If you want to achieve elite performance, I know of no better way than being in the zone while you are performing.
You’ve probably had an experience or even an entire day where everything just went right. You say all the right things, take all the right actions, and everything just falls into place. Elite performance is where you feel on top of the world, like you can do anything. This is being in the zone, or activating flow. You become one with all that is around you, completely in the present, and committed to your goals.
You’ve also probably had really terrible days. Days where nothing goes right. You say all the wrong things, take all the wrong actions and it seems like everything you do is forced.
Some people may think that these performances are out of control, but if you believe in taking ownership and responsibility for your results, in this case your level of performance, then you must take steps to consciously get yourself in the zone and in a state of action and positivity before you begin to act.
If you have read anything by Tony Robbins, then you’ll recognize this concept as getting in state. It’s the same concept as stretching before a workout, a big band having an opening act to warm up the crowd, or having a pregame at your buddy’s house before going out to the big party of the weekend. It’s essential for elite performance.
You need to give yourself a warm up, and if you want elite performance, then it needs to rev up your engine and get you in a state of such massive positivity and confidence that when you actually begin performing, it’s like you are slowing down and everything comes easily to you.
Below are a couple ways that you can change your state of mind and body and get in the zone before taking on a challenge.
Visualization is an extremely powerful tool that professional athletes, titans of industry and business, musicians, and people from all walks of life use to boost their performance and get their entire being focused on a goal.
When an olympic sprinter is about to run the 100 yard dash, he visualizes the entire race from start to finish before he even steps up to the starting line.
When a basketball player steps up to the freethrow line, he visualizes himself shooting the ball in the hoop and getting some points for his team.
Before walking into a meeting, a businessman envisions his goal and the entire process of him walking into the meeting, persuading, coaxing and navigating through the various objections and challenges others bring him in order to meet his goal.
In the beginning, Visualization may seem like a softer form of changing your state of mind, mostly because it takes practice to get really good at it. But once you master visualization you can do absolutely incredible things with the control you will have over your subconscious mind and the results you create in life.
Listen To Music
Listening to music is easily one of my favorite ways to get into the zone. If it’s not already on there, put your favorite song on your phone or mp3 player so you can listen to it before you perform in an area where you want fantastic results.
This is why there is always pregame music playing at most sports events. They play songs that people have an emotional connection to and that make people feel pumped up and excited, so that when game time starts, both the players and the fans have already warmed up and are experiencing strong feelings of excitement.
Move your body
Something simple as moving your body is another great way to get into the zone. If you are playing music, dance while you do it. If you work in an office environment, keep active, maybe start your day with a workout, workout at lunch, or keep some small weights nearby so you can get the blood pumping through your system and raise your testosterone levels.
Starting your day with a workout is another favorite of mine to get in the zone. Once you get into it, the workout brings you out of your sleepy state, energizes you, connects the mind and body, and when you do it at the beginning of the day, you start the day with a win.
Relive a peak performance experience
So far, we’ve gone over 3 ways to get in the zone, and they use 3 main senses:
- auditory (hearing)
- kinesthetic (feeling)
These 3 exercises are incredibly powerful when done on their own, but if you want to get in the zone faster and more powerfully, one of the best ways to do it is to relive a peak experience. What reliving a peak experience does for you is it uses all of your senses at the same time, drastically increasing the amount of stimulation you get from it.
At the beginning of this article, we talked about having one of those days where everything goes right, where you are just killing it and can’t seem to do anything wrong. Chances are that you can identify with this experience, and when you read about it, you knew what I was talking about and were brought back to a time where you were totally in the zone. This is a small taste of what reliving a peak experience can be like if you know how to do it. So here’s a small workshop to get you into the zone.
First, pick an experience. It has to be specific, and you have to know what you were doing at the time. For me, many of my peak experiences involve sports and competition, mostly basketball and tennis. For this example I’ll use the time I skunked my trash talking neighbor in a game of one on one basketball, 7-0. Do the same and pick your own experience, whether it is with a girl, a competitive experience, feeling like the man at a party in college or highschool, it doesn’t really matter, as long as it’s a feeling and an experience that you’d like to call upon and experience again at will.
Second, start to incorporate the senses. For this exercise to work best, I suggest closing your eyes while participating. The first thing to look at is your body. How were you standing? Where were your hands? Are you looking down at your feet like a depressed person? Or is your body language open and positive, radiating good vibes out to all the people around you?
Body language is a huge part of success, and after enough practice you’ll realize that the mind and body are connected and you can use one to change the other. Need to feel better? Smile and reach towards the sky. Want to feel worse? Frown and look at your feet while drooping your shoulders and head. Don’t overthink this, just keep in mind the general way you were using your body and the level of confidence with which you do it. Then imitate it. Actually get up out of your chair or bed or wherever you are and imitate your body language in this peak experience.
Next, start to incorporate the other senses. For me, the order doesn’t matter as much except for doing the physical first. So let’s begin. What did you hear? Were you alone? Were there other people talking? Were you talking? What were you saying? Was your voice high pitched or low pitched? How loud were you talking?
Again, don’t overthink these things, but as you examine your memory and let bits and pieces float to the surface where you can recognize them, you might find one or two that stand out to you. That is enough for now. You don’t need to perfectly rebuild this experience, just pick out enough things that stand out to you and change the way you feel. As you develop this skill, your ability to reconstruct experiences will become more and more well rounded. Experiment around, some things may work differently for you and give you different results than you expect, so stay open minded.
What did you see? Who was there? How are the people around you acting? Are they looking at you with awe, their body language saying “Wow, he is killing it right now, how is he doing this?”. How do you look? Is your goal in front of you?
Continue to practice this exercise, incorporating all of your senses, and you will be astounded with how quickly you will be able to trigger your ability to get in the zone on command.
To conclude, here is my sensory summary of my peak experience, to give you a framework to work from and experiment with.
My Peak Performance Experience
- I’m drenched with sweat. I can feel my shirt sticking to my back and my chest.
- I can feel the supple but firm leather of the basketball in my hands
- I hear my neighbor talking smack to me, in a deep voice, clearly trying to get an emotional reaction out of me.
- My mind is silent. There are no thoughts, I hear only the bounce of the basketball on the concrete driveway and my neighbor’s nonstop rabbling, but these are background noises. Like they are 100 yards away from me.
- My focus is on the basketball hoop, my goal. It’s almost glowing, brighter than everything else around me. I feel connected to the hoop. Like it has a gravitational pull that sucks in the ball whenever I shoot it. I hear the net, made from a metal chain, jingle sharply whenever I make a basket.
- When I shoot the ball, I don’t use only my arms. I feel my legs like springs go down and create the power that propels my shot to the basket, my arms and hands are simply what direct my shot.
- I feel good. Great even. I have boundless energy, like the energizer bunny. My legs and arms and my whole body are calm and relaxed, yet massive amounts of controlled energy flow through me.
- The whole time I feel a pulling sensation. Like my goal is pulling me towards it with an irresistible magnetism. The sights, sounds and feelings I experience are simply the building blocks. With each sensory experience I am pulled closer to my goal.
Use this as a framework, but don’t limit yourself. Everyone has a different style. Try picking 2 or 3 different experiences you have had and write a sensory overview for each one, you will get better and better with practice.
Read over my experience a few times and write down some of the things that stick out to you. Those same things will likely stick out to you in your memories, so keep an eye out and keep an open mind.
Elite performance isn’t easy, but it is simple. Start implementing these techniques to get in the zone and you will be getting better results in no time.
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