Disrupting Consciousness: A Sign of Conflict.
Imagine you’re are filling out the 100th TPS report of the day. Your car was making a clunking noise this morning, the cat is sick, and for some reason, you’re having trouble falling asleep at night. With each repetitive report you fill out, thoughts about your car, cat, and well-being keep pushing themselves into your awareness, splitting your attention between the goals you are trying to meet at work, and the anxieties of day-to-day life. Your mental flow is now disrupted.
Welcome to psychic entropy.
The problem outlined above, as explained in Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi’s book Flow: The Psychology of Optimal Experience, is two-fold: consciousness is disrupted, and the work task is not fulfilling. How do we address this conflict?
Psychic Entropy: Embrace The Conflict.
Psychic entropy is unavoidable. Our daily lives are complex and often filled with disorder. A workplace cannot solve someone’s personal conflicts, but it can encourage ways to detect and deal with disruptions in consciousness. Cognitive research teaches us that people who don’t take breaks make more mistakes (see reference below). Our mind gets used to doing a task (especially if the task is repetitive or boring) and the brain becomes less vigilant, thus allowing more task-unrelated-thoughts to happen.
When we are experiencing psychic entropy, those task-unrelated-thoughts can turn negative and doubly disruptive. Encouraging people to take breaks, to pause and reflect, lowers the chance of our brain ‘checking out’ and doesn’t allow psychic entropy to take the wheel. Mind-wandering and task-unrelated-thoughts are natural. It’s difficult for our brains to sustain our attention for a prolonged period of time, even when the task (e.g., attending a workshop) is dynamic.
If taking a break is not sufficient, writing down distracting thoughts offloads the information from your head onto the paper and creates more mental space for the task at hand. Writing down your thoughts both offloads them and ensures you won’t forget them. Going with the flow and embracing the entropy for a few minutes is more beneficial than trying to suppress it!
Psychic Energy: Go With The Flow!
When our consciousness is harmoniously ordered, our mind is in a state of flow. How do we overcome psychic entropy and encourage the opposite, known as psychic energy or optimal experience? Starting a workshop with a grounding technique, like a mindfulness exercise, gives your participants the opportunity to process their thoughts, relax their body, and pay attention to the present moment. Fostering a human connection also promotes optimal experience. Encouraging participants to interact by diving into engaging exercises (e.g., “10 Things in Common”) builds common ground, accountability, and an enjoyable atmosphere! By providing mentally stimulating and rewarding learning experiences, people’s attention can be invested into realistic, clear, and meaningful goals. In order to enable psychic energy, how might we:
- Design learning experiences to incorporate engaging materials and opportunities to interact with other trainees?
- Incorporate activities that produce flow (e.g., games, mindfulness, exercise, and art) into learning experiences?
- Encourage companies to transform jobs, onboarding experiences, and workshops into flow-producing activities?
Ariga, A., & Lleras, A. (2011). Brief and rare mental “breaks” keep you focused: Deactivation and reactivation of task goals pre-empt vigilance decrements. Cognition, 118(3), 439–443.
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Critical Thinking 8 employee training 5 Flow 1 Learn in a Minute 3 Learning Distractions 1 Learning Experiences 1 Lifelong Learning 12 Mihaly Cskiszentmihalyi 1 Recommended Resource 1