The Zen Zone

“There is a time to let things happen and a time to make things happen.” –Hugh Prather

The best moments are the ones you fully immersed in. When you are all-in mentally, physically, and emotionally, the outcome becomes significantly more important. It is crucial for athletes to be in the “zen zone,” which is the space in which a person is “one” with what they are doing during each moment.

The Zen Zone is being all here and totally present, absorbing yourself in and connecting yourself to your body and your trust. In a sense, you become what you are doing and suspend all judgments about yourself, others, and your performance. If you allow judgments to rule your thoughts, you will be distracted from the moment. Your ability to perform at full potential will not be possible, because your thoughts will be distracted by judging your every move. There are times that are appropriate for thinking and reflecting, but there are also times to connect totally with what you are doing and to leave your conscious thinking behind.

For example, a student who constantly watches the clock in his least favorite class is not engaging in learning, but focusing on how many minutes he has until the bell rings. If he engages fully, he will absorb the content and learn. If he continues to watch the time, he will not be able to excel when he’s tested on the material. Performance is a time for connecting rather than reflecting.

A mind that is filled with obsessions is a mind that will not let the individual focus and perform to his full potential. It is important that you rid your mind of obsessions. If something captivates you too much, you become a slave to it and it hinders your focus and ability to perform at your best.

You must rid your mind of these obsessions in order to stay focused:

  • The desire for victory
  • The desire to psych out your opponent
  • The desire to worry about other expectations
  • The desire to play your best and display all that you have learned
  • The desire to over-awe the enemy
  • The desire to not make a mistake
  • The desire to focus on mistakes while competing

Instead of obsessing over perfectionism and judging every move, utilize “zen performance.” This performance allows you to free yourself by training your mind to think and focus the correct way, therefore enhancing your performance.

The formula to zen performance is simple: you focus on the experience, not winning or losing. The key is to focus on one single play and nothing else. If your mind is focused and worried about the game you’re preparing for, you can’t give your all at practice. Think of yourself as a doll made of wood. It has no ego, it thinks nothing; let the body and limbs work themselves out in accordance with the teaching and training they have undergone.

While allowing your body to do the work is critical, you must be able to gauge your optimal arousal at the same time. This sounds difficult, but is both possible and effective. Optimal arousal is the ability to find energy and strength physically, mentally, and emotionally during times of competition and intensity. If your optimal arousal is too low, you cannot perform to the best of your ability. On the flip side, if you are overly aroused, you will not be able to focus and exert the right amount of energy.

When you are able to gauge the right level of optimal arousal, you will be able to exert the right amount possible for high performance and your mindset will be focused.

You must relax and enjoy each play, and remind yourself that certain things cannot be forced; you must free yourself and let them happen on their own. This is the way to win.