Steve Smith: My 3 Steps for Playing in Your Zone and Achieving Professional Excellence

Playing in your zone is a wonderful place to be. It’s those moments when everything is not only going right but it feels effortless. It’s as though you have done it a million times and each time the outcome is better and better.


When you are operating in your zone, you are mentally at a peak state and your confidence is driving you to deal with things that normally make you retreat. You are unstoppable and everyone who is working with you or around you knows it!

Unfortunately, for most people, this type of operating panacea is but a dream or a situation that happens and then is gone, never to be repeated.


Because people confuse performing at this level with luck or pure happenstance. They view it as something reserved for athletes or others who have the luxury of devoting their time to perfecting one thing. In reality, being able to operate at a level where you are your best is something anyone can master. It takes a certain level of focus and dedication and it’s not easy to consistently repeat but it can be done.

What it takes to play in your zone and achieve professional excellence can be boiled down to a few specific areas: understanding your purpose, maximizing your most precious resource and having a personal refueling strategy.

Understanding Your Purpose

When you think of all the areas your life and work take you, the experiences you’ve had and the successes and failures you’ve endured, there’s a pattern throughout these activities that you may not have noticed.  This pattern holds the answer to what you operate the best at.

  • I call it ‘your calling’.
  • It’s that one thing you are more driven to and do your best at.  It’s what draws you to certain activities and functions.  It’s what draws others to you.  Like the GPS in your car, it knows where you want to go and it gets you there every time, if you let it!

Figuring out what your calling is takes some doing, but once it’s clear to you, everything changes.  Your outlook and your desire to go beyond normal effort seem limitless.  The performance you achieve is beyond your expectations at first but with time and practice, your confidence will support your ability to continually play in your zone.

So How do you Figure out your Calling?

Take a moment to think about your journey.  Talk with friends and colleagues you trust and respect and get feedback from them.  Then start observing the outcomes of things you do.  Eventually your pattern will emerge and with it, your true calling.

Maximizing your Most Precious Resource

We all have a special combination of skills, abilities and resources to work with.  Among them, however, is one that is more valuable than all the rest.

It’s your time!

The question becomes, how are you using it to play in your zone and achieve professional excellence?

Remember, time is like currency: you pay for everything you do with your time.

Questions you Should ask About how You’re Using your Time:

  • How much of your time is spent doing things that support and develop your calling?
  • How many times do things in your environment divert you from using your time optimally?
  • Are you well organized and directed or are you prone to distractions?

Once you understand the value of your time, keeping yourself in your optimal playing zone means controlling your use of it.

A brief look at Pareto’s Principle (the 80/20 rule) suggests that 80% of the things you do well and accomplish come from 20% of the activities you spend your time doing.  Identifying these primary values and scheduling your time to do more of them is what can propel you into your zone on a more continual basis.

Having a Personal Refueling Strategy

The greatest performers among us have a few things in common. And one of the most impactful is recharging themselves so they can continue to perform in their zones.

Being able to excel again and again requires refueling at a physical, mental and emotional level.  But with so much on our plates these days, how do we find time to refuel ourselves?

I would advocate that taking the time to refuel, refresh and recharge should be as important as eating and breathing!  The more time you devote to keeping yourself prepared for peak performance, the most effortless ‘being’ in your zone becomes.

The best way to address this essential component of professional excellence is to figure out where your inspiration comes from.  Being inspired by something or someone whom you respect, trust and would like to emulate is powerful stuff!  Simply incorporating a steady dose of reading, watching or listening to the things that involve real feelings from new ideas, innovative approaches or genuine stories of accomplishment, will give you fuel to keep pushing your own limits.

Ask yourself these few simple questions before committing yourself to a refueling strategy that will work for you:

  1. What must I change in my routine to improve my physical health?
  2. How can I incorporate new learning to stay ahead in my chosen profession?
  3. What brings me joy or lifts my spirits?

Adding your answers to your daily or weekly routine will do wonders for your ability to get to and stay in your peak zone.

Now playing in your optimum zone is mostly mental.  And, like every other thing you learn to do extremely well, it takes a plan, continual dedication and practice.

If you have been searching for a way to start your own journey so you can play in your own zone more consistently, visit my website and download a free copy of my new ePlaybook “Pro*Fectiveness: The Art of Achieving What is Most Important to You”.  It will help you get a clear, consistent head start.

What are your thoughts about Steve’s steps? Will you give these steps a try? I’d love to hear your thoughts and comments below.

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