Some athletes call it “the Zone” others call it “Flow,” scholars call it “the Ideal Peak Performance State (IPPS).” The feeling that you cannot miss, where time and accuracy seem to be moving and acting at your command. All good athletes and performers know this feeling. When you compete, the idea is to be in this state as often as possible. My next few Mindset Mondays will explore the concept of Flow in greater depth and how to facilitate its occurrence. I do not think Flow is something you can force to happen, as ‘Trying’ seems counterproductive as you shall soon see.

Flow is an experience (not exclusive to sports) where a person is immersed in an activity and has their mind focused on the present moment while losing consciousness of ego, self-evaluations, and the audience and audience evaluations. Things seem to fall into place as the unconscious takes over and a self-transcendence is reached.

Many athletes call this experience being “In the Zone.” They use the words in the Zone and Flow interchangeably. I do not believe that the Zone and Flow are one and the same. I can differentiate between the two.

I know I have been in the Zone every wrestling match in which I ever competed. But, it was only in rare occasions where I felt Flow. I believe the Zone may be a prerequisite for Flow. But, being in the Zone will not inevitably lead to Flow. There may be several steps necessary to achieving Flow.

I will differentiate between the two now. While in the Zone, one feels as though they are In the Moment. There is a Buddhist word for being in the Here and Now- Satori. I loved to compete because when I was on the mat, I was not thinking about my school work, girl problems, etc. I became focused on the present moment.

To me, being in the Present Moment, here and now, represents the Zone. I’m sure athletes share this common experience with me. This tunnel vision results from a moderate amount of arousal or anxiety. It can be harmful the tunnel vision becomes extreme. This will close your mind to creativity and fluidity, both necessary components of Flow. But in the Zone you can still be self-conscious and aware of other people’s evaluations and expectations.

Flow is the Zone, plus the relative absence of self & others consciousness. You and the experience become one and the same. In a sense, you lose yourself. This principle is by no means new. Many cultures all over the world have known about this concept for thousands of years, not the least of which being the Eastern cultures and the principle of Zen.

As stated above, a major prerequisite of Flow is the loss of one’s ego. Listen to how Dr. David Lieberman describes this IDEAL STATE as he calls it:
“Your ideal state of mind is to have no ego and this is achieved by focusing solely on your objective. This will allow you to be unconcerned with how you are coming across and help you avoid second-guessing yourself. If you are absorbed with your objective, the “I” or the ego disappears and you can pursue your goal relentlessly. Focus only on the outcome, not on yourself.”

To be continued…