RSTP, SKILL ACQUISITION AND THE FLOW STATE, Part 2: How RSTP addresses each element of the Flow State

If Deliberate Practice (see “RSTP and Deliberate Practice”) is a key component in HOW you acquire a skill set, HOW you get good at something, then the Flow State is how you FEEL while acquiring that skill set.

In Part 1 we took a quickie look at what the Flow State looks like.  In Part 2 we’re going to assess just how well the RSTP addresses each facet of the flow state.  The numbered points are those of Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi, author of The Evolving Self, regarding the various features of the flow state .  The comments in blue are mine.

1) Clear goals: an objective is distinctly defined; immediate feedback: one knows instantly how well one is doing.

I discussed both the need for clear goals (point #6) and immediate feedback (point #3) in “RSTP and Deliberate Practice.”  Setting good goals is embedded into the RSTP process!!!  The RSTP contains a feedback loop – each building block of the skill set must be mastered, to a very precise outcome.  The student must then pass a test for unconscious competence before they can move on to subsequent building blocks.  Each subskill has a goal of its own, but the emphasis is on the practice that lends itself to achieving that flow state – you have a very precise goal you’re shooting for with each lesson, getting feedback towards that goal, as you’re focus is very concentrated on the process as you’re working towards that goal.

2) The opportunities for acting decisively are relatively high, and they are matched by one’s perceived ability to act. In other words, personal skills are well suited to given challenges.

The overall structure of every lesson is based on the Gradual Release of Responsibility model (see “Gradual Release of Responsibility”). Therefore, every lesson is built on a foundation of explicit, decisive action that requires the student to practice discrete micro-skills, to the point of mastery. The student starts their instruction with the most basic building blocks of the given skill set and works their way to progressively more difficult, and complex aggregations of the skill set– therefore the ability to act is quickly matched to the individual’s personal skill level.

By w:User:Oliverbeatson (w:File:Challenge vs skill.jpg) [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons

By w:User:Oliverbeatson (w:File:Challenge vs skill.jpg) [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons

3) Action and awareness merge; one-pointedness of mind.

RSTP meticulously lays out the micro-skills, the sub-skills that make up, cumulatively, the overall skill set. The student, at various points in each micro-skill lesson, is acting in sync with the instruction causing both action and awareness to be single-mindedly focused on each of those small, discrete micro-skill pieces of the skill transfer sequence.

4) Concentration on the task at hand; irrelevant stimuli disappear from consciousness, worries and concerns are temporarily suspended.

Just- enough and just-in-time instruction (borrowed from the gaming world) feeds the student just the bare bones of what they need in order to execute the next given micro-skill skill transfer segment. In doing so, the RSTP weeds out extraneous details from each skill transfer segment in order to keep the practice manageable. But, at the same time, the lessons are structured to be highly demanding mentally (see point #3 in “RSTP and Deliberate Practice”).  Because the instruction is highly demanding, one MUST concentrate.

5) A sense of potential control

Because the RSTP-structured instruction is not in overwhelmingly large bites, and one only has to attend to each small piece at a time, the students starts out with a sense of control because all they have to deal with is the small, immediate step.  The mind isn’t divided on multiple learning segments, it’s concentrated on one item at a time to the exclusion of all else.  Also, repetition is built in to each segment (see point #2 in “RSTP and Deliberate Practice”), therefore, as the student gains mastery of each micro-skill, they gain greater and greater control overall.

6) Loss of self-consciousness, transcendence of ego boundaries, a sense of growth and of being part of some greater entity.

Focus on the task immediately at hand, at a level that is just difficult enough, but not too difficult as to cause overwhelm, takes up all the bandwidth – one cannot focus on self when all the attention is given to the task that is just right in its balance between skill level and challenge.

7) Altered sense of time, which usually seems to pass faster.

The hyperfocus on one skill transfer segment at a time, until mastery, engages the novice fully, leading to that “altered sense of time.”

8) Experience becomes autotelic: If several of the previous conditions are present, what one does becomes autotelic, or worth doing for its own sake.

And now we’ve come full circle, and we’re back to the idea of Virtuosity – “performing the common uncommonly well.”  “Virtuosity is a practice, a DELIBERATE practice, in elevating the execution of the basics of a skill set to an almost meditative, in-the-moment, Zen-like practice; in finding the joy to be found in the deliberate attending to, and execution of, the fundamentals, over and over again, and then still relishing the quest for an ever more exquisite and elegant execution of those foundational elements; in imbuing those fundamental building blocks with the qualities of beauty and profound satisfaction – to make their never-ending practice an art form in their own right.” (see “Virtuosity and RSTP”).

I have to ask, what more extraordinary experience, what greater thrill could there be, than the mastery of a desired talent, acquired through a deliberate and euphoric attention to the fundamentals, as a highly personal expression of one’s own volitional intent?? 

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