What is “The Zone”?
Being in “the zone” does not only occur in athletics. We can get in the zone at work, when coaching, teaching, or even at home. The zone is that moment when everything that is happening in the moment becomes clear and all distractions disappear. All worry and fear leave the mind, anything that is not relevant fades out, and only that one thing you are performing exists. High performance lives in the zone.
The zone is all about balance
When an athlete gets overly emotional and begins to lash out you know that he is not in the zone. The zone is not about being emotional. Yes, emotional energy is needed to get in the zone, but that is only when it is in balance with our spiritual, physical, and mental energy. Being extreme is not where the zone is. The zone calms and allows us to focus no matter how crazy the world is around us.
Finding the Zone
I bet most of us have been in the zone at one point or another in our lifetime. Sometimes it happens on accident, meaning that it happens and we don’t know why. To find, or re-find the zone we do not need to make big changes in our performance or our routine. Most of the time the zone is right in front of us, and all that is required to enter it is to make a small tweak or adjustment to our performance.
The Zone can be trained
The zone, like most skills, can be trained. However, this training requires a great deal of repetition and experimentation. The greatest athletes and performers in the world have learned how to harness the zone to their benefit. The zone is trained as we experiment with our natural routines that increase our focus. Such routines could include listening to a particular song, resting in a particular way, even going through a personal meditation exercise. Proficient authors have mastered the zone by training their routine. William Faulkner once said, “I only write when I am inspired. Fortunately I am inspired at 9 o’clock every morning.” Just as excellence is mundane so is getting in the zone.
One of the most famous rituals to get in the zone is done by LeBron James. Before each game James will scoop a small amount of chalk, rub his hands in it, and throw the remaining chalk in the air creating a small white cloud.
Maybe you have also seen the movie Gladiator staring Russell Crowe. The main character, played by Crowe, before a battle or fight in the Colosseum he would always take a bit of dirt from the ground, rub his hands, and smell it. This simple routine like James’ started with a practical purpose (drying the hands of any sweat to improve grip), but grew into a specific stimulus that would trigger the brain into a deep focus—into the zone.
No matter what we do, it is important to develop the ability to enter the zone when performance becomes more important than ever. Businessmen enter the zone when about to work with a client or make an important presentation. Athletes enter the zone when about to enter competition. A parent enters the zone to coordinate the insane bustle of preparing a hand full of children in the morning to go to school. A student enters the zone just before starting an exam. We all need those moments of intense focus because the essence of high performance lives in the zone.
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