"It's unexplainable, honestly. There's only a few guys in this league that can get into a zone like that, and I'm blessed to have the ability to be one of those guys.
"You just feel like you can make pretty much every shot you take."
--LeBron James, after scoring 47 point to help the Cleveland take a commanding 3-0 lead in the NBA playoff series.
James was 15 of 25 from the field and went 5 of 10 on 3-point shots, and made 12 of 16 free throws.
"He's not the MVP for nothing. He's the best player in the league. He knows when to push the gas. That's what he did."
--Zaza Pachulia, Atlanta Hawks' center.
Athletes refer to the state of being in the zone when everything comes together, when one does great things, and when mind and body are able to stretch to the limit to accomplish greatness. This state involves total immersion and focus, such that distractions and "noise" are absent. Often, at times of peak performance, athletes find themselves "in the zone." For basketball players the basket seems bigger and wider. They can't miss. For baseball players, they report being able to see the baseball bigger, more clearly and in great detail. Football players describe a feeling of being invincible with the ability to run all day through their opponents without being touched. In the zone, your confidence is high, worry is non-existent.
Flow is the term coined by University of Chicago Psychologist Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi, (1990) to refer to this psychological dimension described by thousands of individuals during his 25 years of researching this universal phenomenon. In sports, athletes often refer to this state as the "zone". Eastern philosophers experience similar meditative states when practicing Zen Buddhism.
During flow, consciousness becomes harmoniously ordered. According to Daniel Goleman (1995), author of Emotional Intelligence, the ability to enter a state of flow represents emotional intelligence at its best, because it is incompatible with emotional discord or strain. Flow is considered an autotelic, or intrinsically rewarding experience. Since it feels so good, this optimal experience becomes not just a means, but an end in itself.
People attain a state of flow and perform at their best when they are engaged in a task where the challenge is slightly above their ability. Too much challenge will produce anxiety, overload the psyche, and sabotage any chance of having a peak experience. On the other hand, too little challenge will inevitably lead to boredom. Flow occurs in the narrow zone between these two opposites.
For more on LeBron James and the Cleveland Cavaliers, go to LeBron James, Peak Performance Case Study.