I talk a lot about getting in “the zone” to achieve your peak performance. About finding that sweet spot for your mind-set that gives you the freedom to just perform without all the cognitive noise of thinking your way through a performance. Otherwise referred to as “flow,” this experience of automaticity is crucial for peak performance because thinking interrupts the natural timing of the sequence of events that creates a great performance.
It’s important that you not only grasp this concept but experience what it feels like to be in the zone because this is where you need to be every single time you walk into that pen.
Most of us who have been competing for a while have experienced the sensation of what it feels like when everything finally falls into place and a great performance just seems to happen with little effort. Unfortunately, many of us have no idea what we did or didn’t do to initiate that state of mind so we just hope for the best next time and face disappointment after disappointment until the stars align again and there it is.
As an athlete gains experience, he has more opportunities to feel that zone, so he has a better understanding of what he is aiming for before he performs. He may not know how he achieved that feeling, but he knows what it feels like and when he is there. Inexperienced athletes who are just starting out in their sport have likely had few opportunities to experience being in the zone and make the connection to a great performance.
So what does it feel like? What mind-set are we aiming for before and during a performance to give us the best opportunity for success?
Elite athletes often describe being in the zone or experiencing flow as:
A feeling of calmness
Feeling in control
A feeling of elation
A total absorption in the moment
A lack of self-conciousness
A positive frame of mind
Performance is automatic and flowing
High self-confidence, low self-doubt
Competition is fun and exciting
Pay attention to how you feel before and during your performances and look for characteristics of flow. Think about what contributed to you achieving the zone mind-set and start to design a preparation plan that helps you get in the zone before each and every performance.