Day 5 – Practice Engagement

In the last 4 days we’ve worked on goal setting for achievement, starting a gratitude journal for positive emotions, fitness goal setting and baselines, and surrounding yourself with positive motivation for more positive emotion and achievement. Today we’re going to work on Engagement.

There are three zones we get into in any given task: (1) comfort zone, where when we are in it, nothing really happens. (2) Stretch zone, this is when change actually does happen.  (3) Panic zone – this is where we have anxiety and difficulty (This is also the “fight or flight” zone). Engagement requires us to be a state of “flow” which is  the optimal level of arousal and attention, where task you’re doing is not too difficult or too easy. During flow, people typically experience deep enjoyment, creativity, and a total involvement with life. This optimal level is defined by Mihaly Scikszentmihalyi (University of Chicago) in Positive Psychology as “a state that ensues when one is engaged in self-controlled, goal-related, meaningful actions.”

Some examples of “flow” include: when a musician loses himself in the melody and beat, when a dancer honestly expresses herself through movement, when a basketball player gets “in the zone,” our when you are locked in a conversation that you become lost in time.

Tips For Work: when you work – turn off all distractions – close all your internet tabs (Facebook, Gmail, Yahoo mail, CNN, stocks), all e-mails, and shut down all phones. Get immersed in your work and pour yourself in it for 50 minutes, then do ten minutes of rest (meditation? We’ll talk about this another time) and repeat. The key is to simplify in order to engage – you are less likely to engage if you are otherwise distracted.

Side note – there needs to be a paradigm shift in thought, from self-discipline to full engagement. Self-discipline as an energy is extremely limited, and taxing on your brain. In an experiment, participants were put into a room with freshly baked cookies and told “Do not eat them,” when the experimenter left the room for ten minutes. When he returned, the participants took a problem solving quiz. The participants who were placed in that room did significantly worse on the quiz than those who were placed in an empty room or those who were placed in a room with beetroots. The experimenters found that because participants used all their self-discipline energy up in not taking a cookie, they didn’t have the self-discipline energy to go through the hard problem solving quiz after. The key for full engagement is a shift in thought from “Oh man, I really don’t want to do this” and procrastination to building routines of sprinting (50 minutes of working, 10 min rest) and being fully engaged with no distractions.

Tips for positive relationships: When you are going out with the possibility of meeting other people, ENGAGE them by being genuine, by being yourself, and look them in their left eye when you are talking to them, don’t just look at their lips or their mouth when they speak, look at their eyes when you speak to them, especially when you shake their hand. Make an effort to learn their names. Get tuned in to the talk (again, turn your phone on silent!) and have a real conversation. Really learn about this person, ask them about their aspirations and dreams, ask them what inspires them, ask them their greatest accomplishment, keep yourself humorous and humble.  Don’t ever judge a book by it’s cover, your best friend could be around the corner and all you had to do was ask some real questions.

Tips for rest: Understand that downtime is a force that drives productivity. When you are in your downtime, let it be your real downtime, stop spending mental energy on social media, turn your phone off and spend sometime in real leisurely reading, or going out to a comedy club, or doing mindful breathing (breath through your stomach, deep breath in, deep breath out). The key is to revive your mental energy and your spirit. Understand that 8 hours of sleep is optimal for performance the next day, and try to get those hours in.

For you dancers – this is Melanie Moore’s audition for season 8 of So You Think You Can Dance (she won it that year), watch the example of “flow” right here, watch how thankful and how humble she comes across. Watch and learn –

For you sports players – this is Tracy McGrady scoring 13 points in 35 seconds to lead his team in a comeback against the San Antonio Spurs, this is a prime example of what it means to be “in the zone” –

My favorite basketball player is Derrick Rose, here’s him declaring himself as the future MVP of the league (which he got that year), and his highlights played to P.L.’s “In the Zone” –


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