Getting in the Zone: Part 2

In Part 1 of this blog, I indicated I’d share thoughts in this segment about how to identify what triggers “zone changes” and what gets in the way of bringing ourselves back.

As I’ve said in this forum before – and as I often say to my clients – those specifics are going to be individualized. They’ll vary not only from person to person but even change for us at different times in our lives. It’s important to learn habits and practices that you can rely on over time to help you identify what gets in the way.

Looking in the Mirror

We know external factors play a role in our moods. We wouldn’t be human if we weren’t impacted by big things like wars all the way down to traffic jams. Even though we know these things are outside our control, they still can impact whether we show up for work in the zone or out of the zone.

If we let them.

The trick is learning that we have the ability at all times to notice and shift how we are reacting to external events. In many cases, the event is not really the issue; it’s what we make of it that gets under our skin. Our accompanying story is what really shifts our mindsets and moods. That might sound like this:

  • “This is just my luck.”
  • “I screwed up again! I’m just not good at this.”
  • “My boss never takes my suggestions. He clearly doesn’t trust me.”

Your versions may sound different. The point is that our internal stories about who we are, how things go for us, and how we generally perceive things stem from long-held beliefs and patterns of thought.

The good news is that we have the ability to re-train our brains, if we can notice what’s going on.

“The range of what we think and do is limited by what we fail to notice.”

This line is the first of a quote by R.D. Laing. The rest of the quote is this: “And because we fail to notice that we fail to notice, there is little we can do to change; until we notice how failing to notice shapes our thoughts and deeds.”

Personally I had to read that quote a few times before I began to digest it! Over the years it has taken on deeper meaning. Herein lies the secret to being able to shift how we react to things: we first have to notice what’s really going on. This requires us to separate ourselves a bit from the situation.

I like the way Dr. Suzanne Kryder describes “noticing” in The Mind to Lead: Coaching for Calm, Confident Power. She describes it as a mind muscle she calls “the Reporter.” Paraphrasing some of her opening comments:

A good reporter is curious, unbiased, analytical and focused. A good reporter separates her personal experience from what she’s reporting. Being able to notice and describe what’s happening in your experience with an unbiased attitude – even if you’re having a strong reaction – can help you stay calm as well as think and act more clearly.”

I wrote about something related in a prior blog on Conflict Resolution, where I highlighted the difference between noticing the facts of a situation and how we interpret those facts.

The good news is this: noticing is a skill that can be learned and developed. Once we are able to notice what’s going on from an observer’s perspective, we are more able to do two things:

  1. Understand our reactions
  2. Choose how we want to respond

Until we begin noticing what derails us, we’re not able to intentionally get ourselves back in the zone.

There are numerous ways to initiate noticing and self-observation practices, and I’m happy to discuss them. This is one of those things that falls into the category of “simple but not easy.” It’s powerful though! This is the gateway for those who want to be more nimble in “zone changes.”

Bottom Line

This whole conversation reminds me of rock wall climbing. I haven’t tried the real deal outdoors, but I do enjoy indoor climbing gyms. As the routes get harder, at times you simply get stuck. You’re looking for the next step or handhold and they can seem impossible to reach when you’re up on the wall.

In those moments of hesitation, the tendency is to hug the wall, which actually is the worst thing to do!  For one, it tires you out (the “rest” position is to allow your belayer to hold your weight while you sit in the harness.)

More importantly, however, when you’re too close to the wall, you simply can’t see your next move. You have to pull back from the wall slightly to gain perspective and to notice what your options are. Talk about changing zones!

What other tricks do you use to get back in the zone? I’d love to hear from you.

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