Wednesday, 18 April 2012

Get Into The Zone

Referred to often as The Zone, or The Flow, it is a state of mind where you are awake, energised, and yet also relaxed, and able to pay attention to the small details whilst keeping in mind the larger picture. Whether you are a writer, a golfer, or a stock-market analyst; the zone is the place where you are best able to perform and get the results you long for.

For many it is a state of mind rarely achieved, if it can be achieved at all. For some it can come only once a year, perhaps, and it stays for only a fleeting moment. It is always the case that when the flow is lost, we want it back.

When you are feeling stressed, or angry at the unwelcome events and burdens in your life; these are signs that you are not in the zone. But the secret is not attempting to force yourself back into it, you cannot just switch it back on. Rather, the best method for getting back there is eliminating the obstructions that stand in your way.

Our behaviour, and our mental efforts, are the result of billions of processes occurring within our bodies at any one time. The unconscious mind is vastly larger than the conscious, and is duly responsible for a vastly larger share of the workload in organising our lives. When it comes to making decisions, and working on a task or solving problems, our conscious minds do their fair share, but are always calling on the superior processing powers of the unconscious.

When we are under stress, or are tired, or angry, our conscious mind is subjected to signals that tell us this is so. It's meant to be a mechanism that moves us into doing something about it and getting us out of there. Often though, in our fast-paced and highly pressured working environments of today, these situations don't disappear, and the signals just get in the way.

It's like trying to remember your way out of a burning building when the corridors are filled with smoke, and the fire alarms are ringing in your ears, with the flickering threat of flames behind you. It'd be much easier to find your way without all of those distractions.

So it is with the Zone. Our unconscious minds are much better able to organise our feelings, thoughts and memories, and guide our actions, when our minds are clear of clutter.

This increase in our processing performance is what is referred to as 'flow'. Chinese philosophers see it as a flow of energy, when really it is a flow of clarity.

So how do we increase flow?

Eliminate the Rules:

We are often overly concerned with what is expected of us. Sometimes we spend more time worrying about what we should do, rather than what would actually be best to do in any given situation. Often there is a preoccupation with ettiquette and how we behave around others, and how we are being perceived. Over time we build up a variety of rules for behaviour that we act out unconsciously, and these are especially brought to bear when we are feeling anxious and stressed.

If you already knew how to do something, you wouldn't be struggling over getting it done. To get into the flow it is necessary to relax that part of your mind that is stressing over all the important little things you have to remember.

Trust that your unconscious mind will react accordingly to situations as they arise. Do not try to control everything.

Eliminate the Limitations: 

Over the course of our lives we develop a vast array of methods for keeping ourselves in the illusion of control and in our comfort zones. These are, by definition, self-limiting beliefs. Things like, "It's too hard for me", "I don't have the experience", "I'll never get the hang of it", "I don't know enough..."

These self-limiting beliefs we don't necessarily believe all of the time, only when we think we need them, like when a situation calls for us to step outside of our comfort zones. And we often don't recognise them for what they are, because we weave them into the narrative of our lives. And of course, sometimes we don't wish to analyse them for other reasons. Perhaps they are the rationalisation for an aspect of ourselves we are uncomfortable with.

But the fact is these 'beliefs' limit ourselves, and stop us from growing and extending our capabilities. If we let them go we can operate in much more like our full capacity, and focus on the task at hand.

Eliminate the Expectations: 

We always have expectations on how a situation might play out, how a project may end up, how an article might end, how a plan might succeed. We have goals, and we know what those goals look like.

When things don't go according to plan, however, the image in our minds of our goals are threatened. We try and force things to go according to plan. We get into arguments. We feel resentment or anger. The tension mounts.

But life and the universe is complex, and our plans often aren't. We must be prepared to let go of our plans, our expected routes to the goal, in order to achieve what we want. We let go, regroup, and then go again.

Eliminate the rules, eliminate the limitations, eliminate the expectations.

Get into the Zone.


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