Leaving your Comfort Zone

Last week we discussed pushing out of our comfort zones and seeing what we can achieve, read the full article here.

What is a comfort zone?

Your comfort zone isn’t real, its a mental state which makes you feel secure and comfortable. Within this artificial zone, everything is routine, familiar and safe. We don’t have to do anything different, don’t have to plan to make changes as there are no changes to make. This zone requires minimal effort from us and is a place where we are rarely pushed. In truth, when we are, we’re probably making a drama out of a crisis.

When we’re not pushed, or decide to push ourselves, we have little chance of unlocking our full potential. If you don’t push yourself how would you ever find out what you’re actually capable of? Who’s stayed in a relationship because its the easy option, or not looked at alternative careers when your job is dull, boring and makes you unhappy? To be fair, those terms could probably be used to describe the relationship you stayed in for way too long yet its perfectly acceptable to stay in them. Sound mad to you? Of course it does, but when you’re in that situation its comfortable ….and you like comfortable.

Step out and perform

However, lots of you will have reached out of your comfort zone for other reasons, yet you’re reluctant to do so voluntarily to help you to change your life for the better.

You will have been in a situation where the pressure has been on you. Sitting an important exam means months, if not years of revision. Preparing for your job interview involves hours and hours tweaking the application, researching the company and stepping out of your comfort zone to attend the dreaded job interview. Delivering some work to a deadline may mean working late, going in early and working to a higher intensity than usual. Trying to impress a potential new partner – what do you do, wear or say? You want to ask them on a date, what if you’re rejected? Then there’s meeting their friends, even worse their parents. Oh no, you’ve just remembered, they need to meet yours too and your Dad’s a nightmare! You could have just stayed within your comfort zones on these occasions but many of you didn’t.

When you’re in that situation the last thing you need is to worry about it too; but is that such a big deal? I won’t pass the exam, they wont like me at interview, I’ll never meet that deadline, there’s no way they’ll ever be interested in going out with somebody like me and if they are, their friends and family will put them off. It can all seem too much, but a touch of anxiety can be really positive for you.

This is why, because sitting on a ledge, just slightly outside of your comfort zone, is a place known as “optimal anxiety”. This is where we perform at our highest level and our motivation for success is unrivalled. Imagine a boxer, he’s lined up to be fighting the current heavyweight world champion, things are running through his mind; the opponent, can he beat him? Is he good enough to make this final step up? Do you think he’s anxious? Of course he will be, he will want to be. It’s this state of optimal anxiety that will see him never miss an early morning training run, choose the toughest partners to spar with, push on through training when his whole body is screaming at him to stop. It will ensure he gets early nights, doesn’t over eat or drink – it will make sure that his nutrition is absolutely perfect. When the time comes for the bell to ring, that state of optimal anxiety will have been an absolutely essential and crucial component of his preparation.

When boxers aren’t taken out of their comfort zone, and therefore don’t experience that optimal anxiety, they are at great risk of under performing and losing fights. They may choose easier sparring partners, miss training sessions, go to bed late, bail on the odd early morning run here and there. They may come to the ring out of shape as their nutrition has been less than perfect.

Optimal anxiety can help you too. But to experience it you must first choose to step outside your comfort zone. The one thing that still makes Rick anxious is running a marathon. It still sits outside his comfort zone, even though his next one, in Germany in Oct, will be his 6th. This will ensure he never misses any training session, his nutrition will be perfect, there will be very little alcohol and as a result he anticipates achieving his goal weight of 13 1/2 stones at the start line.

Scafell Pike

During this weekends trip to the Lake District, where over 40 Be Strong members reached the summit of England’s highest mountain, we saw many step outside their comfort zones to take on this significant challenge. Remember, for each and every person this was a tough one – but for some the distance actually travelled at this stage of their journey was phenomenal. Everybody will have learned something new and will be better prepared the next time they choose to step outside of comfortable.

Expanding your comfort zone

You will have been inspired by others, but back off as that dream to emulate them seems unachievable to you. Therefore you have two options, you can stay inside your comfort zone and do nothing, or you can try. Just try!

When we say try, we mean you should definitely do it justice and have a real go. But just wind it back for now, forget about the road ahead and make the decision to simply try. You can deal  with the planning and preparation you will need to do soon. For now, just make the decision to have a go!

Once you’ve done that then its the exciting period, the bit where you get a pen and paper and write down how you’re going to achieve something that sits firmly outside the zone that you’re happiest in. If you’ve been inspired by somebody else, ask them for their advice. If its something new, research what you need to do  and if you’re stuck come and see us and we can almost certainly help you.

You’re now on your journey to step outside of everything that screams comfortable! You can visualise things like the world champion boxer – the preparation, the execution of your plan, the commitment and dedication you will need to demonstrate, the accolades from your peers and everything else that success brings.

If you can pull it off, and you can, then the next time you decide to grow, to be a better version of yourself, it will become easier because your comfort zone will have expanded. This will allow you to progress and make constant improvement. The things that previously frightened you will now move to your growth zone, then into your comfort zone. Rick was once so uncomfortable running a half marathon distance, that he had issues sleeping as it was always on his mind, he didn’t think he could do it. That optimal anxiety spurred him on to never miss a training session and he got his nutrition (calories) perfect every single day for 10 weeks during his plan. Now that distance isn’t even a challenge to him, the benefit is that there are no sleepless nights but the negative is that there is no optimal anxiety to get the nutrition right!

What next?

Take small steps. if you want to climb Scafell Pike, don’t make that your first goal. Look at somebody who has done it, inspired you and change your first goal to speak to them about how it was and what they would recommend you do in terms of preparation. Contact them and ask them for an hour of their time, They will gladly give it to you.

This smaller step outside your comfort zone will be easier to achieve and not seem unattainable. It’s the sensible and practical first step to achieving your ultimate goal. Your second step would be writing the plan. The third step would be getting the correct equipment or supplies, the fourth step would be starting the plan. the fifth step would be not giving up on the plan you started. Eventually, with lots of application you can be successful.

It doesn’t matter that you don’t get it right first time. You just need to get yourself into the position to answer this question: –

What have you done that’s taken you outside of your comfort zone?Rick Wilson

If you can come up with some answers you’ve tried, if you can’t then nothing is likely to ever change for you.

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