Often, we hear athletes talk about how important it is for them to be "in the zone". What they mean is that they have prepared for an event and even though they are physically ready for it, they are also able to completely focus in a way that they can reach their potential.
Sometimes I hear people explain that they use various ways of "zoning out" when they don't want to deal with the reality that is occurring in their world. They might use shopping, eating, drinking, drugs or gaming to escape into a fantasy bubble where they don't feel stress or responsibility.
The results from being "in the zone" and "zoning out" couldn't be more different. The athlete often achieves success as a reward for efforts whereas the person who is "zoning out" suffers negative consequences. Their work might not be completed efficiently or accurately because they aren't focused on it. Their environment is cluttered with neglected and unfinished tasks. Bills aren't paid. Self-care is absent. Relationships are unnurtured or left with unresolved issues. And, habits or addictions are developed over time.
Stress is often just a resistance to reality. When we ignore or try to escape it, things don't improve and, in fact, can get worse and we often don't admit that the stress was self-imposed. We do things to avoid what we don't want to do, only to find that they are still there, and then feel guilty or more stressed than when we started!
The best way to deal with a problem is to take steps to resolve it:
1. Decide what you want to have as an end result. Do you want to live in a safer and cleaner environment? Would you like to have a job that pays more and brings satisfaction? Are you interested in learning a skill? Do you want to be debt free? There is "magic" in writing down a goal. Make sure it is specific, measurable, achievable, realistic and timely.
2. Research. Talk to people who have been successful in achieving a similar goal. It always surprises me when individuals ask for financial advice from others who are living in poverty! Go to the library to find books about your interest area. See if there are online or community courses to help you learn.
3. Develop a plan. Divide your project into small steps that can be completed over time. It is motivating to check off each step as you move towards the ultimate success. How do you eat an elephant? One bite at a time.
4. Do something every day to move forward. Even before I started my private practice, I committed to doing one thing every single day to build my business. A matter of minutes can add up to be many, many hours of progress by year end.
5. Control your influences. Make sure that you are surrounded by people who believe in and encourage you. The last thing you need is someone who will continually remind you why you won't succeed. If you don't have positive people in your physical environment then read inspiring books, listen to online speakers or call supporters who are living elsewhere.
6. Learn from your mistakes. Don't get lost in emotional crises that freeze your progress. Instead, think of ways that you can avoid problems and move forward.
7. Enjoy the journey. Make sure you take time to "stop and smell the roses". There isn't any value in reaching a goal only to find out that you are too burned out to enjoy it or have lost all your relationships during the process.
You definitely do not have to be "in the zone" all the time. In fact, that isn't realistic. But you also don't need to be "zoning out" all the time. When you face reality and deal with it in a healthy manner, you won't need to look for ways to escape and will enjoy your life more.