Here’s a question: can you switch from playing tennis in a variable-focus state to playing tennis in a fixed-focus state?
Pretty simple explanation of what it takes to play tennis in the zone. The challenge, of course, is that our normal focal state, the focal state we wake up with and go into without even thinking about it, is a variable-focus state. Over the years, a variable-focus state becomes the focal state we use in just about every activity we do. This variable-focus state becomes the focal state we use to connect to the environment in which we exist and participate.
In essence, you are constantly in a variable-focus state, and to suddenly switch from this “focal comfort zone” to a completely opposite focal connection to the environment is naturally going to throw you out of your focal comfort zone in a big hurry. The only reason people continue to try a fixed-focus state is that they immediately start to play at a much higher level than in their variable-focus state.
You wouldn’t think that a change in the way you use your eyes, your visual focus, could make such a huge difference in your performance, but not only does a fixed-focus state cause you to input the visual information about the tennis environment more efficiently and accurately, it also causes you to connect to the unified whole of the tennis environment instead of connecting only to the material parts of the environment. The end result of this IPO connection to the unified whole of the environment is the creation of the temporal dimension of the absolute present, which is the underlying temporal dimension of not only your peak performance state but also your peak behavioral state.
An important question to ask of any peak performance model is this: how does the model get the athlete to focally connect to the unified whole of the tennis environment? How does the model get the player to create the temporal dimension of the absolute present?
If a player is focally connected to only the past in a variable-focus state, then there is no way for him/her to be in the present. No way to create the equal and simultaneous combination of past and future that creates the temporal dimension of the present. So how does a model that utilizes a variable-focus state create the underlying temporal dimension of the present that is universally agreed to be the underlying temporal dimension of the human peak performance state?
How do you get into the zone without creating the temporal dimension underlying the zone?
Models that are based on a variable-focus state are similar in that they all utilize reactive focus rather than proactive focus. Reactive focus being the focal strategy used in “watching the ball” or “focusing on the ball,” or “concentrating on the ball,” or “reading the seams of the ball.” Even watching the “hit-bounce-hit” is reactive focus (although this hit-bounce-hit strategy is the most efficient and accurate of the reactive focal strategies).
Any focal strategy that requires you to refocus your eyes from one depth to another to follow a moving object or to locate a changing target is, by definition, a variable-focus state in which your focus must react to the activity in your visual field. And when you are reacting to something that just happened, you are again, by definition, reacting to the past. You are focally catching up to the ball all the time.
There is really nothing wrong with this reactive focal strategy, especially if you can narrow your focal jumps (saccades) down to the hit-bounce-hit. You will still be using a reactive focal strategy, but you will be using the most efficient and accurate reactive focal strategy.
Your other option is to learn a proactive focal strategy which involves prefocusing on your contact zone and allowing the ball to move into focus as it moves toward your contact zone and out of focus as it moves away from your contact zone. This proactive focal strategy utilizes the focus of your eyes to visually predefine your future depth of contact.
By constantly fixing the focus of your eyes on your contact zone you eliminate the inefficiencies and inaccuracies inherent with constantly refocusing your eyes throughout the course of each point.
Prefocusing eliminates refocusing.A fixed-focus eliminates a variable-focus.Proactive focus eliminates reactive focus.