What does it mean to live in the zone?

Learning how to live in the zone involves being completely immersed in the task at hand and embracing the present moment. Albert Einstein referred to this state as being in the flow, where “the ego falls away. Time flies. Every action, movement, and thought follows inevitably from the previous one, like playing jazz. Your whole being is involved, and you’re using your skills to the utmost.” Observing a talented footballer like Messi, it’s evident when he’s living in the zone. He appears to orchestrate the game, operating on a different plane than the rest of the players on the field.

Life in the zone?

What would it be like if you could spend more time in the zone? What would you be able to do? What would you be able to create? What difference could you make in the lives of those that you loved? I’ve spent years studying how to get into the zone and how to stay there. One thinge that every person that has become a master in an area of their life does is that they have powerful programs that allow them to access the flow state and manage their attention

Neural pathways in our programs that allow us to live in a Flow state

I can hear you asking what do you mean program? Programs are what computers run right, not humans? But if you think about it, we are like computers. We have neural pathways in our brains that store information on how to do something. We have neural pathways in our brains that enable us to spell words. Why is it that some people are much better spellers than others? They have a program for spelling that is much better at getting correct spellings from longterm memory to the page or keyboard than people that are terrible spellers. Just like computers, our neural pathways can be programmed to perform complex tasks efficiently. One famous example of this was Pavlov’s dogs. Pavlov would ring a bell when he fed his dogs. He would do this many times, in a process that he called conditioning. He did it so often that when he rang the bell without food, the dogs would salivate. Pavlov had programmed his dogs to think of food and salivate to the sound of the bell. This is a simple example of how we can program a mind. Instead of writing code as we would for a computer, we can use experiences to program our brains. 

Harness Your Brain’s Potential with Effective Programming

When we enter the zone, our programmes are aligned with the environment and the task in front of us. Messi has been able to continually step into the zone on the football field because he has aligned his programs to the football pitch and the task of playing football. He doesn’t have to think about how to move a ball with his feet. He spent years dribbling a football. It’s now so natural for him that his conscious mind can focus on other aspects of the game. This is called a skill program. A good footballer has many skill programs that allow him to dribble the ball, finding passing options and working out the risk of each. These skill programmes free up his mind so that he can instead work out what the opposing defender is about to do and adjust accordingly. A master like Messi has one program that does that and about five others that your average football player doesn’t. These programmes free up his mental capacity in order to focus on a higher level than those around him allowing him to be much more creative. 

Combining Skill and Belief Programs to Achieve Peak performance

But it’s not enough to have solely skill programmes to be in the flow. You also need belief programs. Messi isn’t going to be in the flow if he believes that he has lost his edge or that he can’t beat the players that are in front of him. Furthermore, if he doesn’t have the right belief programmes, he won’t develop the skill programmes he needs. What we think about ourselves ultimately determines what we will achieve. If we believe that we will never be able to run our own business, we won’t put the effort into achieving that goal. It won’t matter that we have developed skill programs that allow us to perform at a high level in running a business because we’ll never apply them. I’m sure you know someone that has a skill such as drawing, singing or writing that also have a cynical belief program that says “I’m not talented enough to do that”. They will never take the chance and put themselves out there. They never develop new skill programmes that they need in order to get to the next level. It can be frustrating to watch them because you know that they would do so well if only they had a belief program about themselves allowing them to get out of their comfort zone. 

Overcoming Cynical Beliefs to Live In The Zone

Cynical programmes are a mixture of thoughts such as “I’m not good enough” or “That will never work out for me”. They can be questions like “Why do I suck at this?” or “What did I do wrong?” They can even be images and memories of past events that make a person feel insecure. Sometimes these programmes stay dormant while in a comfort zone which allows a person to develop a skill program that gets them to a certain level. Once that level is out of their comfort zone, the programmes are triggered. Have you ever thought “This is too good to be true” or “I’m not as good as everyone thinks”? These are examples of cynical belief programmes that are triggered once you are out of your comfort zone. When you are running these cyclical programmes, they stop you from getting into the flow state. 

Stress Management: Overcoming Cynical Belief Programs

What cynical belief programmes do you have that are holding you back? Is it “I’m no good at numbers”, “I’m a procrastinator” or “I won’t take action needed to succeed.” Is it “I’m too old to pursue my dreams” or “I don’t have the experience to start a business or take on a project of that size”? Can you see how these programmes have prevented you from getting into the zone? How have they stopped you from developing the skill programmes you need? What have you failed at even before attempting something because of these programmes? 

Make a list of your cynical belief programmes. Write them down and what they have cost you. Have they cost you a promotion to your dream job? Have they stopped you from setting up your own business? Maybe they have prevented you from earning the income that would allow you to live the life you desire. Get a sense of how cynical belief programmes hold you back from living life in the zone so you can get motivated to hack them, to rewrite them. 

Transform Beliefs into Skills for Success

What do you think is more important? Belief programmes or skill programmes? Belief programmes are much more critical. If you don’t believe me, let me ask you how do you become skilled at something? Do you become skilled by sitting in a classroom listening to a teacher or listening to a personal development podcast? No. That’s how you get educated. As a coach, I have a lot of clients that have an excellent education, but they always say “Why do I know this stuff but can’t apply it?” Can you relate to this? Experience transforms education into skill. By going out into the world and using what you learn in real life, you develop the skill -and belief programmes you need in oder to succeed. Messi became the best in the world by believing that he was the best and by gaining all the experience that he could. 

That’s why I give my clients an experience rather than education because I know that they will not grow if they don’t use the tools and skills I coach them in. If you have a cynical belief programme that says “I always fuck things up”, do you think you’ll take the action you need in order to develop the skill programmes needed to enter a flow state? No. Belief programmes will determine the skill programmes we develop. So let’s create an experience and get into the zone.

Embrace Your Potential

Take the cynical belief programmes that you wrote down and identify why you need to hack them. Then ask yourself if you want to succeed in life. What do your new belief programmes need to be? Will they be for example that “I will find a way to make it, even if I get knocked down a million times” or that “I can do anything I put my mind too?” If your cynical belief programme says that you are old decide that your life experience makes all the difference and can be used to your advantage. It could be the belief programme “I’m an achiever, I’m creative, I’m determined, and nothing can stop me”. Believe that you can rise to the next level of any challenge you choose to take on. 

To reinforce the new belief programmes, you need to look for reasons why they are true. If your new belief programme is, that you can do anything you put your mind too, list down all the things that you once thought you couldn’t do that you are now doing. It could be as easy as “I was once a baby that used to watch other people walking on two legs”. I didn’t believe that I could do it, so I crawled around on the floor. Now I’m able to walk anywhere I choose. Maybe it was a word that you couldn’t spell, and you always got it wrong and you thought that you could never get it. And now you spell it without even thinking about it. It’s easy to forget how many things we do that we once thought we would never be able to do. One of my favourite examples is learning how to drive a manual car. When driving an automatic, you don’t need to worry about changing gears. The car does it for you. When you get in a manual, having to think about changing gears and focusing on the road, it feels impossible. You end up stalling the car. But after a few hours of driving it becomes second nature. What seemed impossible only a few hours before suddenly becomes easy. 

To condition the belief even further, take action and create experiences that strengthen them. If your old belief was that you were too old to be a creative director then write a blog post that highlights how your experience in life can be seen as an asset or create engaging content from your life experiences. If your cynical belief programme says that you’re not smart enough to start your own business and your new belief programme says that you can figure out anything then go and figure out how to launch your first product. The key with this is to become aware of the belief programmes you are running in order tonot fall into the trap of your old belief programmes. When an old cynical belief programme starts up use your awareness to steer to a different set of beliefs. 

Rewriting Belief Programs for Enhanced Learning and Personal Growth

It’s easy to pick up cynical belief programmes. You could have gotten them from your parents, teachers or friends. We don’t naturally code ourselves. We don’t say “Hmmm, what are the belief programmes that I need so that I can develop the skill programmes that will allow me to live in the zone?” However, when you do write your own belief programmes, you can create that moment when your ego drops away and you play at a higher level. If you have the right belief programmes in place, you can step into the zone naturally, even at the beginning of learning something new. When you are in the zone, learning happens quickly and easily. It’s fun. So make sure that you don’t accept your old cynical belief programmes, hack them and create belief programmes that lift you into the zone of a beautiful life.  

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