design their sessions to match and elevate their psychological moods.

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