The Zone

Being ‘in the zone’. You know exactly what I am talking about. Being in the ‘zone’ or in the ‘flow’ could be described as a state of being where our attentions, our motivation, and our situation intersect creating a state of productive harmony. We are at our peak – in every way. It is a state of being when we love to do, we are great at it, and we are in an aligned state of ‘mind, body, spirit’ doing it. We experience it when we are tremendously focused on what we are doing, we actually lose track of time, we become extremely creative and productive, and we simply forget about other distractions altogether.

Wow – it doesn’t get much better that that! When we are ‘in the zone’ – we undeniably know it.

There have been many books written on the topic of being in the ‘zone’ or in the ‘flow’. One most notable professor and expert on this theory is Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi. His book on ‘Flow’, explores his theory that people are happiest when they are in a state of flow which he defines as a state of concentration or complete absorption with the activity at hand and the situation. It is a state in which people are so involved in an activity that nothing else seems to matter.”  Simply put: the idea of flow is identical to the feeling of being in the zone or in the groove. We strive for this and want to feed whatever we need to feed to create, or enter into, this ‘flow’. So how do we do this?

I read a very interesting blog by James Allworth in the Harvard Business Review on his pointers on how to get into the zone. The article and the online conversation offer interesting reads. He had tips ranging from drinking caffeine to putting on music to getting enough exercise supporting his belief that being ‘in the zone’ is  both a mental and physical process. I agree with some of his thoughts, and have a few others to consider as well:

  1. It is important to choose work that we love. If we hate what we are doing, it goes without saying it will be hard to be ‘in harmony’. Sure, there may be aspects of our job that we don’t ‘love’; yet, if we are passionate about our overall work, we can still get into the groove of it. When I speak about finding alignment within oneself, one key element is having the courage to listen to our hearts, get to know ourselves, and embrace what we love. When we do this, we can lose ourselves in our experiences. When we let go of  fear, whether this is fear of failure, societal pressures, or financial expectation – we step into our most authentic selves and that is the most powerful state of being for each of us.
  2. Each of us have ‘peak’ periods during our day when we can be quiet, focused, and truly centered.For me, this is in the early morning. I am peaceful, grateful, and fresh when I get up in the morning.  I have much more energy in the morning, as well. Becoming aware and familiar with our own circadian rhythms can be very insightful. Organizing our work around these rhythms can offer a dramatic shift in productivity, not to mention creating a ripe environment for being in the zone.
  3. Rituals, of any and all types,  are magic. Rituals replenish, in my experience. Being intentional about integrating rituals into our daily lives can renew our energy, which is our fuel. These rituals can be vastly different for each person. A few to consider:
  • Meditating each morning.
  • Attending a Pilates or Yoga class every day.
  • Walking every day at sunset.
  • Getting 8 hours of sleep every night.
  • Expressing sincere appreciation to your coworkers regularly.
  • Writing in a journal.
  • Turning off the car radio.
  • Designating a specific time of day to check voice mail and return calls.
  • Making a list of what needs to be done the next day – before you leave the office.

These are simple rituals which become a way of life. Being intentional about integrating rituals into our daily lives, can renew our energy, which is our fuel. Then, we manage our energy, not just the hours of our day.

Being ‘in the zone’ is a state to which we all aspire at one time or another. Whether we are Olympic athletes, musicians, writers, business executives, teachers, artists, doctors, or homemakers, each of us know and feel the difference when we are truly ‘in our groove’. How do we get there? What works for you? Please share your thoughts on how and when you have been ‘in the zone’ and how you got there!