Are you in the zone?

“Paul, you wash up the pans, I’ll clear the table”

“Yes dear” and instantly I entered the motivational state of duty. I wasn’t going to enjoy washing the pans especially the ones with the roasties in them and the sausages which had left rock hard debris on the pan.

But I did them, not brilliantly, if I’m honest, but I washed the pan in a motivational state known as the Duty State. This is the frame of mind where you do something because you have to, if you don’t there’ll be trouble ahead.

In work this tends to be compliance, paperwork, email clearing and other dull tasks that you don’t enjoy but your sense of duty gives you the motivation.

There’s another, maybe better place to be and that’s known as the Drive State. Here you’re driven to achieve the task, spurred on by an intense motivation to get the job done. Drive has better results, gives you energy – lots actually and is often accompanied by wide open eyes, arms been thrown around and strong coffee to keep you going.

My early morning swim today was done in Drive State. It was dark, cold and Monday. But I did it. I just hope my next swim isn’t in Drive State, as it wasn’t totally enjoyable.

Last year I climbed Mount Snowdon for charity.  It was long and arduous and my knee hurt for days afterwards. I went for my morning swim a few days later but it was hopeless, I hurt all the way, I didn’t have an answer to the pain, I had to stop and rest. This is another motivational state of mind – Hopeless State – where you can’t do anything, completely bewildered, going to give it all up, useless.

Thankfully it didn’t last for long. I checked things out with my doctor who prescribed some rest and stretches which I did under his orders, in Duty State. A few weeks’ later I drove myself to get swimming again – in Drive State.

And only after a month or so did I appear to transcend this motivational frame of mind.  I relaxed, let the water rush against my face, forgot about my knee and sped through water. It was effortless and highly enjoyable.  I’d entered the final motivational state – Flow.

So there we have:

  • Hopeless – absolutely no idea what to do, about to give up.
  • Duty – got to do this or else
  • Drive – I’m going to get this done whatever it takes
  • Flow – effortless top performance, able to keep going like this for ever

Naturally, we move in and out of these motivational states or frame of mind, often without even knowing. By understanding which one we are in we can choose to move to another. It’s your choice.

The other technique we need here is to recognise what put you there.  The trigger or turning point.  My example earlier was my knee pain, yours could be some feedback someone gave you, or a customer reaction or an email.

I’ve seen people reading their emails at lunchtime during the break and their whole body drops.  Obviously bad news and you can see where their motivational state goes.

So remember to check the state you’re in, is it the right state for the task in hand, you can choose to change your frame of mind if you want – it’s your decision. And be aware of the trigger that piut you there and stop yourself slipping into a ineffective state of mind. Yes – Flow – is the ultimate state of mind, I love being there, it’s so effortless yet highly effective.

Back to my washing the pans in Duty State, don’t tell me wife, but my dad taught me the washing up technique. “Leave a little debris and she’ll do it herself next time”  Shhh…don’t tell her, its our secret.