Follow sports long enough and there is a good chance you will come across the term “peak performance.” Sometimes athletes call this feeling “the zone” or “being in the moment.” No matter what the name, everyone knows it when they feel it.
The best way to describe this state of focus is to call it nature’s performance-enhancing drug. When athletes achieve this peak experience, everything else in the world falls away. You no longer need to think about what you are doing, you just do it. Achieving this state turns you into a human being with one purpose.
That purpose changes depending on the task at hand. If you are an athlete, you will excel on the field. If you are a musician, you will effortlessly find your groove. If you are a writer, you will churn out pages of content without thinking about it.
Focus turns you into a machine. It is no surprise some people spend their entire lives chasing it. You can experience it at any moment of your life, no matter what the task at hand. Buddhists use a practice called “mindfulness” to achieve this state on a whim. They will experience it while doing mundane things like washing the dishes.
Achieving this frame of mind in Parkour is vital. When you are in the middle of a run, there is no time for mistakes. You need to be on your toes at all times. One lapse in focus can lead to injury.
World-famous psychologist Abraham Maslow coined the term “peak experience.” He believed this state of mind happens when the difficulty of the task matches your skill level. If the task is too easy, you get bored. If it is too hard, you get scared. Both of these feelings force you to think about other things, and will destroy your focus.
Peak Performance & Focus
This means a time of focus is not the time when you learn new skills. You are just applying what you already know with ease. You don’t need to achieve peak experience to learn new skills. You do need to achieve it when performance matters.
You need to separate practice from performance. When athletes practice they are focusing on success and failure. When you fail an attempt at a new movement, you will sit back and analyze what happened. This is not how you get in the zone. Nonetheless, it is the only way you get better.
Practice vs. Performance
You need to realize you will not achieve peak experience during practice and put it out of your mind. Your goal during practice is to learn new moves, not reach the ultimate state of focus. Putting in hours of practice time will help you embody the movements. After that, you will use them effortlessly during a performance—and reach your peak mental state.
Know Where You are GoingYou need to have clear goals. If you do not know what you want to achieve, you will need to stop and think about it. This will take you out of the moment, and make you look like a doofus.
When you start an important run, know where you are going and what you want to achieve. Remember, you only reach peak experience when everything else is out of your mind.
Have defined goals, and know how to accomplish them.
You can only reach your peak if you know how well you are doing. You need feedback. This ties into the two points above.
If you have clear goals and the skills to complete them, you will get feedback. You will know what you need to do, and how you need to do it. If anything is not going according to plan, you will know why.
But if you don’t have the skills or the goals, you won’t even know when you are doing things wrong. You will feel like you are not doing it right, but you will not know why. This will kill your focus.
Put Something on the LineThere is no better peak experience "hack" than risk. If there is something on the line, you are going to be more concentrated. This doesn’t always mean competition. You just need to raise the stakes a little.
Invite some of your friends to watch your next run. Or, better yet, film it and show it to a larger audience later. Create an element of risk. Don’t do something stupid like attempt to vault between skyscrapers. Just make sure you are pushing yourself, but in a safe and healthy way.
Peak experience and focus is hard to control. Many athletes spend their entire careers searching for it. This article has outlined how to get there, but it will still take time.
Put Knowledge Into Practice
Achieving this state is like mastering any skill. You need to understand how to get there before you can get there. The more often you experience it, the easier it will become.