Getting into the “Sweet Spot” – right on top of your game, in the moment and making a difference
I’ve been thinking again recently about what it takes to get into that “Sweet Spot” – the point where you’re feeling right on top of your game, totally in the moment and like you’re actually making a difference.
There’s lots of things involved in achieving this it seems and those who are really interested could do worse than read the book “Flow” by Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi. Although I actually found this to be an ultimately slightly frustrating book, because it concludes, more or less, that you can’t actually ‘achieve’ a flow-state, it’s something that just happens to you. And that isn’t really good enough for the control freak in me!
Seeing as I have a great laboratory in my coaching practice, and clients who are crazy and willing enough to play around with this stuff, I’ve been looking at two of the dimensions that I reckon might required to get into that Sweet Spot. Have a go with these yourself if you’re up for some experimenting, and let me know if it helps you find your own Sweet Spot.
The first dimension is our Comfort Level
It’s my experience that one of the best ways to regard this, is to think in terms of familiarity. That is, the extent to which you’ve been there and done that – or not.
Studies have shown that being too comfortable means we don’t build up or maintain the resilience required to handle life and work. I’m calling this the ‘nilstress’ position.
At the other end of the scale, is the ‘distress’ position, where we’re so far out of our comfort zones, that our challenges are not able to be resolved through coping or adaptation. This may lead to anxiety, withdrawal, and depressive behavior.
In the middle, is the point that psychologist Hans Selye labelled ‘Eustress‘ – ‘Good Stress’. This occurs when we’re slightly pushed out of our comfort zones, but are not overwhelmed by it. Our goals are familiar enough but still require us to stretch. This fosters challenge and motivation and is indicated by hope and active engagement. (But note that even good stress which carries on for too long, i.e. is ‘chronic’, can be damaging to people’s health).
The second dimension to consider in your experiments is Chunksize
Chunksize refers to the size of tasks or goals you’re working on. As much as anything, it’s about how you measure or perceive that you’re making progress.
Set your Chunksize too small, and it feels like you’re crawling along, never actually getting anywhere, and just forced to work on things that are Meaningless and don’t make a difference.
Set your Chunksize too big, and every task, goal or problem just becomes totally overwhelming. If you’re stuck at this end, it may be you’ve developed a nasty case of Meaningitis!
In the middle there is the point we want to get to. At this Meaningful point, our tasks and goals are broken down into a size where we can see that we’re making progress. And where we can predict with a reasonable amount of certainty how much time and effort it’ll take to achieve our next objective.
If you can manage to put all of this together, then it might just be that you’ve hit the Sweet Spot. You’ve got challenges that take you far enough out of your comfort zone to be slightly unfamiliar and that require you to stretch. And you’ve got a chunksize set just right, so that you can see and predict how you’re making meaningful progress.
I hope you get a chance to play around with these two dimensions. Please drop me a line to let me know what you find, even (or especially) if your experience is different to mine!