Being in the Zone
Have you ever been "in the zone?" I recently came across two different blogs that discussed the condition of “being in the zone.”
The first blog (Exact Sports) wrote about the zone as it relates to athletes and the second (John Pototschnik Fine Art) about artists.
I assume that many of you have experienced, at one time or another, the feeling of being in the zone. I know that I have. I remember times when I was surfing or boogie boarding. For hours, the only thing that I was aware of were the ebb and flow of the waves. No other problems or thoughts entered my mind. I was fully absorbed within the blanket of nature. I have also experienced this feeling as an artist.
Occasionally, I find that hours have passed without my awareness as I have been working on a painting. I can only assume that I have been in the zone for that period of time. Either that or a time warp from space passed over my studio. I became totally lost in the creative process.
In 1999, a team of scientists and sports psychologists conducted a study that identified 10 essential elements of “the zone.” They are as follows:
1. Balance of challenge and skills
2. Complete absorption in the activity
3. Clear goals
4. Merging of action and awareness
5. Total concentration on the task at hand
7. A sense of control
8. No goals or rewards external to the activity
9. Transformation of time
10. Effortless movement
Some of these elements are referenced by a couple of well-known artists as they describe "being in the zone."
Ken Backhaus, the famous painter, said, “Being in the zone is like a well-oiled machine, you are performing without hesitation, no distractions, and can push yourself and you respond, the challenges that are present or come up during the painting process become solved. The traditional sound principal and foundations guide your skills that you have acquired over the years. Confidence directs the eye and the hand. Everything within you and around you is in harmony.”
Marc Hanson, another premier artist, said, “It's easiest for me to find myself "in the zone" when outside on location, painting 'en plein air'. Almost every time that I paint outside, I'm there, in the zone. I think that's partly why I feel that is the most honest place for me to be painting. Having the time constraint of plein air painting, and the lack of any outside interference, except for the occasional passerby, makes it the ideal situation for me to find myself in that zone.”
I’ve come to understand that it’s not always possible to put yourself in the zone. It happens or it doesn’t happen. But, I've also been told that continual emersion in your practice, whether it be sports, music, carpentry or painting will provide more ability to focus and therefore create more opportunities to find yourself in the zone.
Whenever it happens, though, it feels really good -- doesn't it?