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"Champions aren't made in gyms. Champions are made from something they have deep inside them: A desire, a dream, a vision. They have to have last-minute stamina, they have to be a little faster, they have to have the skill and the will. But the will must be stronger than the skill."
Is there really a state of being called the "zone," a special state of mind that makes possible individual peak performance? What is the physiological, psychological, spiritual, and brainwave state?
Throughout his career, Steve Kahan has studied peak performance.
Let's look at research conducted at the Scripps Research Institute in La Jolla, California. Dr. John Polich, one of the world’s leading brain wave specialists, and sports psychiatrist Dr. Michael Lardon (author of "Finding Your Zone" ) looked at the brain waves and various neuropsychological tests of some of the world’s greatest athletes. The research was based on the idea that when great athletes get into the “zone" they are not bothered by all the extraneous concerns and worries that plague most of us in competition or performance.
Their research revealed that Olympic-caliber athletes processed stimuli faster and earlier, allowing them to experience time as moving slower when compared to other athletes. They produced greater amounts of slower brain wave activity—delta—suggesting that they had more blood flow into critical parts of their brains. This means that the brains of the elite athlete worked more efficiently. Their brains responded better to the challenges at hand. The research also concluded that the "zone," in its simplest form, is a paradoxical state in which great physical feats are accomplished while the mind is empty and still.
In this state of stillness, one can almost access an unlimited source of power and often realize your untapped potential. Simply put, the "zone" is a mental state in which your thoughts and actions are occurring in complete synchronicity.
The thinking part of the brain, the cerebral cortex, is bypassed and the mind is actually operating at a more animal level, a reflexive level while being fully engaged. It's a state that we refer to as “open focus.” When the thinking brain is quiet, it can react (or act) more efficiently. It can sample increments of time in smaller intervals, which is why people who experience the "zone" talk about feeling as if time passed effortlessly. It is a state of mind, it is a state of attitude, an aspect of thinking that all of us possess—all of us have this potential. The research suggested that there were four characteristics people experienced when they were in the "zone:"
At Biofeedback Health Services (BHS) we help you get out of your own way and teaching you to tap into the process that will produce synchronized brain waves—more blood flow to the brain. We also shift through behavior patterns, or cyclic behavior, that have kept you from your dream.
The "zone" is a trainable and coachable state.
Train the mind to be a powerful instrument, sharply focused, clear, and nimble. Learn to stabilize the mind without distraction (state of Alpha). Alpha is a sharp, flexible, alert state in which the mind rests upon its object one-pointedly and without any distraction. When one is concentrated and not attached to the outcome, and focused upon the moment, the dualistic sense of subject and object fades. One becomes utterly absorbed in one’s object of concentration, losing all sense of time and self consciousness.
Never give up! Never surrender to self doubt!
Take a moment before going to bed and think of a question or important situation, to ask your dream-state self to perhaps unmask hidden obstacles and clarify important issues regarding the subject. What will happen all by itself, without our effort outside of making the initial suggestion, is an answer that will come to us. The critical element is that we stay conscientious to this important natural occurrence. Dreams not only inspire us to become self aware but also serve as a means to balance our anxieties and deepest desires.
Do not engage a competitor unless you are fully prepared.
In other words, be prepared! Sport psychologists all agree you must be prepared, you must practice. Steven Kahan asks all performers two questions: Are you prepared? If there is any wavering at all? At that point, he knows there is more work to be done. Whether in sports, business, or life, if you do not adequately prepare before a performance, you do yourself a disservice. You keep yourself out of the "zone" because the intrinsic pressure of the situation will take over your energy and reveal your weak spots.
The great cellist Pablo Cassals said: “To give a great performance, you must train, you must practice, and at time of performance let go."
Performing at the highest level always involves thinking on your feet. Any part of your performance that can be practiced can be automated, what Kahan called locked into muscle or cellular memory. Impeccable preparation makes anxiety manageable. It is helpful to realize that the moment you are placed in a competitive environment, whether a starring role in an opera or a golf tournament or a presentation to your boss, some anxiety is inevitable. Competitive environments are anxiety causing by nature. However, a little anxiety is good. Or better stated, an activated self is good. Too much anxiety can be paralyzing. It is the delicate balance of knowing one’s own optimal performing self that facilitates locking into the cellular muscle memory—the "zone."
Get in touch with the best-performing state of body and mind.
Mr. Kahan uses a simple association to help people know this optimal performance state. In a quiet place, sitting or laying down, let your mind move into what your body is feeling. Body not emotions. As you close your eyes and attend your awareness to the inner vibration, you will indeed feel a vibration. The cellular vibration. Let yourself feel the vibration from head to toe.
You might find that there will be different vibrations in different parts of your body. Once you are able to do this, you will be able to activate and, if necessary, deactivate the parts that speak to you and tell you that you need to shift its vibration. You will at most times find your optimal force located in the center of yourself (throat to belly). Just listen and feel your inner motor. This is a place where you find your balance. In balancing your inner vibration, learning and mastering breath meditation is a necessary formula that brings one into confidence, strength, and open creativity.
Keep in mind that, at all times, great preparation happens long before the performance. “The first step to becoming it is to will it ”
– Mother Teresa Reference: Michael Lardon M.D.
According to Buddhist teachings, it is our attachment to desire and outcome that leads to our own suffering, along with pride, anger, ignorance, and jealousy. It is important to understand that for someone to attain a dream, he or she must use the force of desire and combine it with will. It is the only way one can attain the highest goal. This is the very core foundation of being in the "zone."
Will is forged when the power of desire is never released from its goal. Never!
Love what you do. Do not do it for fame and fortune. If you are only concerned with this outcome, your mind will trick you and bring you away from the present moment.
The "zone" is within your grasp. It lies within your being and it is part of your human nature.
But even though this almost mystical state of the "zone" truly exists, it does not happen frequently by chance nor by hypnotic induction, but by following the concepts that are universal among the world’s greatest performers. If you embrace and integrate these lessons into your life, you will learn to access the "zone."
We begin with, what is your dream? What is your goal?
Clearly visualize what you wish to accomplish. See yourself clearly, hear yourself. See what it is that you are wearing, feel the clothes that you are wearing. We call this process sensualizing your visualization (using your five physical senses to crystallize your vision). Performing at the highest level in competition always involves thinking on your feet. Managing arousal will allow you to have a mental energy reserve that you can mobilize to deal with the moment-to-moment challenges that arise.
A little anxiety is good. Or in other words, a little arousal is beneficial.
The associated natural adrenaline of a little anxiety gives you increased focus and strength. To further understand how you can take advantage of this relationship between anxiety and performance. Imagine you are placed in the position of giving a very important presentation or performance—and you start the performance or lecture without any anxiety or excitement.
Without some level of arousal, you are at a disadvantage.
You need some level of arousal, or your performance will be absolutely flat and you will not be at your best. If, on the other hand, you are consumed with fear and worry, you will not be able to react freely or think clearly, and once again your performance will suffer. If you experience mild to moderate arousal, however, you benefit from physiologic clarity—mind/body flow—without compromising your ability to react intelligently in the heat of battle.
This is the optimal arousal state of peak performance.
Almost all performance tasks have some anxiety associated with them. This is the reality and we need to accept it. However, if we are well trained and meticulously prepared, we possess greater mental and physical reserve, allowing us to deal with challenges in the competitive environments. It is the ability to conscientiously prepare for each competition that allows us to control and regulate our anxiety. It becomes easy to wipe away over thinking and replace it with balanced thought, which creates flow. The optimal arousal for peak performance is when we experience mild to moderate arousal.
Anxiety is not something we should fear. it is a physiologic resource we must embrace to find the "zone."
Mindful breath is your fail safe. It will instantly bring you back to center.
Train — Practice — Let go!