Unconscious.  Self two.  The zone.  Flow state.

There are a lot of great names for when you’re performing or creating and your rational, conscious, deliberate mind gets out of the way while you enter an unthinking trance-like form of in-the-moment action.  It’s one of the best feelings in the world.

Yesterday, I went down to the basketball court to shoot some hoops and stumbled on a little trick.  I’m not a great shooter, and often battle to turn my mind off and stop thinking about my form, because I shoot better when I’m flowing freely.  If I make a few free-throws, in a row I start to become more conscious of what I’m doing and the streak is broken.

So instead of my usual routine of layups, turn-arounds, free-throws, and threes until I hit 100 shots (you’d be amazed how long it takes me), I decided to make it really hard to begin with, thinking it might make it easier thereafter.  I had to make the first 10 shots with my left hand.  Not layups, but 15-footers.  I’m a righty and never use my left except occasionally (and badly) around the rim.  Those ten left-handed shots were very hard and very frustrating.  Because lefty shots are so foreign to me, there’s no zone I can enter.  I have to put a ton of conscious effort, focus, and attention to form and detail into every one to try to make the motion even work.

I finally did it, and by the time I did my conscious, form-following mind was totally exhausted.  Going back to my right hand was like taking a break from the chain gang to sit by the pool with an umbrella drink.  I didn’t focus on my shots, I hit a much higher percentage than usual, and I had a blast!

I think I found a new trick that can be applied elsewhere.  Give yourself a really hard challenge that requires far more focus than normal and run your rational mind dry.  Wear your brain out.  Then start the work.  I thought about how I’ve done this a few times with writing.  I’ve challenged myself with word counts or other strictures on my form that took tremendous focus to complete.  Afterwards, getting in the zone to crank out a free-flowing blog post was much easier.

More experimentation ahead.