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KEY 032: Using Risk to Achieve a Flow State

Every bit of research to date shows we are more motivated by intrinsic rewards than external ones.

Yet, we are bombarded daily with messages that tell us happiness comes from having a lot of "things" and being really popular.

But, there are a lot of studies showing us the happiest and most fulfilled people are the ones who experience flow states. Most of the time, the people who encounter these experiences display an autotelic personality.

What Is An Autotelic Personality?

People who have an autotelic personality do activities that are rewarding for their own sake, not just for the outcome they produce. The other thing autotelic people do is push themselves to master a specific job and then constantly challenging themselves in that job.

Doing all of this produces the release of dopamine and norepinephrine. Dopamine is a reward for your brain. Norepinephrine stacks on top of the dopamine to increase focus and pattern recognition.

Not only are these chemicals pleasurable, but they expedite the time it takes to learn a skill. 

Research shows there are benefits to not delaying gratification sometimes.


Now the question is, are those with an autotelic personality type gifted genetically with this perspective or can it be developed? Fortunately, current studies clearly show anyone can increase autotelic traits within themselves.

Steps to Finding Internal Rewards

The first step is to identify intrinsically rewarding activities: those that are fulfilling just for the sake of doing them. For example, do you love playing music for the joy of doing it or are you attempting to become rich and famous? will increase the neural connections in your brain. This increases your ability and releases dopamine as a reward for your brain.

Most research shows if you are pursuing it to be famous, you most likely would not go through the struggle needed to succeed. Furthermore, even if you did attain wealth and celebrity, it would not lead to lasting satisfaction.

The second step is to always push yourself to get better at that intrinsically rewarding work. Come up with ways to track your progress and focus most of your attention on pushing yourself just barely beyond your present ability.

When you do take these steps you will increase the neural connections in your brain. This increases your ability and then it releases dopamine as a reward for your brain.

This will also cause your brain to begin to create positive associations with taking risks. This drive to have new experiences and challenging activities is a characteristic of an autotelic personality type.

Your Past May Be Holding You Back

Lastly, past traumas and unresolved emotional issues can result in fear of taking risks or a sense of inadequacy related to one’s abilities.

Get help from a therapist or coach. When you resolve these issues, you will develop an "approach" personality rather than an "avoidant" one.

We are not limited by our genetics. This is proven through epigenetics and the concept of neuroplasticity. Basically, the brain can change itself throughout one's lifetime.

The steps above will help you develop an autotelic personality. It doesn't matter how much you fear taking risks or how much you struggle with self-doubt. Master this and it will help you feel more joy, excitement, and fulfillment in life.


7 Traits of Deliberate Practice

Discover the unique practice strategies used by the very elite in virtually every field of work. Implement these into your routine and you'll quickly find yourself at the top.

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What is The Key?

The KEY to better relationships, improved finances, and achieving peak performance isn't somewhere "out there" in another book, seminar, or training program, it already exists within you. You don't have to go find it, you just have to unlock it... and that's what show you how to do on The Key Podcast.

Paul desmond adams

Personal development coach

purpose | goals | career | relationships | Wellness

Paul is a super high achiever trapped in a misfits body. He's dreamed of and worked towards the highest levels of success, but held back by disorganization, distraction, and procrastination. He's always known what to do but hasn't been able to do what he knows... and it wasn't his fault. 

John hawkins jr, M.S., L.M.H.C.


peak performance strategist

John is a licensed psychotherapist who has helped thousands of people deal with past trauma, addiction, and broken relationships. After years of helping people breakthrough their internal blocks to success, he now realizes most us KNOW what to do, we just don't DO what we know... and it's typically not our fault. 

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