The “Zone” or "Focus and Flow"

March 13, 2013

By Dr. Allen Novian

Recently, I have had several clients, current and perspective, ask a lot of questions about the state of mind that athletes refer to as “the Zone” or “Focus and Flow.”  This is the state that we are trying  to achieve with neurofeedback, meditation, and practice, but it means more than that.  To me, “flow” is a state in which your conscious mind, or superego, stops telling you why you can’t do something and lets the rest of your mind and body get it done.

 

Focus and flow are at the heart of Sports Psychology:

  • Focus is defined as the “complete attention to the execution of a skill

  • Flow is “the state of being completely engrossed in the execution of a performance to the exclusion of everything else.

 

When you are in a state of flow, focusing intensely on the execution of skills, you will give your best performances.  You enter a state of almost Zen-like meditation in which mood, distraction, and different stressors simply have no place in your consciousness.  You are free to execute skills just as you have trained to execute them.  This is an immensely useful and satisfying state to achieve.

The qualities of flow are as follows:

 

  • All your attention is focused either

    • on the skills or routine being performed

    • or on the input from your senses relevant to the sport

  • You are fully focused on the activities being performed, and are:

    • not aware of your own awareness, conscious of self or ego

    • not evaluating the quality of execution of skills during performance

    • not concerned with distratcions such as results, judges, audiences or other peoples expectations

    • not making any conscious decisions in your mind or reasoning with words- you are trusting your body to follow its training

  • You are in complete control of actions and reactions, allowing yourself to respond more quickly and accurately than normal

  • You feel almost in an altered state of consciousness: achieving flow is exhilarating and gives you a powerful feeling of competence.

 

 

References:

Marr, A.J (2001). In the zone: Commentary: A biobehavioral theory of the flow experience.  Athletic Insight.  The Online Journal of Sports Psychology. Elektronische Resource: http://www.athleticinsight.com/Vol3Iss1/Commentary.htm.

Young, A & Pain, M.A. (1999). The zone:Evidence of a universal phenomenon for athletes across sports.  The Online Journal of Sports Psychology. Elektronische Resource: http://www.athleticinsight.com/Vol1Iss3/Commentary.htm.

The flow model: Balancing challenge and skills. Resource:http://www.mindtools.com/pages/article/flow-model.htm.

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