Have you ever been so into a task or activity , that you don’t even notice the time passing?, have you ever felt so immersed in something that you forget about absolutely everything else and don’t want that moment to end? Sometimes, in our lives and at work we get into an uninterrupted state of productivity and inspiration, a sensation where your heart and mind are aligned, you feel capable of managing the whole company where you work (even better than the CEO), you’re like Mozart creating a new melody.
If you haven’t experienced this yet, don’t worry, it’s quite normal, but many people say they have experienced this sensation while doing something they were really passionate about.
It’s real, this uninterrupted state of productivity exists, has a name, and has been studied extensively. It’s called Flow state, and it’s a concept which derives from positive psychology. This term was studied and developed by someone whose last name we can’t spell: Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi. (if you can pronounce it properly, send us a voice note with the instructions).
He became interested in psychology after attending to a free talk from a guy that, surprisingly turned out to be Carl Jung (before he became the father of psychoanalysis). Mihaly basically discovered this state by asking many people from different professions: artists, athletes, scientifics, etc. about the exact moment where they feel most happy when executing an activity.
These people noted that this sensation was felt while they were concentrating on something 100% and while they were executing activities that were challenging for them.
This state of ecstasy represents a different reality from that of our daily lives. Finding meaning and challenge in our activities is what helps us to reach it.
In Minhaly’s book Finding Flow, he uses a diagram to explain how the relationship between challenges and abilities affects our experience when executing certain activities. To get into flow, the levels of challenge and ability must be both high and realistic.
It’s clear to see the different results that can be achieved by establishing goals. If our employees have low abilities and high challenges, this will result in anxious employees and in the creation of spaces of psychological danger. If both factors are low, it will result in apathetic and less productive employees.
Minhaly proposes two practices for creating the ideal conditions to generate more flow states at work:
Getting constant feedback: By getting feedback, we can identify what we’re doing right and make some adjustments to the strategy. Feedback is fundamental for motivation. Mayte Barba, professor from Tecnologico de Monterrey, says that feedback must be from 5 to 1. 5 being positive and well handled situations; and 1 representing areas of opportunity and improvement.
Establish clear goals: Ideally, goals should be established together: manager and employee. With the purpose of identifying if the skills are aligned and sufficient to reach the goals. Otherwise we risk our staff being either overwhelmed and worried about failing or unmotivated and bored due to the lack of challenge.
The ideal is to ensure that every employee has the opportunity to get into a flow state while performing their duties. As a consequence, we will have created spaces of psychological safety and our team members will be focused and productive.
This flow state can apply to many aspects of our day to day life, and has the potential to spread motivation and happiness due to the feeling of fulfillment that an overcomed challenge creates. Keep in mind that by fostering the conditions for a Flow state, we are increasing the growth of our employees, as this state requires knowledge and improvement of skills leading to the accomplishment of goals and better results for the company.
In which way are you leading your team? You can check the Mihaly graphic to define what adjustments you can make to help them achieve their flow state. What do you need to achieve that state and transmit it to others?
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