One of our Be Strong mantras is ‘If you don’t make changes, how can you expect things to be any different?’
If anyone has an interest in Neuro Linguistic Programming (NLP), a process used to help change behaviours, it’s based upon the same principle: ‘If you always ask the same question, you always get the same answer.’
The same could be said of your body… ‘If you always ask the same of your body, then your body will always give you the same answer.’
If you want to improve something, in this case your health and fitness, you have to push yourself out of your comfort zone to where it’s difficult, and a challenge, for you to make any sort of improvements. We know this is really hard – we sat in our comfort zones with our health for years – but when you start pushing and start to see the fruits of your labour, we promise you, you won’t look back!
Comfort zones and ‘optimal anxiety’
So, what is your comfort zone? – it’s the place where you can perform without thinking, without it being a challenge, and most of all without any stress or anxiety. And whilst we all need this to some degree in all our lives, it can also be a place where we are stifled or become lazy. Pushing out of your comfort zone can bring countless benefits. It takes you into a place of optimal anxiety, a place where your mental productivity and performance levels reach their peak.
There are lots of famous people who achieved incredible things, who will undoubtedly have pushed out of their comfort zone to get there. Richard Branson is a good example. Richard Branson re-mortgaged his family’s home to fund virgin records. The night before the bank was about to take his home off him, Tubular Bells hit the top of the charts, a record produced by Virgin, and raised enough funds to rescue Branson’s home and set the course for the rest of Branson’s life. It’s fair to say, that would have been a very, very uncomfortable time for Richard Branson, but the rewards for pushing into that place of discomfort have been endless for him.
If you want to get better at something, you have to stretch yourself. If you always take the same route, at the same pace, resting at the same points, you are never going to get there any quicker. If you move those rest points a little further on each time you do it and aim to get around slightly quicker each time, you are pushing your boundaries, and the result is you will get there faster. The ultimate result in this scenario is that you have improved.
There must be lots of examples that we all have where we are comfortable, but if we stood back and really looked at it critically, we know we are being lazy and not pushing ourselves, because it’s the easy option, because it’s not stressful, because it’s safe.
But if that’s a part of your life you want to improve, the question you need to ask is: ‘How can I stretch myself here? How will I bring about an improvement?’ The answer is to make yourself feel a little bit uncomfortable, put yourself into that optimal anxiety zone where you will increase your productivity and performance.
Step out and perform
Lots of you will have reached out of your comfort zone for other reasons. 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. Delivering some work to a deadline may mean working late, going in early and working to a higher intensity than usual.
When you’re in that situation the last thing you need is to worry about it too; but a touch of anxiety can be really positive for you.
Sitting on a ledge, just slightly outside of your comfort zone, in “optimal anxiety” 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.
Optimal anxiety can help you too. But to experience it you must first choose to step outside your comfort zone.
Expanding your comfort zone
Your comfort zone only expands when you successfully overcome your discomfort. As you push into your discomfort zone, into optimal anxiety, you will confront unfamiliar problems. They are the problems standing between your present circumstances, and the goals you want to achieve.
The problems and tests that you have to face here force you to adapt, to think differently and to adopt new beliefs and maybe even alter your deep held psychological rules. This is how we achieve success.
You will have been inspired by others in the past, but have backed off as the dream to emulate them seems unachievable. Here you have two options; you can choose to stay inside your comfort zone and do nothing, or you can choose to 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 – to step outside your comfort zone!
Have a think about some potential goals for the short term future. Is there anything that you have ever dreamed of doing but never had the guts? Has one of your friends done something this year, that had made you want to have a go too, but you have been too scared to try? Do you finally want to start feeding your body properly and get a grip on your eating habits? Do you have a really bad habit, that will be really hard to give up?
At Be Strong we step out of our comfort zones, we stay focused, we stay strong and we achieve our goals.