Once again, the New York Times has published an interesting article in its Sunday Review section on September 5, 2014 entitled “Liking Work Really Matters” by Paul A. O’Keefe. The thesis is that when we really enjoy what we are doing, we can do it for much longer than if we find it to be tedious. Our mental gas tank is nowhere as depleted when we are in the “in the zone” or in “flow”: “During a flow state, people are fully absorbed and highly focused; they lose themselves in the activity.” (Id.)
Research seems to indicate that being interested in what we are doing will “…help us perform our best without being fatigued.” (Id.) The author, Mr. O’Keefe, along with the psychologist Lisa Linnenbrink- Garcia of Michigan State University conducted research in which they asked a group of undergraduates to work on word puzzles. But before they had them do so, they had the undergraduates explain how exciting and enjoyable the task would be. Each undergrad then read a statement framing the task either as one of personal value or as one of neutral value. (Id.)
The researchers found that those who read the statement that the task would be personally valuable and who also thought that the task would be enjoyable solved the most problems. They also found that these participants worked more efficiently or were “in the zone”. (Id.)
The researchers then conducted a follow-up study to see if “being in the flow” was mentally taxing; that is, used up a lot of glucose. Following the same procedure as above, the researchers then asked the participants to squeeze a spring loaded exercise grip for as long as they could. Evidently, self-control is needed to continue to squeeze it when the urge is to let go. This exertion of self-control tests mental fatigue. (Id.)
Again, the researchers found that those who enjoyed working on the puzzles squeezed the grip the longest; they were not mentally exhausted by doing the puzzles; they had plenty of glucose to spare! (Id.)
Another study by psychologists Chris S. Hulleman of the University of Virginia and Judith Harackiewicz of the University of Wisconsin suggests that “… whether we find something interesting is largely matter of whether we find it personally valuable.” (Id.). Thus, if we read an article and are asked to write about how it applies to our everyday lives as opposed to merely summarizing the article, the former will lead to our having a greater interest in the topic. (Id.)
Research has also shown that working with others as opposed to alone will also increase our interest in the task and decrease the mental energy needed to perform it. (Id.)
I am not sure how this impacts conflict resolution except that perhaps when you are seeking a conflict resolution professional (or any type of professional for that matter), look for someone who is really excited about what she is doing, who really enjoys what she does; who easily gets into the “flow” of things and stays “focused”. According to these studies, she will be able to hang in there much longer as her mental gas tank will empty much more slowly. As we all know, it takes time and lots of it, to settle disputes!
…. Just something to think about!
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