What 'Being in the Zone' Really Means and How You Achieve It.
I’m pretty sure my clients get tired of hearing me talk about being in a flow state, but I can’t emphasize enough the importance of understanding what it is and how to achieve it. Hungarian-American psychologist Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi who developed the theory of flow, defined it as "a state in which people are so involved in an activity, nothing else seems to matter; the experience is so enjoyable that people will continue to do it even at great cost, for the sheer sake of doing it." (1990) In other words, you're 'in the zone'. Once competitors or performers forget about winning trophies, beating their rivals or achieving perfection and just focus on being in the moment and doing the task they've trained to do, they achieve internal fulfillment, an almost euphoric state, in doing what they love. It's that internal satisfaction that opens the door for the external rewards, like winning, to follow because they're in a position to give their best performance.
Chances are you've experienced a flow state at one time or another, probably by accident. Some of the components of the flow experience include:
1) Intense and focused concentration on the present moment.
2) A merging of action and awareness.
3) A loss of self-consciousness.
4) A sense of personal control over the activity.
5) Time seems to stand still.
6) Your surroundings are more vivid; the colors are brighter, the sights and sounds are more acute.
7) You aren't aware of the past or future but fully immersed in the present moment.
8) The activity alone is intrinsically rewarding.
9) You feel the potential to succeed.
10) You're so engrossed in the moment, everyone else seems to disappear.
Best Conditions to Achieve a State of Flow:
1) You aren't overwhelmed by the challenge or feel it's too easy. There has to be an optimal balance between your skill level and the level of the challenge you are undertaking, You can't be in the zone if you're not challenged enough or if you don't have the skills to complete the challenge. It's good if your skills are tested to the full limit and you have to exert to your maximum level because then it's even sweeter when you're able to accomplish the task.
2) You don't multi-task or allow distractions. You can't experience a flow state if you're switching between different tasks or you're distracted by other things. That means your brain is too busy processing other thoughts and can't be open to allow the information you need in that moment to flow between your brain and body. Ideally, you want to open the pathway between the brain and the body so that your body receives the messages it needs from the brain to do what you're trained to do. If the messages are confusing and the adrenaline is pumping, it just becomes a mess of muscle memory, nervous energy and erratic thoughts that interfere with the flow. Think of your brain as the pilot and your body as the airplane; the brain needs to focus on piloting the plane, not processing extraneous information that disrupts communication.
3) You're not just doing it for the accolades, medals and trophies. Studies show that athletes or performers who are only motivated by external rewards are less fulfilled than those who felt internally gratified in their pursuit. If you're constantly chasing the approval and recognition of others, you're going to be frustrated. Those factors are out of your control. If you control what you can, which is your inner satisfaction with what you're doing, you are internally motivated, making it more likely you'll achieve a flow state.
4) You allow creativity. Creativity and flow are associated in a positive feedback loop. Creativity triggers flow which then triggers creativity.
A state of flow isn't reserved for just athletes and performers. It can be experienced at work and at home by anyone who is focused and fully immersed in what they're doing, making them feel content and energized.
If you want to know more or have any questions, send me a message. I'd love to hear about your experience with achieving a state of flow! Don't forget to subscribe to get all the latest information.