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The Zone
The Zone : In The Zone

The Zone

In The Zone

By Tom Evans

« The Zone Intro

We all like to be 'in the zone.' Everything happens so magically when we are there.

We love it too when our sports women and men perform at their peak, when they are in that 'special place.' They make it look so easy when they reach these lofty heights in their sport, such is their discipline, training and natural propensity for their craft.

When a golfer is on their game, they just know where the ball is going as soon as they take the back swing — or indeed before they step up to take their shot. Footballers kind of know if they are going to score or miss a penalty when they spot the ball. The finalists in the 100 metres all know who is coming first and last before the gun goes off. Fates are sealed in the minds of the performers well before the performance itself takes place.

Artists, musicians and writers just know when they are are on to a good thing. When crafting their art, they enter a timeless place with a seamless connection to their Muse. It is like another intelligence has taken control and they are just the medium and channel for the imagery, soundscape or words that are coming their way. Everything becomes effortless.

Sometimes too it takes others to notice we're on fire as we are so 'in the zone' and everything else is defocussed. It just feels natural to us until we find ourselves unwittingly 'out of the zone.'

So we know when we are in the zone and we know when we are out of it but where exactly is it?

How do we find our way there? How do we know when we are in it? How can some people just get in it so easily?

When we are out of it, how do we get back in there?

Sometimes, a good place to start any such journey is a dictionary. The dictionary definitions tell us that a zone is a noun that describes places and regions with clearly defined edges and boundaries. A zone is defined as having a geographical or spatial nature. Note, in passing, that we can also use the word as a verb to 'zone something off.'

We can park in certain zones and sometimes get fined if we don't. Our brains get a little confused if we swap time zones too quickly.

Frustratingly though, these definitions give us no clue at all as to 'the zone' we get into when everything is flowing with ease and we are performing at our peak. They tell us little about how to 'zone in' or when to 'zone out.'

This is because the zones that we are in when we are on form are less tangible than this. For these somewhat mythical zones, there is no Border Control and we can slip in and out of them without a passport. Neither is there a map telling us where this zone actually is and how to hope to even get there. It is this lack of any map that leads to us often not even being aware we were in the zone until after we were in it, or when we know we are out of it.

My new book, The Zone, is an attempt at crafting this map. Like all maps it is only a model and a work in progress. Explorers who use it will find other places worth visiting and may even spot some errors. As the territory changes over time, the map will almost certainly need updating.

At the same time, many of the zones are complementary and can be joined together to build bigger, more powerful zones. We can even take one of the Danger Zones and neutralise its effect by surrounding it with Doing and Being Zones.

This is of course analogous to what happens with real zones and territories. If we share our border with those who are belligerent, we may get absorbed into a hostile zone, which is potentially unhealthy for us. If we live in a small town where all the neighbours are friendly, the kindness and happiness spreads. When we work with people who are creative and entrepreneurial, we cannot help but to pick up on their energy.

Zones are dynamic places with constantly changing edges. Like the cells in our body, they can replicate and grow healthily or mutate into less desirable forms. Like all living things, the zones we inhabit benefit from care and attention. •

Next: Out of The Zone »

Tom Evans Renaissance Man and Imagineer Tom Evans is the author of four books and counting about creativity. More »

Updated 1/18/15