“You’re right in the work, you lose sense of time, you’re completely enraptured, you’re completely caught up in what you’re doing … there’s no future or past, it’s just an extended present in which you’re making meaning …” Mark Strand
What does it mean to be in the “zone”? For some it is a magical experience where time seems to stand still and the mind and body are fused in harmony. Some would call it the perfect moment a synchronous dance between the external world and your internal world. Athletes are in the zone when they are at their peak in terms of experience, this harmony, or flow, or being in the zone often produces great results.
The key ingredients to getting into the zone include:
1. A clear goal
2. Activity that provides feedback
3. A focus that becomes intense.
The idea is to achieve a balance between anxiety (fear of failure) and not being challenged enough (the goal is too easy). Somewhere between failure and challenge is the zone, a zone of mental harmony and maximum results.
Some athletes prepare to get into the zone by using visualization techniques.
“We have all experienced times when, instead of being buffeted by anonymous forces, we do feel in control of our actions, masters of our own fate. On the rare occasions that it happens, we feel a sense of exhilaration”, writes Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi the author of the book, “Flow”. Getting into that experience even for a short amount of time is a worthy experience. Staying in that experience for a long period of time proves to be a challenge. The zone is a space between challenge and ability and as the ability increases there is a shift out of the zone. If the challenge increases without a corresponding increase in ability then there is too much tension to stay in the zone.
The zone is a place of harmony, appropriate challenge, the right frame of mind and sufficient capability to maintain the experience.
When have you been in the zone?
What was it like to be in the zone?
What kept you in the zone?
The zone is emphasized in sport, but what about other areas of life and how do you get into the zone?