The Correlation Between High Stakes and Flow – The Importance of Challenging Yourself
If everyday life was always easy, we would regress as human beings. We are all driven by the challenges in our lives as well as the great challenges of the world. We are problem solvers and thinkers and the obstacles we overcome are part of what makes us feel alive.
In today’s society it is easy to get swept away by the current of day-to-day life. It is now possible to sit around and literally do nothing all day, and there would be minimal consequences. Some might argue that this is a positive step in humanity as we can now afford the luxury of minimising our energy expenditure and just enjoy the stimulation that is provided to us by mass media and consumerism.
For me this is not living. Living requires energy expenditure. Living requires us to get up and do something with our days. My proposition in this article is that humanity has reached a point where we must now actively choose to challenge ourselves. It is time to choose: live a marooned life within the bubble of your comfort zone, or embrace the plethora of challenges that are readily available.
The times of greatest expansion and growth occur in us during the times we are pushed beyond our physical and mental comfort zones, outside the bounds of every day life and beyond what is in our views of normality. These are the times we gain new insights of what is possible and expand our views of what the world is.
Creating challenge in your life involves creating high stakes. This means there is some sort of outcome, purpose or reason attached to what you are doing. For example you might enter a running race, competitive sport, or give a presentation at work. All of these activities have the potential to push you out of your comfort zone because of the high stakes. By increasing the stakes, you are creating a reason to push your limits.
As you enter these uncharted waters outside of your comfort zone, your mind is forced to engage. There is no option but to be present as you are snapped out of the autopilot nature of day-to-day life – here lies another avenue into the flow state.
For example, you might be training for a marathon. The intensity you bring to the training sessions will far outstrip the energy you would bring if you were just jogging with a friend. By having the difficult goal in your life creates high stakes that urges you to commit, engage, and be forced in to the present – it is in this space that flow can be accessed.
This is one of many ways to tap into flow. For those with a competitive nature, try creating high stakes in the areas of your life that you are working on. Maybe it’s your fitness, maybe it’s your work, maybe it’s your sense of adventure. For those who dread the idea of doing something uncomfortable, remember it’s not about grand gestures. It is about slowly learning to become comfortable with being uncomfortable. Just try one small thing each week that might push the boundaries ever so slightly. Before you know it, you’ll be addicted to the sense of life it gives you.