Being “in the zone” or the art of perfect concentration

At major events such as the Olympics, World Cups or championship finals, one cannot help but be inspired by the athletes’ ability to dive into their bubble. How do they do it?

In psychology, the term “flow” is often used to refer to a state where a person is fully engaged. For an athlete, it means isolating himself from the world and relying solely on the muscle memory he has built up through training.

This state of perfect concentration is linked to two elements: the feeling of the level of competence and the feeling of the level of the challenge. When the challenge is high level, such as an Olympic final, and the athlete feels competent, he or she is in the “flow” zone.

You would think that it would be easy for an athlete used to great performances, but I can assure you that it is not always the case. Since flow is related to feelings of competence and challenge, it is influenced by the athlete’s psychological state.

For example, a snowboarder who had a poor performance at his last competition may feel fear or anxiety, even though he was at the top of his game last year.

The importance of knowing yourself

In these circumstances, loved ones, coaches and training partners can be as much a source of motivation as a distraction. So do opponents, the media and supporters.

It is in these situations that sports psychologists intervene. They help the athlete determine what influences his or her motivation, confidence and focus. He can then progress and feel better in his head and body.

I’ve always been impressed by athletes who manage to maintain their concentration in all circumstances. We remember the exceptional strength of character of Joannie Rochette at the 2010 Games. Not everyone can do this, even Olympic athletes!

Even if we are not international athletes, I believe that we can all apply “flow” in our personal, sporting and professional lives. By adjusting the difficulty of our challenges according to our skills, it is possible to find a balance where we can flourish and grow.

Think like an athlete!

In order to perform at your best, you must go through the same steps as an athlete, namely :

  • Know the steps that allow you to align your goals, efforts and behaviors towards your success;
  • explore the impact of your thoughts and emotions and your brain to learn how to control and optimize them.

In the experiential workshop Winning Strategies, which I present with neuropsychologist Johanne Lévesque, we help you discover your personality type, your competitor type, and your cognitive strengths and weaknesses.

With this information, you will be able to make a more detailed plan of your goals and take the steps to achieve them.