We think we hate work. There is a very funny and popular blog called WorkHate that is intended for (and I quote): Anyone who’s ever thought “I hate work, my job, my boss, oh god; I think I’m gonna cry.” The blog calls “mental health days” an American tradition and offers a guide to Great Sick Day Getaways. Yet research suggests that it’s not leisurely getaways we want.
In a series of books on the optimal experience defined as Flow, the ground breaking psychologist Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi of the University of Chicago presents his research on tens of thousands of people. His research found that people do not regard leisure time as all that satisfying. We wind up feeling “bored and empty.” At work, however, most people report that they feel engaged and content. The irony is we think we want to dump work for leisure. When researchers ask what we would rather be doing, we typically say we want more time to relax, despite reporting that it bores us.
We’re Just Confused
It’s stress, not work, that we really hate. It’s the stress at work that we want to get away from. Stress is the polar opposite of being relaxed. Stress represents a brain in dysfunction producing a highly dissatisfying and debilitating experience of life. No one wants that. The problem is 78% of us struggle with stress, and half of those experience extreme stress on a regular basis.
The Genius Peace Awakens
The key is to be relaxed at work. To a stressed mind the idea of relaxing at work can sound impossible. You may even think it could get you fired. By “relaxed” I mean cultivating a dynamically peaceful state of flow as you work. Peace is the polar opposite of stress and the research shows that this state of flow rewards us in every way that counts.
- Being at peace as you approach a task is how you slip into that zone called The Top of Your Game. Neurologically, it’s how you light up the 30 billion higher order brain cells that can turn you into a genius for a few hours.
Psychologically, it’s how you coax the brain into a flow of positive emotion which, in turn, produces the fearless self-confidence and optimism that can move mountains.
Physiologically, being at peace as you work is how you maintain the high level of energy it takes to stretch yourself and go the distance.
Who among us doesn’t want this level of personal power available all day long. It’s attaining your best day, every day. Combined, these neurological outcomes not only make you a peak performer, they also generate an intrinsically rewarding work experience. Inevitably, this dynamically peaceful and positive way of being attracts other great minds to work with you to do what you can’t do alone. The icing on the cake is that, at the end of the day, you return home with more to give your family.
Cultivating this brain state is simpler than you might think.
Try It Yourself
Devote a few weeks to cultivating a dynamically peaceful attitude. After two weeks of practice, your brain will start to wire for this powerful experience. This attitude will become second-nature, giving you a kind of immunity to stress. It increases your capacity to sustain peak performance by restoring joy to the experience of working.
The chronic absence of joy in our work is really what we hate. You can begin to fix the problem today by using this simple guided process to develop a dynamically peaceful state of flow.