Prof. Kurt Meyer"
13 September 2014"
Going with the Flow
The Journey of Self-Mastery
We have all been reading Drive, Dan Pink’s thought-provoking and inspiring book on motivation and what “drives” us. Drive explores the truth behind what motivates, speaking about the 21st century upgrades of autonomy, mastery and purpose. These three elements are all the ingredients that will light the fire under you and motivate us ahead. Implementing these components as part of our work will make us feel more satisfied and connected to what we do.
As a student we require engagement, this produces mastery. Pink writes ”[M]astery - the desire to get better and better at something that matters” [Pink 109]. How will we achieve such mastery? Pink gives us one the tools on our journey.
Flow; those pure unadulterated moments of pure focus, losing yourself in your task,
subconscious dissolving away, and time, we lose track of it. They are difficult to describe, yet you can see when people have entered a trance-like flow moment. Csikszentmihalyi,
(pronounced “chick-sent-me-high”), a psychology professor for almost 50 years, describes flow as an autotelic experience, from the Greek auto (self) and telos (goal or purpose). In these moments the goal is self fulfillment; the activity itself is its own reward. Pink explains that flow moments are the nitrous boosts on the road to mastery, yet how do we harness them? Flow is
Kahn 2 fostered by the challenges presented to us, when we walk the tight rope between difficulty and our own ability, hence the introduction of Goldilocks tasks.
In the story of Goldilocks and the Three Bears, Goldilocks seeks the chair, food and bed that are just right for her. She doesn't take the bowl of porridge just because it’s bigger, and she doesn't take the bigger bed because its larger. She takes the ones that fit her needs. Lets ignore for the moment that none of those things actually belonged to her, and focus on the fact that even though she is a child, it was the middle-size things that fit her best. If Goldilocks was working in a office cubical, the best fit would be between too difficult, which causes anxiety, and the too easy, causing boredom. Psychologists call this “optimal challenge”. Companies such as
Microsoft, Toyota and Patagonia have realized that creating these flow-friendly environments that foster the optimal challenge will help move people towards mastery, which in turn, will increase productivity and satisfaction at work.
Flow is essential to mastery. Yet flow moments doesn't guarantee mastery, as Pink writes
“the two concepts operate on different horizons of time. One happens in a moment; the other unfolds over months, years, sometimes decades. You and I each might reach flow tomorrow morning-but neither one of us will achieve mastery overnight.” [Pink 118]. The question I would ask is “How can we use flow in the journey to obtain something that last longer and that endures?” Here we come to our first law of mastery: mastery as a mindset.
Carol Dweck, a professor at Stanford University, has been studying motivation and achievement for almost 40 years and has come to the conclusion that our beliefs about ourselves and what we can do, will set boundaries on what we can achieve. Dweck, through her studies of intelligence, has boiled down our beliefs into two categories, the fixed and growth mindsets.
Fixed mindset or “Entity Theory”, is the belief that your intelligence is a finite number, such as your height, this what you are born with and will have to live with. A growth mindset or
“Increment Theory”, sees your IQ as a muscle that, through weight lifting, will grow bigger and stronger. Pink shows us that if we use the growth mindset towards achieving that goal of mastery, the sky is limit while a fixed mindset will pit us against ourselves and we are less likely to achieve what we want. This long,