Flow: the secret to happiness

First identified by Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi, flow is a kind of mental state where you perform an activity while being fully immersed and focused on it. In this Ted talk, Mihaly describes flow as the point where high skill is matched by just-the-right challenge.

Interestingly, video games are known to get people into a state of flow. So does sports, music and a variety of others.

Flow makes us feel good. As human beings, once we experience flow, we tend to look for as much of it as we can find. That’s why video games tend to be addictive.

Flow in a Chess game is quite common too, as reported by many people.

As a chess parent guiding your child in the early stage of their chess exploration, it’s  important to let them experience and enjoy flow, by making sure they play at a level that is “just right” for them. In today’s competitive chess environment, you might think that “play-up” will give your child a faster track to higher rating, and it might; but consider also that the child might lose interest in the game altogether.

And if you want some happiness too, I recommend putting yourself in their shoes.

 

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Follow your passion

  • Do something you really enjoy.
  • Do something that really makes you feel great. All the time. Every day.
  • Figure out what you are passionate about and follow your passion.

Two examples from my personal life:

  1. Daniel is passionate about chess. That’s why he is doing well. His drive is intrinsic and second to none.
  2. Noa (my wife) is passionate about teaching Art with historical context, and decided to follow this passion of hers with Art History In Practice. Amazing things followed, like the homage to Nina Katchadourian.

Your mileage will NOT vary. I promise.

 

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Cherish the experiences

What’s really important in life?

The experiences.

It’s what you’ve experienced that makes you happy, not things you have (possessions). This has been proven, but we tend to forget and focus on “having more things.”

Whenever I go to a chess tournament with Daniel, I focus on enjoying the experience. Yes, I am also supportive of his pursuit of achievement and desire to win; but I it’s as rewarding, if not more, to enjoy the experiences — meeting new chess parents, the dinner at the hotel restaurant (where the tournament is played), the pool time, or analyzing games together.

My good friend Jay reminded me how important experiences are really. Thank you Jay!

 

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Nashville 2012

This year’s elementary nationals were in Nashville at the Gaylord Opryland resort. We all went together to support Daniel in his games at the K-3 Championship section. Participating were more than 2200 kids in various age groups. The amount of energy in the air was mind-boggling; so many kids; so much chess; it was fun and exciting.

I have to say this was by far the best chess tournament I attended, mostly due to the venue. The Opryland resort is fantastic, and there are many things to do in between games, right there at the hotel – pools, restaurants, arcade room and much more.

Chess tournaments are a wonderful social opportunity, and we really enjoyed meeting  many young chess masters and their parents.

During the tournament, Daniel had an opportunity to play against the top-seated player in the section, on board #1 in the middle of the tournament hall.

Here are some photos from the event.

 

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Focus, Focus, Focus!

In this day and age, focusing on something is not as easy as it used to be. I know for me it isn’t. Yet the ability to focus on any activity is tremendously valuable.

In chess, the ability to focus is a clear advantage: when you practice, when you study, and especially when you play.

So regardless of anything else your child is doing to improve his/her chess — practicing the simple act of focusing will have an amazing impact. Focus, Focus, and Focus!

It’s guaranteed to make their chess much better. (and it’s a good thing to learn anyways)

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Controlling your emotions

One of the most effective ways to improve in chess is to analyze your own games. Especially the ones you lose, so you can learn and improve.

A few weeks ago, when we were preparing for an important tournament, I tried something new: analyzing games of other kids that I know will participate. It’s not always easy to do, since most of these kids don’t have any published game. But Daniel and I chose one potential opponent (let’s call him John) for whom we could find 5-6 games.

After analyzing the games (some wins and some losses) it was clear to me that John, like any other kid his age, is biased to make more mistakes when his opponent has a significant advantage.  I pointed this out to Daniel and we spoke about how emotionally intensive it must be for John at those moments.

I was pleasantly surprised when Daniel then said:

“Dad, after learning openings, middle-game tactics, end-game, planning, and all that, do you know what’s the most important thing in chess?”

“What is that?” I said

Daniel: “Controlling your emotions.”

That’s all I needed to hear. Mission Accomplished!

 

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