Thursday, July 14, 2011

In the Zone

Do you ever feel that you are exactly in the right place at the right time? Do you ever feel “in the moment”, “in the game”, “in the flow”, “in a rhythm”…“in the present”? All of these phrases are different vernacular for the same mental state of being “In the Zone”. I define this mindset as a perfect moment of heightened awareness; a sense of deep connection to our surroundings, and being fully immersed with energized focus. In these precious moments of being “In the Zone”, one experiences an emotion that I can best describe as feeling joyful, lucky and blessed all at the same time. It is when we are so concentrated on the activity that we lose sense of time and become totally absorbed in experiencing the task before us.

Great athletes always aspire to be “In the Zone”. For them, it is the culmination of practice that suddenly appears effortless in a natural rhythm of movement. Talented musicians can experience a similar mental state. They merge, if not lose themselves into their music, intensely feeling the creation of sound, harmony, and connection to other musicians. Artists “In the Zone” become one with their medium and intuitively channel the flow of creativity in their expression and work.

Getting “In the Zone”, staying there as long as you can, and finding it over and over again (since we inevitably fall out of “The Zone”) may be one of the most challenging “Secrets of Life”. People who spend as little as 20% of their conscious lives “In the Zone” accomplish astonishingly more, are happier, healthier, generate positive energy and make a positive difference in the lives they touch. People who spend 50%, 60%, 70% or even 80% of their conscious lives “In the Zone” often change the worlds they live in. They are considered top in their fields of sports, education, religion, business, philanthropy, science and artistic creativity. They are the masters of their lives.

So….how do we get “In the Zone”? Frankly, I don’t really have an exact answer. I know I can’t force myself “In the Zone” or even predict when I will enter….it just happens. But I can speak to my state of mind when I am lucky enough to experience it. First, I am highly motivated and laser focused on the activity. Second, I am completely immersed and intrinsically motivated in the experience. For me, it helps to have a detailed goal that pushes me out of my comfort zone. I need a challenge that drives me with unyielding determination to accomplish the goal. If the task is too easy, I don’t get there... If the reward is only extrinsic, I don’t get there. If I don’t push my skills set and immerse myself in a new experience that absorbs me into the moment… I don’t get there. This is why my entire life I have been addicted to change and am in constant search of new, expanding life experiences. For me, being “In the Zone” is a lifelong passion.

Today, I am writing this blog on top of a mountain in Carmel, California… lost in time as the sun sets majestically over the Pacific in a breathtaking fire of reds, oranges and yellows. The air is perfumed with eucalyptus and jasmine, and the breeze is moist from the light fog coming in from the sea. I am in awe of the moment, surrounded and absorbed by the beauty of nature, yet challenged by how to clearly express this elusive “Secret of Life”….being “In the Zone”.

8 comments:

  1. It's funny, this very topic has been on my mind lately as I've been striving more and more to find flow. My natural stasis is always a bit off, a family business, a growing family and a few key interests (combined with a healthy dose of ADHD) will do that for you.

    I've found the best tricks towards getting closer to that ever elusive flow is removing complexity. It's what I find myself doing more and more. What can be automated, what can be removed, what are the right workflows and what really requires my time and attention. Getting closer to what's important has helped in getting closer to finding that gear where things really start to happen.

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  2. Michael,
    We are on the same wavelength… Have you read my entry on the 80/20 principle? You mention that in order to get “In the Zone” your secret is removing the complexity from your life. I believe removing the complexity can not only help you to get “In the Zone” but help you to perform at a higher quality and create a positive, leveraged result with less effort. Removing the complexity for you may remove your bottom 20% so that you can refocus on your top 20%.

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  3. I have indeed and I've always been a big fan of the concept. I've also always been a big fan of the 80/20 inverse. That 80% of our own input accounts for 20% of our output. Identifying one from the other takes some time (and actually adding some complexity where it can help), but you could not be more right. Identifying what's working and what's waste is the essential (and often missed) first step.

    In case your interested, here are five things that have been working for me: http://michaelschechter.me/five-geeky-ways-to-get-stuff-done/

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  4. I look forward to reading your Blog when I get back from travel!

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  5. Hey man so I don't know if you still check this out but i know exactly what you are talking about and really like your description of it. I had experienced that zone repeatedly over and over throughout the course of my life however I could never sustain it and that really bothered me so I started to try to figure out exactly what i was feeling when I was in that zone and see if i could duplicate the feeling.

    What I realized is that it is impossible to be fully aware of or fully focused on something (abilities that you have in the zone)if you are harboring any negativity or resistance towards it and that the times that I had felt fully in the zone I was expressing only positive energy -- that's why I could see and feel everything, I wasn't resisting any of it.

    So I started to try to get back in the zone and experiment with some techniques that other people who mentioned this same zone had recommended and I found one that really helped me out. The one that I'm talking about is the one under filling the tank section located at the following site....

    http://mindsportlive.com/Articles/Article/?articleId=236


    There were a few other ideas in that article that I found interesting such as getting into a good mood before trying to get in the zone through certain techniques such as to do this may include listening to music, using visualisation techniques, and using deep breathing exercises.

    Another passage I found interesting was the following...

    "The reason you often drift in and out of the zone during a performance (or life) is because of a failure to maintain the equilibrium (i like the word balance) between under-trying and over-trying. Sometimes when things are going against you, you will try to force the issue, tipping the scales towards over-trying. The moment this occurs you leave your zone-like state."


    I'm not sure I agree with everything on there but I hope that helped out.

    Also, another resource I found interesting was the following Wikipedia article on FLOW that appears as the first link when you search how to get in the zone on google.

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Flow_(psychology)

    Again, Not everything on that site was useful in my search but I really like the first paragraph and some of the descriptions of what the zone feels like as those were the same ones I was feeling.

    Hope that helped and would love to hear any insights that you may come across.

    Thanks

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  6. Sorry I was a little distracted/excited and just realized that you are in fact still posting and also a typo or two. I agree with everything that you preach and hope that the prior post may help you on your mission.

    Thanks again

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  8. Fine post..! Interesting to read.

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