I've worked with a lot of athletes and teams over the years as a sport psychology consultant and this is one of those areas that is really important if you are a player to understand in order to get to the next level and find the zone.
I've been seeing this graphic a lot lately. Photos of people
jumping off cliffs, or bubble graphics showing where you are now and where you
want to be and the only way to get there is to get out of your COMFORT ZONE. This COMFORT
ZONE is a moving target or at least it should be. As you move yourself
out of your COMFORT ZONE in order to become or
realize your goals, you will start to get comfortable again. This requires the
mentally strong (TOUGH) person to continually push themselves into a new level
of discomfort. Complacency leads players to mediocrity. This is especially true
in a hockey training camp. You have survived the first few weeks. If you didn't
force yourself out of your COMFORT ZONE,
certainly your coaches did. Now that you have gotten used to the ebb and flow
of practice things are easier and for many this is a time to relax a bit and
focus on what you are good at doing. But great players never allow themselves
to get sucked into the malaise of the COMFORT ZONE.
Great athletes are vigilant in their pursuit to continually push themselves out
of the COMFORT ZONE in order to find THE ZONE.
THE ZONE is where an
athlete plays their best. It is often called PEAK PERFORMANCE and should be every athlete's
ultimate destination. Notice I said destination and not goal. THE ZONE is not something you can set goals for
directly, it is the path you travel that gets you there and to get to THE ZONE, you have to pass through the COMFORT ZONE.
Now it is easy for people (sometimes coaches) to tell players
this is an easy thing to do. It is for some of course, but certainly not for
everyone. Having worked with thousands of athletes over the last 30+ years at
some very high levels, I can tell you at some point the COMFORT ZONE sucks most everyone in. You can get out of the COMFORT ZONE in many ways. One exercise I like to use
with athletes is using an imagery technique. It is a switch technique. Imagine
you are practicing or playing in the COMFORT ZONE.
Things are going well for you, but others are working just a little harder.
They may be even making a few mistakes, but you are playing safely in the COMFORT ZONE. This seems OK, but you are starting to
lose ground. As you imagine this
scenario, notice where you see it. Out in front, to the side, below eye level
or above. It doesn't matter. Let's put
that aside for a moment. Now imagine a different scene. In this one you are
pushing yourself out of your COMFORT ZONE. You
are tired, you are trying new things, you are learning and getting better. Now
notice where that image is located. Put them up on a huge flat screen TV in
their respective places. Turn the COMFORT ZONE
image black and white and make it smaller. Now take the out of the COMFORT ZONE image. Make it brighter and bigger. Count
to three and switch their relative space on the TV. Fade the COMFORT ZONE completely into oblivion and say to
yourself this is where I want to travel. Practice this and make what you see a
reality by committing to this image and feeling every time you step out to
practice and play. This is a great first step in helping yourself when you have
trouble getting out of your COMFORT ZONE. In
hockey and every other sport we are always striving for PEAK PERFORMANCE, avoid the trap of the COMFORT ZONE and you are that much closer to THE ZONE and playing the best hockey of your life!.
Mike Margolies is available to work with your team and help
them find THE ZONE. Remember to click on the
link. It can't take you to the zone, but you will be a lot closer. http://themental-game.com/consultations-on-skype/