My zone has always been creating the most pressure possible. Hence, I often do my best in “do or die” situations — IE: 3rd attempts, qualifying meets, being 3 down with 4 to play (golf), etc.
For me the cue to good performance has always been: making it matter. It has to count for something important or I won’t perform. I can still do this in small competitions and practices through various means:
1. Making bets (with myself or friends/family/competitors)
2. Only giving myself 1 jump/throw/etc
3. In a race where I am outclassed, trying to win a certain segment of the race or run it perfectly (IE – first to first hh at all costs, gain on everybody last 30m, hang with great 400 guys for first 200m, etc)
Just a couple examples that work for me.