Athletes often marvel at the concept of being “in the zone” in sports, and while most will claim having been there during their sports careers, getting back in the zone on a consistent basis is an entirely different story. So what exactly is the zone? And perhaps equally importantly, how do athletes get there on a consistent basis for maximum athletic success?
Sport psychologists often refer to being in the zone as being in Flow, a concept first discussed by Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi. Flow, or being in the zone, is when you are fully immersed and fully enjoying whatever it is that you’re doing, and as a result you end up doing the activity quite well — often your best. So as you can see you can actually get in the zone doing things beyond sports, including cooking, exercising, playing games, or even studying!
Applying the zone to sports is what is most important to athletes, and below are a few ideas and tips to help you get started:
- It is important that you are motivated to do whatever it is you are doing. For example, if you really don’t like playing soccer, it’s going to be very difficult to get in the zone playing soccer.
- Your focus needs to be on the task at-hand if you want to get in the zone. If you are still thinking about yesterday’s game, or what you are going to do next week rather than the game starting in a couple minutes, then it will be difficult to get in the zone since you focus isn’t quite there.
- Your confidence should be high. Again, if you don’t have much confidence (similar to interest and motivation) then it will be near impossible to play in the zone.
- You need to be challenged. Playing against far inferior or far superior competition will make it very difficult to get in the zone.
- Set and keep track of goals. Not only will goal setting help you improve your performance, but goals are also motivating and can help with focus — factors we have already discussed being associated with the zone.
- Keep a running journal. When you do play in the zone, write notes out about the game and try to recall what things you did that helped (for example, maybe a particular song you listened to pre-game put you in a terrific mood).
The Zone is not a magical concept, but it is the zone of optimal human functioning and has been found by scientists to actually exist. It is for this reason that all athletes should strive to learn as much as they can about the zone, and begin developing their own mindset and pre-game routines to help get in the zone as often as humanly possible.
Learn more about the zone, as well as other mental toughness skills, by checking out our e-book today!