In the Zone: Finding Flow Through Positive Psychology
The concept of flow, also known as optimal performance, is a condition we are all capable of, yet seldom cultivate. When in flow we experience a profound and dramatic shift in the way we experience ourselves, our capabilities, and the world around us. Our focus sharpens, our strengths are heightened, we feel an intense sense of euphoria and connection to the world around us, and we often realize capabilities we didn’t know were possible. For clients, flow doesn’t help them become more capable, it dramatically improves their lives – teaching them not just to expect more from themselves, but how to cultivate the very conditions that make expecting more possible.
Employ Humility to Create Flow
The extreme athletic feats that are commonly associated with the state of flow often carry an air of machismo with them. We think of the Laird Hamiltons of surfing, the Danny Ways of skateboarding and the Usain Bolts of sprinting as extreme dudes – brimming with confidence, bravado, and a hefty sense of arrogance. However, nothing could be farther from the truth. Kotler quotes director of the Krasnow Institute for Advanced Study at George Mason University, James Olds, “When you’re arrogant and egotistical, you’re shutting out complexity, novelty, and unpredictability to preserve a distorted self-image. Any incoming information that could lead to self-doubt is stamped out. It’s a massive data reduction. Humility moves in the other direction, it opens up and increases incoming information. As a result, there is more opportunity for pattern recognition, more dopamine, and less need for judgmental metacognition” (Kotler, 2014).
In humility we are open – open to information (without judgment), open to trying out new things (that may lead to failure), and open to learning. Arrogance – humility’s opposite – like outcome orientation, keeps us attached to maintaining our status, and not surprisingly, comes with a weighty dose of anxiety. Arrogance, which is a form of overcompensation, often exists to protect a fragile and inferior sense of self, and in doing so, blocks out any information that exposes it. The anxiety comes from fear of exposure. Humility, on the other hand, accepts the self as it is, and accepts any information about the self – often experienced as feedback – whether or not it preserves a contrived image. Humility, because it represents an honest interpretation of the self, is a vital ingredient of flow. If we don’t honestly assess our skills we cannot possibly get the challenge ratio right. In arrogance, we are likely to overestimate our talents, ignore any information that tells us how we are doing so, and manufacture our interpretation of the situation to protect our image – none of which generate flow.
So how do you help your client become more humble? The answer is simply to teach your client to be honest about her skills. One helpful way is to take an unbiased assessment of where she is really at, while encouraging her to let go of any need she has to be seen a certain way, garner praise or acclaim, achieve any accomplishments, or maintain any particular status. When your client can see herself as she really is, not as she needs to be or wants to be, adopting an attitude of humility, not only reduces anxiety – she no longer needs to be something she is not – but also opens the door for how to get to where she wants to be. It is the way of flow.
In the Zone: Finding Flow Through Positive Psychology is a 2-hour online continuing education (CE) course that offers a how-to guide on incorporating flow into everyday life. According to the CDC, four out of ten people have not discovered a satisfying life purpose. Further, the APA reports that most people suffer from moderate to high levels of stress, and according to SAMSHA, adult prescription medication abuse (primarily to counteract attention deficit disorders) is one of the most concerning health problems today. And while clinicians now have a host of resources to mitigate distress and reduce symptomatology, the question remains: how do clinicians move clients beyond baseline levels of functioning to a state of fulfillment imbued with a satisfying life purpose? The answer may lie in a universal condition with unexpected benefits…
This course will explore the concept of flow and is packed with exercises, tips and tools to demonstrate just how flow can be incorporated into your everyday life, and used to help your clients move from simply surviving to a life that harnesses and builds upon their own unique potential to thrive. Course 21-11 | 2016 | 30 pages | 15 posttest questions
Professional Development Resources is approved by the American Psychological Association (APA) to sponsor continuing education for psychologists; the National Board of Certified Counselors (NBCC ACEP #5590); the Association of Social Work Boards (ASWB #1046, ACE Program); the Florida Boards of Clinical Social Work, Marriage & Family Therapy, and Mental Health Counseling (#BAP346) and Psychology & School Psychology (#50-1635); the Ohio Counselor, Social Worker & MFT Board (#RCST100501); the South Carolina Board of Professional Counselors & MFTs (#193); and the Texas Board of Examiners of Marriage & Family Therapists (#114) and State Board of Social Worker Examiners (#5678).
Claire Dorotik-Nana, LMFT, is a Licensed Marriage and Family Therapist who specializes in post-traumatic growth, optimal performance, and wellness. She is licensed to practice in California and Colorado. She has developed several courses for Zur Institute, International Sports Science Association, and Personal Trainer Central. Claire is also the author of Leverage: The Science of Turning Setbacks into Springboards. In The Zone is inspired by her popular blog, Leveraging Adversity on Psychcentral.