As we continue to look at the Zone more clearly, let’s add techniques for controlling your flow state.
Shortly before the London Olympics, diver Alexandre Despatie was training in Spain when he hit his head on the board, leading to a concussion and a 10 cm gash in his forehead that required surgery. With the games only a few weeks away, the injury was shocking.
Alex followed his doctor’s return-to-sport protocol closely and resumed training 10 days after the accident. And by the time the games arrived, he was ready to compete, which would require him to perform the same dive that had led to his injury.
If you put yourself in Alex’s shoes (or bare feet on the diving board), you can imagine the emotion of performing that dive in front of thousands of people and millions of viewers. How would he feel? Tense? Nervous? Scared? Anxious?
He was none of these. I know, because I happened to be there that day to see him use a deliberate technique to prepare for the dive. He stood under the board going through the motions of the dive – right down to the facial expression – acting as if there were no fear or tension in his body.
By acting the part, he was able to get his thoughts and feelings to come along. I call it Act – Think – Feel.
The basic physiology is simple: if you move your body in a particular way – say by consciously smiling by contracting the muscles in your face – you tell your body to release hormones that change the way you think and feel.
The challenge we all face is that this is not the typical sequence. Usually, negative emotions like fear, nervousness, or anger come first and then create negative thoughts that lead to particular actions. Feel – Think – Act. But like everything else, we can create a more healthy and effective way of living if we deliberately use our knowledge of physiology.
Regardless of how you’re feeling, always adopt a posture of confidence and control. Breathe deeply and relax. Unclench your hands. Change your thoughts and emotions through action. You’ll be amazed at what you can achieve!
Today's POWER-UP: Act-Think-Feel
Let's use the act-think-feel technique to re-create your flow state on demand, anytime you want, rather than just having it “happen”.
That fantastic performance didn’t just happen. Rather, you put everything together. And you can do it again—if you remember what you did in those moments.
Think about the last time you performed really well at something. Make a mental note of that moment—or write it down—then ask yourself a few questions.
What were you doing before that moment? What were your actions? Were you stretching? Did you have a good breakfast? Figure out what you were doing. Write it down in The Zone Workbook or in the form below.
Now you need to figure out what you were thinking. Were you listening to a podcast or music? Did you tell yourself what you were going to do? Remember what you were thinking. What mindset did you have? Write it down in The Zone Workbook or in the form below.
The final step is to remember what you were feeling. What were your emotions? Were you angry? Excited? Motivated? Happy? Write it down in The Zone Workbook or in the form below.
What you’ll end up with is the roadmap for the process elite athletes go through when they’re preparing for an event. The best public speakers use this process as well. That’s why athletes and public figures have routines that they’re almost religious about keeping.
They know that if they do specific things, they will give themselves the best chance of performing at their best.