Monday, August 31, 2015


the zone

Improve Performance by Getting in the Zone...

Imagine yourself in a state where your focus is so intense, that you feel as if you’ve shut out the world around you. Imagine your actions flowing from you without hesitation, without thought, and without fear of doing the wrong thing. Imagine those actions are in perfect sync with your skills and abilities and that they will be executed perfectly with razor sharp precision… Imagine that for a moment.

How does that feel? You’ve been there before… remember?

This state of mind is sometimes known as being “in the zone”. Athletes, musicians, artists, skilled workers, and many others often times know how to enter “the zone”. When they are there, they perform flawlessly. Their actions are like brilliant, flawless pieces of art. Their focus is laser sharp and – in the moment – they are often unaware of their top level performance.

But you don’t have to be an athlete or musician to or skilled worker to enter “the zone”… because we all do it, and we do it more often than we think we do.

I remember a time, years ago, when I was in the Army and was competing in a shooting competition. This particular competition was with pistols and had some of the greatest marksman on base participating. This is not to say I was one of them, but on this day, I certainly was.

Before the competition began, I was sat far away from the rest of the competitors, alone in a state of focused visualization. I could see myself hitting the bullseye with every shot. I could see as each round entered the target, that my shot-grouping was the tightest it had ever been. I wasn’t focused on the fundamentals of shooting such as sight focus, breathing, and trigger-squeeze… I was simply visualizing each round entering the bullseye dead on center. 

I must have remained in this state even when my number was called to shoot because I do not even remember approaching the firing line, loading my sidearm, or anything of that sort. I do remember, however, watching as each hole appeared in the center of the target, with the same dead-on accuracy of my visualization.

When that round of the competition was completed, the bullseye was gone from my target. I had shot it right out of the paper. One of the judges joked with me saying that a bullseye can be shot out with five rounds of ammunition, so he was only going to count 5 hits because there was no other proof that I had struck my target. Needless to say I was a little shocked before he patted me on the shoulder and stated that he would give me a perfect score because he could tell I was “in the zone”.

I have had countless such times in my life where I have been in the zone… and so have you. Even if you don’t recall it at the moment, I can say that, without doubt, you have been. 

Here are a few signs of being in the zone. After reading them, you will remember such times of your own.

  1. You’re completely involved in your task: you’re naturally and effortlessly focused and concentrated.
  2. There’s a sense of ecstasy–of being outside of everyday reality.
  3. There’s a great inner clarity: you know what needs to be done and you can immediate see how well you’re doing, without the need for outside justification.
  4. You know, without doubt, that you have the necessary skills to complete the task successfully.
  5. You lose your sense of self. There are no worries and concerns.
  6. You lose track of time and you’re completely focused on the present moment.
  7. There’s an intrinsic motivation – the task becomes its own reward.

For many people, getting into the zone is a hard thing to do. Often, the reason why it is hard is because feeling frustrated, overwhelmed, and anxious. Ironically, these same emotions can help put us in the zone… it is really a matter of where we focus our attention.

Here are a few tips for getting “in the zone”:

  1. Eliminate Distraction – To approach “the zone” it is very helpful to eliminate distractions that can stop you from obtaining the needed focus. Turn off cell phones, laptops, and lock the doors. Or simply remove yourself physically from your environment to allow yourself the opportunity for the next step
  2. See it Happen – There is no doubt that visualization is the number one factor that tops all the others in the list. When top athletes are asked about their key to success, they will tell you how they ‘see’ it happen in their head before it actually happens. This idea has been studied extensively and it has been shown how visualization actually is a critical factor to success in performance.
  3. Focused Awareness – Being in the zone means having your awareness laser focused on one goal or action. The mind and body are completely in sync with the sole purpose of reaching the goal. To do this, you must be completely immersed in the moment. Let go of all thoughts about the future (anxiety) or the past (worry). Do not think about the outcome of the task at hand. Just simply focus on now.
  4. Emotional Balance – In critical moments, top performers are not only in the zone – they are in complete emotional balance. This is achieved by building or rather re-building new layers of belief and faith in your abilities. This means learning to let go of certain old assumptions that were self-limiting or counter-productive, then creating a different mindset where mishaps or shortcomings are not seen as defeating or frustrating, rather just a part of the game.
  5. Don’t think, just act – When we are in the zone, we do not think about our actions. We did all of our thinking during the visualization. When we are in the zone we must allow our motor functions and instincts to take over while our minds remain focused in the here and now. 

Achieving “the zone” on a regular basis is a key component of happiness. That is, by learning how to enter the state of flow you can increase your productivity, be more creative, and be happier, all at the same time.

I hope these tips have helped you. 

Believe to Achieve! 

Joe Vulgamore is a Life Coach and Leadership Development Specialist - as well as a Personal Development Author and Speaker. He works with people to develop life and leadership skills to sharpen their edge, perform at optimum levels, and achieve excellence. He has 30 years of leadership experience and a proven track record of helping thousands of people from over 14 countries, across 5 continents, to make life-transformations through one-to-one coaching and workshops.

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