Most of us at one point or another have switched over to autopilot at work—just phoning it in. Once we’re cozy within our comfort zone, we want to stay that way. If we keep doing what we’ve always done, we’ll keep humming right along. Easy. Comfortable. Safe. Right?

Not quite. It’s logical, but there’s a flaw. The flaw is that it perpetuates the status quo, which if fine… for machines (and maybe grazing animals). But for people, simply maintaining the status quo isn’t enough. Never-ending, repetitive work turns us into apathetic sleepwalkers—automatons. It’s a recipe for stagnation and burn-out. One would think a life of safe, predicable comfort would make us happy, but it doesn’t. Instead, it leaves us numb and deeply dissatisfied. To be truly happy, we need to keep learning & growing—fulfilling our purpose.

Lasting engagement and happiness can only be found in people and projects that challenge us—by continually expanding the boundaries of our comfort zone. This is why the flow zone angles upward.

Where there’s flow, there’s engagement.

To foster our own engagement, we must repeatedly nudge ourselves out of our comfort zone by taking on increasingly challenging work. But to prevent overload, as we step up (or deeper in), we need others to step up behind us—letting them be challenged by the work that’s become easy for us. As we let go, we need to be mindful that it’s no longer our turn to do it right. It’s their turn to screw it up (a little, but they’ll soon get it), and that’s okay.

Taking on new challenges keeps us grounded while making our lives feel purposeful and balanced. And it staves off burn-out too.

We’re not machines (or grazing animals). We’re human beings and we feel most alive in a state of flow. To experience flow is to become engulfed in the essence of life. But flow requires more than the status quo. To find flow we must lean into uncertainty—believing that we can become more.

Play it safe or embrace the challenge. Either way it ends the same.

Wouldn’t you rather feel more ALIVE… while you still are?

Feature photo by Julia Caesar on Unsplash