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We all have the capacity for being in the zone. The good news is that we can train ourselves to experience it. The following seven steps show how to develop the capacity for being in the zone.


7 steps to being in the zone


The key to being in the zone lies in the mental attitude that we bring to our activity. That’s why good mental preparation is important. You’ll see that all seven steps are aimed at the mind.


Step 1: Affirmations

It’s important to expect to be successful, not to hope or wish for success. A confident, winning attitude can be shaped by affirmations. Affirmations work best when they are couched in the present tense. You might say to yourself, for example, ‘I am a talented basketball player,’ or, ‘I am a great runner.” Write notes with such slogans and stick them to walls and mirrors in your home.


Step 2: Visualization

All great athletes use visualization as training for excellence. They imagine the perfect golf swing or the perfect running motion. When we imagine movements, our muscles contract and relax ever so slightly in accordance with the image. You can see by this that visualization not only train the mind, they train the body as well. A good time to practice visualizations is just before you go to sleep. Imagine that you are performing at your best. Hear the crowd cheer and clap.


Step 3: Meditation

The ancient Japanese Samurai developed sophisticated training systems that taught warriors how to be in the flow. Through martial art and Zen meditation, they developed mushin, the ‘mind of no-mind’. Mushin is the mind that’s clear like water and untroubled by thoughts about oneself.

In order to clear the mind, start your activity with a short meditation. It doesn’t need to be formal. Just sit upright, and quietly focus on your breathing for a few minutes. When you find your mind drifting away, gently bring it back to the present moment.


Step 4: Choose a task that is neither too easy nor too difficult

When we choose a task that is too easy, we can get bored. Whereas if we choose a task that’s too difficult, we tend to be consumed by anxiety. Neither boredom nor anxiety lead to a good mental focus.


Step 5: Focus

Keep your focus on the task. At first you may find that your mind tends to drift away. When you notice that, gently bring your mind back to the task at hand. You may also be beset by self-critical thoughts. Let go of them and refocus on the task.


Step 6: Surrender to the Process

As you start moving into flow, surrender to the process. Let it take you where it wants to. As you surrender, you will begin to experience periods of timelessness.


Setp 7: Embrace Ecstasy

When you are in the flow, you will be filled with a sense of ecstasy. As the surfer in the zone catches the wave, or the snowboarder launches into powder snow, or the runner feels the second wind, he or she will feel a sense of tremendous exhileration and even ecstasy. Embrace it!


It’s good to keep in mind that a healthy lifestyle supports optimal performance. Here are three lifestyle choices that help you to be in the zone:

■ Good nutrition
Balanced, healthy nutrition and plenty of water supports high performance.


■ Sleep
For top performance we need to sleep for 7 to 8 hours per night for optimal functioning.


■ Combating fatigue
Ongoing fatigue can be debilitating. Research has identified low-intensity exercise as a powerful way to decrease fatigue and build up energy and resilience.

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