The Hypomanic Edge: Why Being a Little Bit Crazy Can Help in Your Success

“It is when we act freely, for the sake of the action itself rather than for ulterior motives, that we learn to become more than what we were.”
-Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi

I just read an incredible book that helped me find a definition for the way I am. That book, following the title of this post, is The Hypomanic Edge by John D. Gartner. Before reading this book, I thought that I was just really driven at times while lulled during other periods of my life. Now I actually attribute a lot of my fast-paced thinking to the ebb and flow of a mildly hypomanic personality.

It may seem odd to proclaim I am hypomanic, but as John Gartner shows in this book- it isn’t always a bad thing

Hypomanics often have a drive that just cannot be matched by other people. When they focus on something with a goal in mind, they are capable of streams of thought that just seem to come out of nowhere. They have the ability to jump from thought to thought, sometimes at a fault, which allows them to connect ideas that aren’t initially apparent to most people. If you’ve never heard of the term hypomanic before, it tends to be associated with bi-polar II disorder (manic depressives), but it is characterized as a somewhat ‘lighter’ version of manic. I am no psychiatrist, and I certainly don’t play one, so if you feel you need more information on this disorder please seek the appropriate professional counsel. Now that that’s out of the way, let’s dive a little bit more into this book.

Characteristic Behaviors of Hypomania: extremely energetic, talkative, and confident, commonly exhibited with a flight of creative ideas.

While hypomanic behavior can feel euphoric and often seems very productive, it can be an issue if the individual engages in risky or unadvised behavior. I agree with Gartner in his assessment that this basically fits the stereotype of a classic entrepreneur perfectly. I can’t say that being hypomanic actually feels like a bad thing, so long as you can control the lows. In The Hypomanic Edge, Gartner writes several mini-biographies on historical figures that he diagnoses as hypomanics. These individuals made significant contributions to society, and included none other than Andrew Carnegie and Christopher Columbus.

Being hypomanic with a focused, productive direction has actually helped me make breakthroughs in my own life.

I can’t say I’ve been diagnosed as a hypomanic, but I can say I exhibit many of the traits Gartner references in his book. I have had periods of my life where my intense focus for extended periods of time allows me to produce some of the greatest work I’ve ever done. This creative outflow isn’t limited to school or work, but even in the production of software applications, in researching topics I’m interested and in self-education. I’ve noticed that it actually feels good to me when I’m ‘wired in’ on something that needs to get done. Being in a hypomanic state is a lot like being in a Flow state, referencing Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi’s Flow. In fact, it reminds me a lot of the flow states described in Steven Kotler’s The Rise of The Superman.

Flow: the mental state of operation in which a person performing an activity is fully immersed in a feeling of energized focus, full involvement, and enjoyment in the process of the activity

Yep, that sounds a lot like what it feels like a hypomanic state to me. In fact they feel the same, and I can safely say I’ve experienced Flow states before. Flow states, or shall we call them Hypomanic states, occur when you get really involved with what you’re working on- so much so that everything seems to fall away and you get an almost euphoric high as you complete your task. This used to happen to me a lot while I was developing software, but now it happens to me even when I’m solving complex business-related issues or working on an informative report. These states are characterized as highly creative, and usually very productive.

The question remains, can someone who experiences Hypomanic states avoid the lows that are supposed to follow them?

Since hypomania is a characteristic of Bi-polar II disorder, it is true that there should be lows that follow these elevated states. In all honesty I’m still experimenting with this myself. I can say that I’ve had some lows in my life, but nothing that could be defined as “crushing depressive states” which are normally characteristic of the more severe Bi-polar I disorder. In researching online, it seems many people feel they can actually have these mildly hypomanic states without experiencing the crashes that true manic depressives feel. I am in this boat right now, but I wouldn’t say I’m 100% convinced we can experience all of the highs without the lows. Certainly the athletes and Flow-hunters interviewed in by Steven Kotler and Mihaly didn’t talk about their dark sides, so it stands to question whether these individuals also experienced lows that balance out the highs of a flow state.

Whatever you’re feeling, work with it. The goal of Authentic Growth is to be self-aware with a focus on personal growth.

If you find yourself feeling a little more crazy than others, or that you stand out for the way you feel, take note of it. Everyone can make some personal adjustment in their lives, even if it means cutting back a little bit on feeding the torrent of energy you may be feeling. Sometimes I have to cool down myself down, which is why I practice meditation every day. Another great thing to practice is Stoic Philosophy, it is a perfect way to balance out the hypomanic mind. All in all, work with what you’re experiencing. Being self-aware is one of the most valuable skills, the real world, that anyone can possess. Use this self-awareness to advance yourself, and continue learning and adapting all the way. While you continue on your path, make sure to grab resources like John Gartner’s The Slight Edge to help you along the way.

-Anthony from AuthenticGrowth.com

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