Let’s say you’re a Pittsburgh Steelers fan all wrapped in black and gold at Heinz Field playing the loathed Patriots (confession: I’ll spend the Fall with a Terrible Towel in my kitchen). Wait, better yet, let’s say you have money on the Steelers. As you sit watching your wager waver, you’d want your QB, Big Ben, under center at the 5 yard line with time ticking away, to be in the flow state, wouldn’t you? You know the flow state: that near-mystical state of being where everything falls away save for the act you are currently involved in … like correctly reading a defense.
A QB in the flow state greatly increases the chance for a TD and for your bet to pay off. Flow state, good.
But the flow state is often largely associated with the super jock. We relegate, elevate and restrict the flow state to athletes and other limber performers who wear form-fitting clothing. We think only the Ben Roethlisbergers, Tom Bradys and Olympic athletes of the world can breathe this rarified air.
Yet Mr. Flow State himself – Psychologist Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi – believes you don’t need a BMI of 4 to experience the state of flow in your own chosen field. In his 1990 book, “Flow: The Psychology of Optimal Experience,” he posits that when operating in the Flow people are motivated by the sheer enjoyment of the challenges of the activity and are, consequently, much more productive and happy. Flow, he says, is at its peak when challenges are high enough to cause growth and expansion, but not so high as to cause anxiety.
Let’s go to the Flow Chart.
In most cases, we pull up short on the vertical challenge axis when asking our board members or other partners to do this or that. We rationalize that we don’t want to overburden them or they’ll feel put upon and leave. But, as you see from the chart, an underwhelming challenge is as risky and deleterious as asking too much. And remember: board members are generally, by definition, extraordinarily talented and motivated individuals. Like Big Ben and, well, OK, Tom Brady. So tap it. Let it flow.
In fact, use this chart to plan your next ask. Craft a challenge/ask that matches the skills of the Ask-ee. Best case scenario, you land beyond your ask into the Flow state and spectacular, unexpected things start to happen. Worst case, you are stretching your board and partners beyond any previous request. The worst is not bad, actually.
The chart is also effective for self analysis … point it inward to set your own goals and elevate your own game. Performing at your best is not only richly rewarding, it’s contagious. Your entire team starts to raise their game. Now that‘s exponential fundraising.