Sports psychologists call it
The Zone. Athlete Sally Gunnell knew she had achieved it when she ran
the 400m hurdles Final at the World Championships in Stuttgart 1993.
Sally is the only female athlete to achieve Gold at Olympic, World,
Commonwealth and European level. According to Dr Robert Kriegel, author
of C Zone: Peak Performance Under Pressure, achieving such ‘Peak
Performance Episodes’ is possible for all of us, whether we are
high-performance athletes or just trying to do a great job at work.
However, there are challenges.
On the one hand, there is a mental state of hyperactivity, which is characterised by low levels of attention span; jumping from one activity to another; talking to somebody whilst checking your emails, Tweets and Facebook; etc. This in some obvious way impedes you from being really present and having the intense focus required for a Peak Performance Episode.
On the other hand, we can indulge in a State of Sedation. It is distraction in another form. Gawping at boxsets for hours on end in a deep trance; sedating yourself with alcohol or food; being in a trance-like state and unengaged with real life, etc. Of course, sometimes we do need to distract ourselves. Even Frank Underwood of House of Cards fame plays video games to decompress. However it would be difficult to have a successful if this is your default state.
So what are the elements of being in The Zone or having a Peak Performance Episode, and how can you get there?
Well this is the subject of whole books, but briefly, here are some of the words that people have used to describe achieving this state of mind: