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Sports Psychology Techniques Can Be Applied to Many Areas of Life

Published July 28, 2003 | Updated January 20, 2016

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Duke Health News919-660-1306

Athletes call it "being in the zone." It's that elusive
state where a player performs at such a high level, it seems
almost incredible. Some athletes, such as Michael Jordan or
Tiger Woods, seem to be able to achieve this state on a regular
basis, consistently elevating their performance to a level
beyond that of even their highly skilled peers.

What's at work when this happens, and how can the rest of us
learn to 'get in the zone' in all areas of our lives, not just
athletics? That's the focus of On the Sweet Spot: Stalking
the Effortless Present
(Simon & Schuster), a new book
by Richard Keefe, an associate professor of medical psychology
at Duke University Medical Center.

"Every athlete has had some times where they feel like
everything they do is just right," says Keefe. "If they're
playing golf, every shot feels good off the club face. If
they're playing tennis, every shot feels perfect. This book is
about how to access those periods of getting into that 'zone'
where everything is effortless."

Keefe draws from new brain research, sports psychology and
ancient spiritual traditions to explain how we can use such
techniques as visualization and imagery, meditation and
conscious breathing to reach our full potential. He explains
how understanding and practicing these mental processes can
enable us to recreate them at will. The result, he believes, is
the ability to focus more effectively on whatever activity we
are engaged in. As he writes, we learn "to pay attention to
what matters and ignore what doesn't matter."

Keefe believes that learning to control mental techniques
will enhance our performance not only in sports, but in other
aspects of our lives. "There's no reason to only limit these
sports psychology techniques like visualization to sports," he
says.

"For most of us, sports are a recreational activity," says
Keefe. "What's really more important to us is our work, our
relationships and other parts of our lives. There are all kinds
of ways in which this approach can enrich your everyday life as
well."

Source: Interview with Richard Keefe, Ph.D., Duke University
Medical Center, July 2003.

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