Saturday, January 14, 2012

The Zone

Eons ago I was active US Air Force, nurse corp stationed overseas where I flew on med-evac among other things.  I learned to work without emotion in high pressure situations.  Times where you had to rely soley on your training, no thinking things over, just do ... quickly, without hesitation.  If you react with emotion in a scenario that requires split second decisions - lives can hang in the balance.

I referred to that place you go mentally when you need to detach and just do your job as the 'zone'.  Being in the zone is a good thing and allows you to perform your job proficiently, accurately and safely.

To get to the 'zone' you need countless hours of training.  The training facilitates the ability to shut off the emotional reactions and work on autopilot & muscle memory.

It is a skill well learned by soldiers, officers of the law, medical personnel and other people who work in jobs that require that type of emotional detachment.

I left medicine years ago, because I lost the ability to shut myself off emotionally from the patients - I could not get into the 'zone'.  I was freezing when I needed to 'just do'.  I cared too much, brought work home with me.  Found myself laying awake at 3 am wondering about patients and/or their families.  I eventually moved from direct patient care to academia where I was able to utilize & immerse myself in a love for teaching & writing.  Overtime, canned curriculum, the students & politics drove me batty.  My heart was not in it...I skipped around through administration & the medical insurance side of things, eventually getting out of the medical field entirely.

What does this have to do with dogs?  Well... if you follow my convoluted train of thought, it has everything to do with it. 

Somewhere along the line I lost my ability to get into the 'zone'. 

I have identified how I have the lack of ability to differentiate between myself and my dog's work/score.  If we do poorly, then I suck as a person.  Slowly I am getting past that, it will be along process, but I am cognizant of it now and can begin to stop that thought process before it starts.

What I really need to learn how to do is get back into the 'zone' during training and especially at a trial.

No emotion, just work.  

See it & do it, let it go.  

Like our dogs do.  

 They live in the moment.  

 They are instinctively in the 'zone'

If things do not go the way they anticipated, they do not react emotionally, blame the sheep, the set out, their handler.  It just 'was'.  No biggie.  

They will, however react to our emotional state - through our voice, manner, energy or projections.  

If I can get into the zone, hopefully I can control my reactions and emotional projections.  

On the trial field there is no time for emotional responses.  My dog is certainly not thinking "The sheep are pointing and laughing at me!"

Although I believe they are pointing and laughing at ME many days. 

Seriously though.  My dog sees the sheep moving in one direction, she steps that way to hold the pressure, she does not question their motives, think through any possible consequence, wonder if anyone is laughing about the size of her ass, then blow the whistle followed by doubting what she just did.  

No emotion, just work.  

No second guessing, just doing.  

She loves her job and has fun doing it.  

Brynn is at home in the 'zone', as long as I allow her to do her work without throwing all my emotional junk on the field. 

Hopefully with enough training, practice and confidence under my belt, one day I will join my dog in the 'zone'. 


Jen said...

I do the same thing with obedience trials. What I've started to realize is that everyone is too busy admiring my dog to be laughing or jeering at me... and if there is someone making nasty comments, they are outweighed by the supportive people who are cheering us on. Of course, that's all well and good to say right up until it's time to step into the ring, but maybe eventually I'll really convince myself. :)

Pat A said...

So true, It is really the same in everything. If we can all just try to do our best and any given time and if we did, we did good. Winning is not important, just trying to do our best is the important thing. You are a winner because your dogs know it and they are great judges of character.