Non-Thinking Driving, The Zone, Subconscious Driving….. These are all the Holy Grail of driving. But they can be deadly to your performance!  Here’s why….

Getting in the zone and driving subconsciously is all the rage with coaches and sports psychologists.  It’s what we are all chasing because we know that when a driver reports being in the zone, they really are fully on it….

The theory goes that when we are ‘in the zone’ we are driving using subconscious processing.  Simply put, when we drive on auto-pilot we are using a part of our brain that works much faster.  Therefore we drive faster.

Another way to describe it is non-thinking driving.  When you drive without having to think about it you are quicker.

I’m always banging on about it, especially because it feels absolutely great – and drivers do go faster.


BUT, getting in the zone is not simple.  There isn’t a switch you can flick to drive subconsciously, there is no 100% guarantee that when you next drive you will drop into the zone early enough in the race, or even at all.

Simply starting to think can throw you out of the zone and back into the world of being an ordinary driver, things come at you fast, you lose concentration and you make mistakes.

And what if you are totally dependant on being in the zone when you drive?  Does that mean that unless you enter that magical fairy world where time disappears and everything is easy, you will be crap?

For some drivers this is the way they live, they are slaves to the zone!!

Zone Anxiety

This is what I call the feeling that drivers experience when they know that today they just aren’t feeling it.

They start to think about the consequences of not being able to get in the zone.  They know they aren’t as quick unless they can tap the mystery feeling that comes and goes, and the surest way to chase away the zone is to become anxious.

Once you get zone anxiety, you’ve had it! You start to think about how to get back in the zone, you think as you drive…. But the zone by definition is subconscious, which means it comes without thinking.  If you think about the zone you kill it.

The Cure – Thinking is human, don’t deny it and become the best thinking driver you can!

People think continuously, you can’t stop it.  If you obsess about becoming a non-thinking person you get yourself into an impossible vicious circle.  Thinking is your primary function, and you can’t escape it – it is what makes you, you. There isn’t much left of you if you aren’t thinking!

To associate thinking with poor driving will kill your confidence.  If you associate thinking with being slow, you are undermining your self as a person.  It’s almost like saying, ‘when I am conscious and aware, when I am thinking and trying, I’m a bit rubbish’.

That is almost the perfect recipe for creating a driver with low confidence, self-doubt and all the things that hurt performance.

So, here is my cure.

Embrace thinking when you drive – Create very detailed driving plans that require your thinking mind to work hard.

This means consciously studying the track inch by inch, think about lines, draw diagrams.

  • Memorise braking points, turn in points apex, and exits.  Know exactly where you want to be at every point on the track.
  • Know what your plan for the race is, know how you will make the start work, where you will over-take.
  • Know how hard you will use the brakes, how you will apply the throttle.
  • When out on the track, mentally recall your corner diagrams 

Learn to depend on your thinking mind to drive fast, trust your thoughts and make them work for you!

And when you fully trust your thinking mind to get you round the track as fast as possible, you no longer NEED the zone.  You don’t need the magic to come, you (the normal everyday you that you are familiar with) are in control.

Ironically, since showing this approach to drivers they are far more relaxed and confident and find themselves driving in the zone much more!!  Go figure…..

If you want to make sure you head to your next event feeling like you are on a mission, fired up and ready to slap down the opposition –  go here

Drivers get so much input (usually well meaning) from all over the place when they are at the track.  And most of the advice is contradictory.

For example, a coach would be trying to help a driver maintain focus and be relaxed, whilst his mechanic might be saying ‘just get in there and kick some butt – get mad!’. Meanwhile Dad says ‘with your attitude I’m not sure you want this enough’ whilst Mum says ‘take the pressure off yourself, just do your best’.

Now, who does the driver listen to?  Usually everyone and no-one, it all becomes a confusing mess resulting in a tired and demoralised driver, surrounded by people who say he doesn’t listen.

This is a recipe for disaster!

An alternative approach – Decide for yourself what your mission in racing is, and have a clear plan on how to achieve it.

I’ve been working with drivers for years and years, and I haven’t found a way to shield them from the constant barrage of ‘helpful’ advice. In fact, all the contradictory chatter that surrounds drivers is just part of the environment they have to live with.  Everybody wants to tell drivers how they should live, how they should behave and how they should drive….. it comes with the territory.

And if you don’t have a strong sense of why you are racing and how you will achieve what you want YOUR way then you will be constantly pushed around by everyone around you.

Eventually you will lose your own sense of why you are driving, in effect you will be driving for someone else’s purposes, and that will kill your motivation and confidence.

If you are going to be successful in karting your need your own sense of purpose, absolute certainty of why you are racing and what you want to achieve your own way.  Otherwise what is the point?

If you have that you will be able to extract quality advice from people when you need it, you won’t feel attacked or disrespected.  You will be able to relate what you are told to your own goals, reject the advice that doesn’t clearly help and use the advice that does.

And people around you will see you are on a mission, they will respect you more and treat you differently.

I help drivers build bullet-proof mental strength – I don’t preach or lecture, I listen and help them reflect on how they can make things work.  Both in terms of the details of driving and in their whole career strategy.

It is absolutely amazing the difference it makes to drivers, when they can see that their own personal reasons for racing make sense and are going to work.  Their confidence goes through the roof!

Go here if you want help building your own bullet proof mental strength, and super clear driving plans so that you are in control of your driving and karting future.