Feeling the Flow: Revealing the Science Behind Getting in the Zone
Have you ever been in a state of mind where you felt 100% locked in and in the groove? Dialed in, focused, gameface on, whatever you want to call it, one way or another, you’re in the zone. Don’t you love that feeling? Wouldn’t it be great if you knew how to get back to that feeling on a recurring basis?
That feeling of being in the zone was defined as Flow by Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi, a psychologist and professor at Claremont Graduate University. Mike, as he’s known to his friends, became an avid rock-climber in his younger days. He found that when out climbing, he became so dialed in and focused that time seemed to fly by. He would lose himself in the joy of his activities and be completely in the moment. He went on to crystalize his experience in his theory of flow, when the optimal amount of stimulation provides the optimal environment for optimal performance.
The most interesting context to which I’ve been able to apply this concept is in my day-to-day life at work. I’ve been in jobs in the past where I’ve been completely over qualified. That led to extreme boredom and disengagement causing a drop-off in the quality of my work. I’ve also been in jobs where the challenges being presented on a day to day basis far outweighed what I was capable of achieving. That led to extreme anxiety to the point of being distracted.
Luckily, I’ve managed to elude scenarios such as those and steered my career into a job that balances my skill set with the challenges presented to me on a day-to-day basis. Even now though, there are definitely days when I don’t feel as challenged or pushed as I would like. It’s on days like those that I remember it’s on me to push myself to that next level. I’m lucky enough to work at a company and in a job that affords me enough freedom to experiment and launch new initiatives. I’m also extremely fortunate to have a manager who’s willing to encourage my personal growth, fueling the fire for new challenges.
If you’re in a place where you feel like you’re in over your head and anxiety is pervasive in your day-to-day, either simplify your work processes or perfect the art of saying “No.” It’s appealing to think of any new opportunity as a chance to prove yourself at any cost, but it could be more important to keep scale in mind. Setting priorities is a critical step towards success.
If you’re in a place where you’re just not being pushed you can do one of two things: find a way to push yourself in your current job or find a way to push yourself to find a new job. Sometimes doing the former will ultimately lead you to the latter.