March 23 2022 – Lydia Lassila
Lydia Lassila talks with Bree Walker about what The ZONE means to her
For the past year I've had the pleasure on mentoring Bree Walker - a pilot. Not the kind that flies planes for a living, but a bobsleigh pilot. I help her with her planning, navigating the realities of elite winter sport and most importantly, her mindset. Bree recently competed at the Beijing 2022 Winter Olympics and finished 5th place in the Monobob event. She is now putting plans in place for Cortina 2026 Winter Olympics. Together, we work through all aspects of mindset. Facing fear, manifesting empowering thoughts, replacing limiting beliefs and of course being in the ZONE on a consistent basis.
I always wonder what the ZONE feels like for other people or if they have a different insight. No matter the athlete or profession, it's always very similar so I asked Bree to share her thoughts on being in the ZONE.
What does being In The ZONE feel like?
I become very calm but alert; like water, that is calm but powerful in the right moment. I'm not thinking but I know what I need to do. I’m focused on my task and subconsciously aware of my surroundings. I have heightened my ability to see more, feel more, hear more but this doesn't distract me from what I am there to do. My goal is to execute a world class, winning performance. But how did I get into this state? How did I get ‘In The Zone’?
Getting ‘In The Zone’ used to be something that would randomly happen, if I was lucky. On the odd occasion, the odd race I would get into the zone. And after I would execute a performance with my desired outcome I would be like “THAT’S IT! That’s what being ‘In The Zone’ feels like.” That statement would always follow with the question “But how did I get there?”. This question was the beginning of my journey on how I could purposely get ‘In The Zone’. But let's back it up for those who don't know what being ‘In The Zone’ is or why we would even want to get there in the first place.
What is The ZONE?
‘In The Zone’ or flow state can be described as a state of mind where a person becomes hyper-focused and fully absorbed in what they are trying to execute on the highest level. “It felt easy”, “it was effortless” are some ways people describe what being ‘In The Zone’ feels like. It can also be difficult to describe and often people can't even remember certain races, performances and activities when they were in a flow state. Being ‘In The Zone’ is often desired by athletes, performers and even business people as it is a state where people become their most skilful and powerful, giving them the ability to produce something they have never done before.
How to Find The ZONE
As the Australian Bobsleigh pilot, when I get ‘In The Zone’ I’ve been able to lift heavier, push faster and drive better than I ever have before, and this feeling is addictive. With my desired goal to find out how I can get ‘In The Zone’ on purpose, I started to pay attention to how I was feeling, what I was doing and what I was thinking on days that I felt in a flow state; on the “good days”.
Positive attitude - For me, performing well is pretty simple; not always easy to achieve with the stresses that a season and competing provides, but it’s simple. If I feel good, I perform good. A happy Bree is a fast Bree. I found that when I executed good performances I was always in a good mood. I would laugh, smile and truly enjoy what I was doing with the awesome people. I would listen to music that lifted my state so I could power up but remain calm and clear minded.
Be Present - To be clear minded also requires me to be present. I needed to be living in the moment! This is a skill I have to practice a lot because often my thoughts would fly elsewhere. However, the sooner I caught them and brought them back to ‘In The Zone’, the sooner I was able to be present, refocus and enjoy what I was doing.
Visualise - Clear visualisations are key for me to be “In The Zone’. Most, if not all elite athletes will visualise executing their perfect, ideal performance. My visualisations consist of imagining a perfect run down a bobsleigh track. Sometimes I would just do a visualisation for the sake of doing a visualisation; this honestly was a waste of my brain power. On the days that I drive the track really well, I realised that not only would I see the track clearly in my visualisations, but I would feel the track too and move my body as if I was driving. The clearer I saw and felt the track, the better a run would be. So I made a very conscious effort to execute clear visualisations, that involved seeing and feeling, before going down that track.
Identify trends - It was sometimes difficult for me to describe why that particular training session or race was so good “because it just worked”. But the more I asked myself why it worked and reflected on that moment, my awareness of trends increased and I could replicate the feeling of flow more often.
Understand your 'why' - Another very important element is that I have to really understand what I am trying to execute and why. It’s important that I know what I need to do, how I should do it, what I am trying to achieve, and what it should feel and look like. This can be a pain-in-the-ass for my coaches because this requires a lot of explaining and patience but once I know all this, then this boosts my confidence in executing the skill. The more confidence I have in executing a skill, ultimately this results in less thinking and I am able to just get out of my own way and do it; aka be ‘In The Zone’.
Being ‘In The Zone’ can just happen. All the elements that are required for you to get into a flow state CAN come together and you COULD be lucky that you could get ‘In The Zone’ when you need to. But who wants to leave that up to luck? No world class, winning performance happens just from luck. There’s always purposeful thinking, planning and practice that goes into it. I hope that by sharing what it takes for me to get ‘In The Zone’ encourages you to think about what it takes for you to get ‘In The Zone’ so you can execute on the highest level.
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