Faced with the enormity of completing a project that's two years in the making, I found myself a bit perplexed by a concept I was working on as I stared into the computer screen. Enthused by my topic, "transforming work stress," I wanted to keep writing to flesh out my design. But I know my creative prowess emerges at its best, when I stop and take a digital breath -- a short period of time when I unplug, come back to center in my breath and into a state of awareness and flow away from technological stimulation. So I headed to the beach in the middle of my workday without my phone or computer.
In Sync and In the Zone
I'm acutely aware of when I'm in "sync" with my inner wisdom and when I fall off the wagon. I'm a fount of creativity when I'm in a state of "flow," and in a tailspin when I enter a zone of exhaustion, stress or distraction. That's why taking digital breaths are so important.
The "flow" I'm talking about is the kind of rapture, immersion and positive energized focus in ones work that Hungarian psychologist Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi talks and writes about. It triggers challenge, sparks creativity and elicits a sense of a larger contribution. Where your challenges meet your skills, in "the zone."
That "zone" has many names and is referred to in literature from mythology to spirituality and even in business. Last year I interviewed David Rock, the author of Your Brain at Work, who referred to this "zone" as a "toward state" in the brain. In that state, Rock explains, workers feel curious, open minded, happier and interested in what they are doing.
"Even a small amount of stress is noisy in the brain," the leadership consultant and co-founder of the NeuroLeadership Institute told me, which brings me back to the need for a digital breath, and the words of Harvard Evolutionary Biologist Edward O. Wilson:
"We have created a Star Wars civilization, with Stone Age emotions, medieval institutions, and god-like technology."
Our new world of work, which exists in the exponentially expanding universe of the Internet, is what can bring a dictatorship to rubble and at the same time throw our work-life merge into chaos. Why? We are living in real time and in digital portals that can suck our energy or infuse us with relevant information.
Real Time Is the New Prime Time
At Le Web 2009 in Paris, a revolution was declared by Her Majesty Queen Rania Al Abdullah of Jordan. Whilst delivering an impassioned speech at the conference, she said "real-time is the new prime-time" when it comes to changing the world as the evolutionary pace of the internet could "drive humanity toward new horizons."
But the flipside of the ability to instantly connect can end you in the black hole of endless internet surfing and the revolving door of what I refer to as a work-related field of cognitive dissonance. Stuck in a vacuum of perpetual information overload, courtesy technology and our human response to it, we're programmed to pay attention to it and excell, or we risk FOMA -- fear of missing out.
Reaching for the #ThirdMetric
At the #ThirdMetric Conference this year hosted by Arianna Huffington, discussion swirled around the pressure in business to adhere to a success-driven culture defined by money and power. Huffington aimed to redefine success beyond those traditional metrics -- toward embracing well-being, wisdom and wonder.
"We all have this place inside of us a place of strength, harmony and wisdom, but most of the time we don't live there. How can we course-correct faster? How can we encourage each other to live in that place more?"
While taking a digital breath might be contrary to our competitive nature in a 24/7 marketplace, it allows us to take a step back from info-overload and our demanding lives as cogs in the wheels of commerce. Digital contemplation acts as a digital detox or even redux. It helps us to re-frame our orientation of our digital lives. It encourages us to own our humanness and live a more meaningful work experience. Implicit in that strategy is mastering our digital choices by:
1. Contemplating quality vs. quantity of information
2. Deciding when to access information
3. Determine which devices to use, to access information
4. Creating healthy communication practices with others
5. Evaluating our overall digital input and output
In a world that relies on connectivity, we are charged with developing new skills around time, information and our management and usage of technological devices. In order to swim to the surface we have to start thinking differently about how we consume information that is relevant to us, especially in the context of the work-life merge.
To get you started in a light way. I thought I'd share the fruit of one of my creative digital breath runs designed to get people to take a breath in the work-life merge. I hope you enjoy my music video!
For more on stress, click here.
For more by Judy Martin, click here.