In February 2012, three BJP ministers from Karnataka were caught on camera watching porn on their cell phones. The Assembly was in progress while the trio were immersed in this very interesting entertainment. The consequent outrage that followed ensured that the matter got ample media coverage and the offending ministers resigned immediately. The matter was suitably exploited by the opposition party to enforce their superior moral stance. We will set aside pontificating upon the moral dilemmas of these actions for this article. The point is that the ministers were obviously bored with the political processes at play and rather hoped to enjoy certain other play time activities.
In 1955 psychologists Donald Hebb and James Leuba hypothesized that all organisms prefer a certain level of stimulation from their environment in order to function properly. Humans, above all, seek this optimal level of stimulation in all aspects of their lives. Optimal Stimulation Level (OSL) is defined as a property that characterizes an individual in terms of his or her general response to environmental stimuli. One’s environmental stimuli is determined by a variety of factors ranging from novelty, complexity, ambiguity and so on. When humans find their environmental stimulation to be low they attempt to increase it and vice versa. When stuck in a low stimulation environment, people feel itchy, restless, sluggish and cranky. You are raring to solve a complex problem or enjoy a hearty laugh with your buddies, but are stuck in a boring meeting or doing a dead end task.
Thus, the ministers who were not receiving their required dosage of stimuli from their surroundings, aka the boring Assembly politics, resorted to upping their levels of OSL by indulging in some X rated activities, risky as the prospect was. Similarly, when you are feeling over aroused and need to tone down the input your senses are getting from your surroundings, you will seek calmer, quieter spaces and simpler, more routine tasks. Over stimulation causes anxiety, stress, inability to think straight and generally curbs all enthusiasm. Low levels of arousal makes you feel itchy, restless, sluggish and cranky. In either case, the quality of your work takes the hit.
Imagine if you could wire yourself to match the activities of the day, for example, customizing your moods to meet the levels of performance as demanded by the situation at hand. Now imagine getting this done without flooding your innards with crazy amounts of caffeine or poisonous tobacco. Human beings have the ability to conquer any challenge by tapping into the pool of reserves of their personality. By actively designing your day around your personality, you can effectively conserve energy for when you need it most and go through your day feeling more alert, alive and in charge of things. Introverts and extroverts function on different levels of stimulation. While the former thrive on calm, quiet surroundings where they can exclusively focus on their work, without any external interference; the latter need to be around people and bounce ideas off colleagues and friends in order to be optimally stimulated. But most of us personalities that is a spectrum, imbibing qualities of both these characteristics.
Certain parts of the day are spent in quiet musings and the rest amidst a crowd. By actively figuring out what you prefer during which times of the day, and then inserting appropriately stimulating tasks to match those preferences, you can ensure that you are giving the task at hand your best shot. Author Susan Cain calls this “sweet spotting” your life. Chances are, most people subconsciously do this without realizing. Once they start to feel over or under stimulated, they abandon their environment in search of something more comfortable. But when aware of the concept, then sweet spotting really becomes a fun game to play. The goal is to remain in your sweet spot for as long as possible. The moment you start feeling exhausted or under-satisfied, seek out circumstances that will push you right back into your sweet spot.
You can set up your work, your hobbies and your social life so that you spend as much time inside your sweet spot as possible. People who are aware of their sweet spots have the power to leave jobs that exhaust them and start new satisfying businesses.
Understanding your sweet spot and manipulating it effectively will allow for a deep connect to form between the mind and the task at hand. Consistently living life within the boundaries of your sweet spot will yield magnificent output at work and an overall enriched quality of life. Also, it is an indication of things you are doing wring. If daily activities render you feeling most definitely out of your sweet spot, then it is time to eliminate whatever it is that is causing such negativity. Such active and enhanced interaction with your surroundings increases creativity and productivity manifold, a fact that you will witness as soon as you put this process into practice. Play around with it, jumble it up, reinvent and evolve. Life within the sweet spot can sure be sweet.