In the Zone

In the Zone: How One Little Practice Can Take Your Life from Drab to Fab

Fingers racing across the black and white solid keys or eyes crinkled with concentration – do you want to play Groundhog’s day in your life or be like the professional pianist creating history on stage and the baseball player ready to hit a home run?

You see most of us live the same 24 hours on repeat. Struggling to complete tasks. Numbed by pressure and stress. And existing on coffee swigs we are embarrassed to share with friends.

But often this bleakness is lifted and something amazing happens. You feel energy tingling in your body, every question, every job seems to “do” itself. And your output is superlative.

This idyllic state is called the “zone” of productivity – a form of hyper-focus where you are ‘lost in the moment’ allowing your body and your mind to work effortlessly achieving out of the ordinary results.

A State of Flow

The concept of the “Flow State” or the “Zone” was first coined by  Mihaly Csíkszentmihályi in the early 1980s and became quite popular at the turn of the century. However, it is said that “flow” is much older in origin.

The teachings of Buddhism and Taoism mention a mental state known as “The Action of Inaction” or in layman terms, “Doing without doing” which in essence is the “Flow State”. These ideas are also echoed through Hindi texts such as the Ashtavakra Gita.

Nonetheless, the psychological applications of these concepts were only really put into practice by the late 1980s.

Jeanne Nakamura and Csíkszentmihályi created the framework for identifying what ‘classifies’ as the “Flow State” which are;

  1. Intense and Focused Concentration on the Present Moment
  2. The Merging of Action and Awareness
  3. A Loss of Reflective Self Consciousness
  4. A sense of personal control over the situation or activity
  5. A distortion of temporal experience (Your subjective perception of time is altered)
  6. Experience of the activity as intrinsically rewarding, also referred to as autotelic experience

Understanding the framework clearly for what it means to be “in the zone”, allows us to modify our behavior to experience these states within our everyday life.

Of course, being in a constant state of Flow is difficult. But as with everything – we can train our mind to function in peak productivity.

Tony Robbins’ Warm Up Ritual & What It Teaches Us.

There are many people who call “The Zone” or the Flow State by different names. For instance, Tony Robbins refers to it as “State”. Prior to any of his conferences, Mr. Robbins has an entire “pre-game ritual” that elevates his state of being and enter into the “Flow State”.

He uses a bunch of different techniques such as Power Anchors, Incantations, Physical Movement and Affirmations to generate results.

Of course he is a master of NLP, however he isn’t a “god” and anyone persistent enough – needing to get a lot done with minimum effort – should be able to put the strategies to use and get along just fine.

Utilizing a Power Anchor: Easiest Way to Get into the Zone

Firstly, what is a ‘Power Anchor’?

A power anchor is a psychological bond you consciously create to a specific state or feeling. And here is how you can do that:

Set the Foundation

If you’re somewhat experienced with Transcendental Meditation, you’ll understand that it is important to first quiet the mind. You do this by isolating yourself and thinking of nothing. You may say, “how can one think of nothing because every time I try to think of nothing I’m thinking of something.”

If you try to force your mind to think of nothing, you will always be thinking of something…even if that thought is you trying to think of nothing. You see the problem here, right?

It might sound counter-intuitive, but avoiding thought is resisting it. And what you resist – persists. The trick instead is to allow the jabber to flow through the landscape of your mind without getting caught up in the tide.

An easy way to do this is to ask yourself the question, “What is my next thought going to be?”

Somehow this query stumps the mind and dries up -temporarily – the fountain of opinions, grudges, joys, sorrows and reflections.

Do this enough number of times and you will touch the borders of the land of peace and mental stillness.

Recalling the moment

Now that your mind is prepared, focus all your attention to a moment in your life where you felt ‘in charge!’. Think of a moment where you were at your best, performing with absolute confidence and precision.

Remember how you felt, and intensify that feeling. Add onto the idea of your flow state and magnify it. Submerge yourself fully in that feeling and idea. Experience it through your body and once that feeling reaches its peak…you’ll make the anchor.

Creating the Anchor

Now you need to make a physical connection between the emotional state and your body. This can be anything really, from clapping your hands together while chanting something, or pressing your thumb in the center of your palm.

Just remember that the “physical sensation” you’ll be creating needs to be unique. It can’t be something you do every day; it has to be “out of the usual”.

If this is your first anchor, I suggest utilizing your thumb and the center of your palm. Press down hard enough that you experience a distinct physical sensation. Keep the pressure for 3 seconds while you are in the “peak of your mental flow state”.

Repeat this process as often as you can. If you do practice daily meditation, you can continually anchor different moments of where you were in the “flow state” to that physical trigger. The more frequent you re-affirm the anchor, the stronger it gets allowing you to get into the “zone” that much quicker.

Utilizing the Power Anchor

Finally, now that you have established the anchor you can go about your day. Forget about it. This is a tool you’ll be using in specific moments in your life. Let’s say you have a big sales’ pitch and you’re nervous about it.

Prior to going into the meeting, activate your power anchor. Simply still yourself, begin to remember the emotion (thought) you focused on during the creation of your power anchor and press down on the center of your palm with your thumb. Immerse yourself in that feeling once more and allow the physical trigger to speed up the process.

Once you’re done with the ritual, your mood will automatically improve and you will find yourself prepared to take on challenges with an optimistic, can do attitude.

The Zone Doesn’t Mean End of All Problems:

Some people equate peak productivity with a state of life that’s free of problems. And when the snafus do occur, they discard the concept of power anchors or being in the flow as wishful thinking.

Well – avoid being that person.

As long as you’re alive, you will face issues – at home or work.

What being in the zone does is it allows you to direct all your physical and mental resources to successfully solving the problem, bypassing distractions.

So, ask yourself, “Am I responding to pressure better?”

If it’s a yes – your anchoring is doing its job. And you are already ahead of 80% of the people on this planet who jump into the fray half asleep, thinking of social media and ill-prepared to roll with the punches.

It’s an unfair advantage really.

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