Finding Your Zone, by Michael Lardon

Finding Your Zone, by Michael Lardon

Finding Your Zone, by Michael Lardon”

“It is this gift of losing yourself in what you are doing that is essential for a Zone-like experience.”

The Zone is a mental state where your thoughts and actions are completely synchronized. You are able to remove mental and emotional blocks that limit your abilities and put in place a roadmap for peak performance. For athletes, being in ¨The Zone¨ is entering what modern psychology defines as Flow, a term coined by professor of Psychology Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi, who describes it as ¨the state in which people are so involved in an activity that nothing else seems to matter; the experience itself is so enjoyable that people will do it even at a great cost, for the sheer sake of doing it¨. (More about Flow in our article Flow: Are You “In The Zone”?)

What Is “The Zone” Experience?

In Finding Your Zone: Ten Core Lessons for Achieving Peak Performance in Sports and Life, Dr. Michael Lardon – sports psychiatrist and Associate Clinical Professor of Medicine at University of California – suggests that there are four characteristics that people experience when they are in ¨The Zone¨: ¨-1- Superconcentration or complete mental absorption in a task -2- The experience of time slowing down -3- A sense of detachment from outside influences -4- A resulting supernormal performance. ¨

“Know-mind Awareness”

Because we experience the world through our minds it is really difficult to keep the lens that we look through free from distortion. For example, our minds are often flooded with negative thoughts that arise from unrealistic fears, and those thoughts can self-perpetuate creating more fear. Being in ¨The Zone¨ requires that we manage our emotions and not let our intense feelings control us.

Excelling in any sport or any other performance-related activity mandates that you must resist distractions of the mind. These distractions might be internal, such as psychological fears, anxiety, or pangs of self-doubt. Or these distractions might be external, such as a chaotic environment surrounding you. When you are able to keep your mind still, staying precisely in the moment and not letting your attention waiver, you resist experiencing what the Zen masters refer to as, ‘monkey mind’, or noisy mind. The key to entering this mental state is to allow yourself to be completely absorbed in the task at hand. It is this gift of losing yourself in what you are doing that is essential for a Zone-like experience.

The concept of “know-mind awareness” means that we recognize our thoughts and feelings as part of us, but don’t let them define us completely. We can use our knowledge to take a moment, and look at a bigger picture of our reality. In this moment, we can see that we have a choice to simply be aware and not react to our emotions.

If we feel bad, confused, or lacking in confidence, sometimes we jump to the conclusion that we are bad, confused, or unable to succeed. When we learn to differentiate ourselves from our emotions, we can learn to become the master of both our feelings and our thoughts, paving the path to self-actualization.

Pain, anger and frustration are emotions that can often get in the way when trying to enter into ¨The Zone¨. In order to develop our know-mind awareness, Dr. Lardon identifies techniques to substitute negative thoughts or emotions and shift our attention to things that can mitigate them, for example, replacing frustration with curiosity. If you fail, think about how you can do better next time.

Preparation, Preparation, And Practice

Preparation is the fundamental building block in order to give our best performance and get into ¨The Zone¨. Whenever we have to deal with new circumstances, we can enjoy the excitement of meeting the unique challenges that the situation presents. As the author nicely explains: ¨Knowledge is power, and preparation gives us a greater knowledge on how we will react in battle.¨

Almost all performance tasks, such as playing in a tennis competition, or performing a surgery, have some anxiety associated with them. Instead of letting it overwhelm us, we must use it to get into ¨The Zone¨. The author explains that in order to perform in autopilot and compensate the additional anxiety we must train comprehensively and this includes spending more time on the hardest tasks.

Comprehensive preparation allows you to lose your worries and simply become one with the task at hand. This process of practicing and preparing allows the mind to perform tasks that initially require conscious awareness to become automated and executed at an unconscious level, conserving precious mental energy… Come the day of performance, you will know that you are well trained and there is no need to play catch-up.

Self-confidence

Lardon explains four components for building self-confidence. First, mastery experiences, which means referring to positive past experiences while performing a specific task, to complete it again successfully. Second, vicarious learning, which comes from seeing someone do something that we can see ourselves doing as well. Third, finding a model that inspires us such as our chief, coach or peer, and never being afraid of asking them how we can improve. And finally, using positive reinforcement received from someone we care about or trust and taking advantage of the positive feedback they have of our performance. If we use these components in sports, business, or any aspect of our personal life, our confidence will grow, and we will have developed tangible evidence that we have the ability to make our dreams real.

When you grow confident, you are essentially learning specific concrete knowledge that bonds your intention with your ability, thus forming trust. It is this trust or confidence that forms a crucial bridge to being Zone-like—in your attitude, your approach, and your ability to realize your goals and turn your desire into will.

All of us have been blessed with incredible talents, but it is our work ethic and commitment to continual improvement that allows us to transform those talents into a great career. Our skills and circumstances may be very different from those of Tiger Woods or Rich Beem, but the same principles apply: discipline, practice and determination. Finding Your Zone gives us useful guidelines on how we can master the skills that are important to us: Plan purposefully, prepare prayerfully, proceed confidently and pursue persistently.

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