Alan C. Walters, an author and motivational expert, has often been "in the zone." He calls it the Golden Magic Zone.
In his book, The Secrets to Increasing Your Wealth, Power, and Happiness, he describes one of his remarkable experiences.
Once I wanted to purchase an airplane, a turbo-charged Beech Bonanza, that cost $38,000; I had $3,000.
I circled the advertisement in red ink and thought, "How am I going to turn this $3,000 into $38,000?"
An idea flashed to mind: Play Blackjack!
It was a Sunday morning. I got into my car and drove 280 miles to John Ascuga's Nugget in Sparks, Nevada, a suburb of Reno.
I sat down with two other people at a table that had a $400 a hand limit. I cashed my $3,000 for chips and bet $400 on two positions.
I played for twenty minutes and bought cards three times by double downing an ace, two, and received an eight each time.
I hit blackjack twenty-three times in twenty minutes; I had a huge pile of chips. The first time I lost a hand, I quit.
Picking up my chips and taking them to the cashier, I found I had won $58,000; I had $46,000 after taxes.
I purchased the Bonanza for $34,000, cash.
On my first flight, I blew the engine over Aurora, Oregon. Looking down, I saw a small airport. It had no radio, so I landed with great billows of black smoke pouring from the engine. I didn't know where I was, and the airport was surrounded by trees and hedges.
With several taxiways disappearing into the trees, something made me choose a taxiway toward the south end of the field.
As I taxied between those trees, I saw an old, broken-down shed. I stopped the plane in front of the shed, climbed out and walked through the front door. There I saw an elderly man putting away tools.
"Is there anyone at this airport who really understands turbo-Bonanzas?" I asked.
The man smiled. "Well," he drawled. "Up until last week, I was the foreman and head mechanic of Bonanza West, over at Portland Airport."
Amazing! (I was in the right place at the right time).
I had him replace the engine and do a complete overhaul of the plane. It cost $12,400, the exact amount I had left from my winnings. I flew that plane for ten years and never had another problem.
What are the factors that create this unique experience?
Dr. Perry Mitchell, a psychologist and public speaker, has identified some critical elements that can help anyone step into the zone.
Since what you focus on expands, you get into the zone when you naturally capitalize on your strengths and get over your mistakes quickly.
If you enjoy what you do, you will effortlessly create a momentum that can carry you into the zone, a state where you are focused, relaxed, and self-trusting.
People rarely enter the zone because they completely believe in two myths about success.
One is that to do well you have to work hard. The result of this, of course, is that since you want to do well to succeed, you believe that working harder and harder will get you closer and closer to your goal. What it does, however, is increase pressure, anxiety, and fear. Instead of doing better, you actually do worse as you fatigue and tense up.
Another myth is that pain is good. It has been particularly popularized in sports with the slogan, "no pain, no gain." Again, increasing pain results in a state of exhaustion and the cessation of effort toward your goal.
These myths are so ingrained in the collective unconsciousness that most people operate on them without even noticing them. They feel that they are not making progress unless they feel a sense of strain and effort. And they doubt if something can be good for them if it doesn't cause discomfort.
What keeps these two myths operating is what Dr. Mitchell calls the "Critical Advisor." In Freudian terms, this would be the Super-Ego. It is an ego state that is omnipresent and works on you by making you doubt anything and everything, especially your own self-worth. It is your inner map of how you should be and persistently criticizes you for not measuring up. It considers negative motivation to be necessary for your success.
To get into the zone, you have to shut off the Critical Advisor and get into the "Hands Free Zone." This term is based on an analogy. When you are riding a bicycle without holding the handlebars, you're in the "hands free zone."
When you are in the Hands Free Zone you are soaring. When you are in it, you are focused, but in a relaxed way, like a karate expert, who is both alert and relaxed enough to strike quickly at an opponent. However, once you start to notice that you are focused,
the Critical Advisor leaps in and puts you down, thus cutting off the evenly flowing psychic energy that was putting you in the zone.
The Critical Advisor has a contest mentality and a critical mentality. The contest mentality is polarity. An evaluation of whether you are good or bad, performing well or poorly. The critical mentality is the belief that you are not good enough to do it well, not worthy of accomplishment. It constantly looks at results.
Thus, the Critical Advisor operates on a polarity paradigm and a results paradigm. Since its job is to criticize you in the belief that this will steer you in the right direction (negative motivation), it cuts off any flow or zone states. You are so focused on not making a mistake that you manifest mistakes. By trying not to miss the ball flying at you, you fumble and let it slip through your fingers. By trying not to hit the lake as you make your golf swing, you send it straight into it .
The way to avoid "choking" is to turn the Critical Advisor off. You do this by being willing to consider multiple options. And you do this by focusing on the process, not the results.
If there are more than two options, then the polarity of right and wrong lose their grip on you. Similarly, if you're still in process, you can't judge results.
Doing it right is relevant to the Critical Advisor. But to the person in flow, doing it is all that matters. When you are just doing it, not worrying about whether you are good or bad at it, not concerned about results, then you are in the zone.
In the zone, you surge (enter the Hands Free Zone), recover (from the Critical Advisor), and surge again (back in the Hands Free Zone).
In relationship to time, the Critical Advisor seeks to either dominate the past or the future.
In reviewing the past, it stirs the emotion of guilt and regret. In previewing the future, it stirs the emotion of doubt and anxiety.
A person in the zone, focuses on the present, which completely removes all the negative emotions that arise from contemplating the past or the future.
There are two formulas for getting into the zone.
In the first formula, you do the following:
1. Notice what is happening right now.
2. Weigh all your options (also called the magic of the third option).
3. Learn from your experiences.
4. See what is different.
In the second formula, you do the following:
1. You perform a centering ritual. For example, a basketball player may bounce the ball three times before shooting for the net.
2. You perform a mental rehearsal. The basketball player envisions the ball arcing and flying into the center of the hoop.
3. You optimize. Turn up the volume, so to speak. Releasing the ball into the air.
4. Finally, you capitalize on what you did well. Say a loud "yes" with a clenched fist as the ball slides perfectly into the hoop. This reinforces the subconscious.
Getting into the zone is possible. But it is a skill more than just luck. And like any skill, you have to practice to get good at it.
Saleem Rana is a psychotherapist in Denver, Colorado. If you're up to the challenge and want to create the kind of freedom and lifestyle you truly deserve - starting now - then get his free book from