Leadership, Motivation, Personal Development, Personal meaning

Life in the flow

Have you ever been burned out? It seems that this is a state that many encounter in the course of their careers. You know the signs; constant tiredness, depression, anxiety, irritability, loss of motivation, feelings of being overwhelmed, etc. Fewer recognize the related, but opposite state known as bore out. Many of the symptoms are the same, but the underlying causes are different.


The psychologist Mihaly Csikszentmihaly has developed a model that explains the difference between these two syndromes. As you can see from the chart below, burnout and bore out are both a function of the relationship between the amount of skills we have in a given area and the level of challenge we face in our day to day lives. If I am over-challenged in relation to my abilities then I am in danger of suffering burnout. Conversely, if I am under-challenged in relation to abilities then I am in danger of suffering bore out.

I find this model useful for me in relationship to managing my own life and also when considering how to challenge those I am responsible for. This applies to the workplace, the home, in the sports arena or in a hobby. The key is to find the right balance between challenges and abilities so that I am in the flow. And when I am in the flow I need to look for ways to increase my challenges and abilities with respect to one another, not allowing one to out strip the other.

How is the balance between challenges and abilities in your life?





3 thoughts on “Life in the flow

  1. A friend of mine told me once: “considering only our earthly life (“under the sun”), the point is to keep in the middle (read balance), but do not spent your life focused on keeping the middle because that puts you automatically at the extreme”

    Assuming that I have a choice between balance, boredom and burnout, the ideal is balance (at my own personal frame for balance of course). Given that this is sometimes (often?) difficult to achieve and even more maintain, I have a personal strategy which I feel comfortable with, I call it the “chosen failure” (also commonly known as the least of two devils); if I am going to fail to keep the goal, on which way it would be best for me to fail?… For example, if were to walk on top of a fence where the ground is 20 cm down on one side, and 5 meters on the other, then, if I were to fail reaching my goal, walking on top of the fence, which failure I would rather make? Personally, I rather fail on the shallow side…

    Thus, I will aim to keep the balance, but if I were to failing keeping the balance, I will try to chose to which unbalanced way my failure will most likely will lead me to … In the case of burnout and boredom, I believe I can recover the balance faster and better if I am bored then burned out..

    I like your blogs Ed, keep them coming… although it may take me sometime to go through each one.. 🙂


    Liked by 1 person

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