The power of flow
Discussing a contribution about motivation through self-determined and meaningful work Best of HR – Berufebilder.de® the question arose how important discipline, motivation and social recognition are for motivated work. Should you only do what you feel like to do to be motivated and productive? Or is a little stress not so bad after all?
The Hungarian-American PsychologyProfessor Mihály Csíkszentmihályi got the word flow embossed. Flow is the lust for curiosity: curiosity motivates us to go ahead, solve problems and face new challenges. Here we experience Eustress (from Greek Eu = good), which is also stressful for the body, but is important to master new and difficult tasks. Because when we solve a problem or master a job satisfactorily under time pressure, it makes sense that we put a little pressure on ourselves to achieve maximum performance.
Stress helps to achieve goals
When we are stressed out, it is usually to solve a problem or achieve something - for example recognition, social ties or security. And when we solve the problem or fulfill our wish, we experience joy - just flow. Conversely, recognition is also important so that we feel motivated. For example through the boss, colleagues or society. Those who experience too little recognition in the long term to solve a problem quickly experience a healthy challenge as pressure.
But Swiss researchers have found that stress tarnishes our memory. Because cortisol is released from the adrenal cortex to protect the body from overexertion. It blocks memory, among other things, leads to high blood sugar levels, overacidification of the blood and a weakening of the thyroid function.
Like a hormone cocktail: the brain networks faster
When the boss entrusts us with an important task, we immediately begin to think about how we will proceed and our organism prepares to perform at its best to deal with the situation. Recent results of brain research even show that stress promotes faster networking of brain cells: every time we solve a problem under stress, we quickly learn a thinking pattern that we can call up again in similar situations in the future. Stress increases our flexibility.
The euphoria that we feel when we have completed a stressful job satisfactorily is thanks in part to the hormones noradrenaline and serotonin. They create positive feelings that act as a reward for the previous effort. If the eustress occurs regularly and in doses, it stimulates the immune system and has a motivating effect. It is important that we experience the situation as a challenge that we are happy to face; the task that our boss gives us should neither under or overwhelm us. The right mix between flow and routine is important!
The bore-out trap
Most people feel challenged when work is monotonous and too routine. Then there is a risk of bore-out syndrome. Because even if a certain degree of routine is important in our life: Without changes, we simply become bored. We do our job well and much faster if we have already done the task a hundred times because our brain has just got used to performing this behavior almost automatically.
But new challenges, even if they initially involve stress, are important. Because only by coping with them can we achieve the flow that motivates us to achieve top performance. On the other hand, those who hold firm to established behaviors and rigid thinking patterns refuse this euphoric feeling.
Problems that we cannot deal with
However, the overwhelming poses great problems. While we are bored with stupid work, we also always face challenges that we find stressful, overwhelming and uncomfortable. Often these are situations that we believe cannot be dealt with. For example, economic crises, the general labor market situation or the job cuts in Company - all things that the individual cannot influence and that therefore give us the feeling that we are at the mercy.
In such moments, negative distress arises. It always occurs when there is no way out, because the human brain does not have a solution mechanism for this problem due to a lack of experience. In contrast to eustress, we do not experience flow in such situations, but often feel helpless and fearful.
Endorphin punk without a brain?
The overwork is sometimes homemade. Neurobiological studies show that some people are really addicted to the body's own happiness hormones, the flow: They cause stressful situations even on purpose, because with the positive feeling that they have overcome a problem, they keep increasing their self-confidence. But in this way, Eustress can quickly become distressed: Only when the enormous energy potential, which is based on a physical reaction and is created by the release of stress hormones, is completely reduced, can the body relax.
However, anyone who is still under current will soon believe that overloading them means that a task is insurmountable and therefore loses all motivation. Therefore: be sure to take regular breaks - otherwise there is an acute risk of burnout!
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