Regular waking consciousness has a predictable and consistent signature in the brain: widespread activity in the prefrontal cortex, brainwaves in the high-frequency beta range, and the steady drip, drip of stress chemicals like norepinephrine and cortisol.
When our brains enter this “flow state, our brain signature changes. Instead of widespread activity in the prefrontal cortex, we see specific parts of this region either light up and become hyperactive or power down and become hypoactive. At the same time, brainwaves slow from agitated beta to daydreamy alpha and deeper theta.
Neurochemically, stress chemicals like norepinephrine and cortisol are replaced by performance-enhancing, pleasure-producing compounds such as dopamine, endorphins, anandamide, serotonin, and oxytocin.
Most of us have at least passing familiarity with flow. If you’ve ever lost an afternoon to a great conversation or gotten so involved in a work project that all else is forgotten, then you’ve tasted the experience. Everyone from assembly-line workers in Detroit to jazz musicians in Algeria to software designers in Mumbai rely on flow to drive performance and accelerate innovation. And it’s quite a driver.
Researchers now believe flow sits at the heart of almost every athletic championship, underpins major scientific breakthroughs, and accounts for significant progress in the arts. World leaders have sung the praises of flow. Fortune 500 CEOs have built corporate philosophies around the state.
From a quality-of-life perspective, psychologists have found that the people who have the most flow in their lives are the happiest people on earth. Flow has also been described as AutoTelic or self motivating.
One of the Four Pillars of our Method at Kaizn is the Art of Challenge. Whilst some might assume that is because we believe in a GRIT and simply grinding out results, and developing toughness. This is actually far from the truth, what we know to be true is that when we select challenges that are high value to us we bring out the best in ourselves, our neuro-chemistry, our physiology. We have enter in a state of EUSTRESS, which can be described as healthy stress.
“The Lover must bare his soul and risk rejection and humiliation to enter this state.
The athlete must be willing to risk physical harm, even loss of life, to enter this state.
The artist must be willing to be scorned and despised any critics and the public and still push on.
And the average person - you and me- must be willing to fail, look foolish, and fall flat on our faces should we wish to enter this state. “
Gervais, High Performance
In short the Art of Challenge is the art of growth, flow, and connection.