Like clear goals, feedback is a barometer upon which you can measure your progress. It is how you determine if you are approaching your target, or veered off course. Feedback is also how you orient yourself toward your goal. Self-monitoring is essential. For example, if the goal is to master the task of baking the perfect edification of a key lime pie, allowing other bakers/cooks/family to taste the pie is likely to let you know if we are on your way. Similarly, if your goal is to walk one mile every day and you find that you are more likely to do that if you walk with a friend (i.e., companion or someone to be accountable to), this knowledge lets you know that to be successful you may have to have a standing appointment with a friend.
How can you determine if you are getting closer to your goal, by getting feedback or self-monitoring. Feedback is a fundamental part of mastery. When you can see just what the results of your efforts are, you can adjust your approach, try new techniques and skills, and test them against the feedback you receive. And when it’s immediate, feedback becomes a core agent of mastery. It is important to assess your efforts when trying to stay in the zone, or achieving "flow". Feedback serves as a reward or reinforcement. It allows you to realistically measure your task, process, benchmark, or targets when trying to attain your goals. When feedback is immediate, the information you require is always close at hand and observable. This information also help you to not wander off of our measurable, attainable goal. You can control your distractions when trying to stay in the zone, keeping our eye on the prize. When you don’t have to guess at how you are doing, your focus tightens, and absorption (a fundamental component of flow) begins to take place. And the more immediate the feedback, the more you cut down on the very distraction that interrupts flow.
So how do you make feedback more immediate? There are many ways to monitor progress (i.e., auditory, visual, video formats, or in-person). With ever evolving technology on our smart phones, there are many free mobile apps that can assist you with self-monitoring. A daily visual or auditory reminder to ask self how I am doing? Auditory cues, such as sounds and tones arranged on a variable or fixed time schedule can be helpful. Similarly, there are many visual mobile and web-based apps that can provide feedback when working on your goals. On the other hand, if you do not feel comfortable using/relying on technology, you can socially connect. Simply ask for feedback from a co-worker, mentor, friend, or trade professional how you are doing. If your goal is to learn a new skill, you can videotape your practice and ask for feedback on each practice session. Similarly, if you want to be more productive at work, you can create a daily progress report. What immediate feedback does is keep you in the experience.
When you become absorbed in what you are doing, and that absorption brings you closer to goal attainment, your motivation is enhanced, more intense, or amplified. And there is a very powerful neurochemical response that comes with getting closer to your goals: the closer you get, the more you will visualize yourself reaching your goals, and visualized images create the exact same neurochemical response in the brain as actual ones. The result puts the reward circuitry of the brain on high alert – you are nearing the goal – and sending powerfully into flow.