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Is it time to push yourself?
One of our Be Strong mantras is ‘If you don’t make changes, how can you expect things to be any different?’
If you have an interest in Neuro Linguistic Programming (NLP), a process used to help change behaviours, you may recognise the 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.’
So, if you want to improve something, in this case your health and fitness, you have to change something, and push yourself out of your comfort zone to where it’s a little more 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 and fitness for years – but we can promise you when you start pushing and start to see the fruits of your labour, you won’t look back!
What is our comfort zone?
The concept of our comfort zone is made up of three distinct areas:
- The Habit Zone
- The Action Zone
- The Discomfort Zone
The Habit Zone
The habit zone is where we spend the majority of our time. Here, things are familiar, habitual and truly comfortable. You have all the skills necessary to perform and live comfortably in this zone. Things like making a cup of tea or coffee, getting dressed, doing your job, driving a car. They are all easy.
You have mastered all the problems that exist in this world. You know how to switch the kettle on, get a cup out of the cupboard, put a tea bag in, etc. When things go wrong in this zone, you already know how to respond, because you have dealt with it a million times before.
The habit zone forms as you develop certain habits, rituals, beliefs and psychological rules throughout your lifetime.
Think about your own habit zone now. Can you think of some habits that you may have that aren’t perhaps that good for you when it comes to losing weight? I can almost guarantee that you will be thinking about food habits rather than habits around your activity.
I asked on our Facebook group what was everyone’s worst habits when it comes to food… I got so many answers within a really short space of time… the majority centred around snacking, perhaps even sometimes secretly, alcohol, bread, chocolate, cheese and wine.
You have formed these food habits throughout your lifetime, and they will have some sort of ritual, belief or psychological rule attached to them that means you fall back to them, kind of like a default setting.
These foods offer you some sort of comfort…. In fact, somebody even said ‘Wine, cheese and chocolate. All comforting loveliness’.
Ask yourself: Why do they offer you comfort? Do they really offer you comfort in the long run? Or do you feel bad after you have eaten them? Or even worse when you get on the scales and know that the reason you haven’t lost anything is because of that moment (or those moments) of ‘comfort’.
Believing that these foods bring you comfort, actually prevents you from moving forward and out of your comfort zone.
The Action Zone
The second area is called the action zone. This is the zone that directly borders your habit zone. It’s a place where you feel somewhat comfortable, however you may need to tackle new things that you aren’t familiar with.
An example of this might be driving your car, but in a new, unfamiliar place. You have to do it, because you need to get to your destination, but it’s not the easiest thing to do. You might need to use a map or a sat nav, or ask someone for directions. This action zone is a place where you may feel a little uncomfortable, but you have enough reasons to take these actions. It could also be called a necessity zone perhaps? You are compelled to do the things in this zone, to support yourself.
The Discomfort Zone
The final zone is the Discomfort Zone. It lies beyond your action zone and is a place where you haven’t mastered the skills, gained all the knowledge, or developed the beliefs to exist comfortably.
Could this be the place where you walk past the bread bin, and you don’t take out a slice of bread, slop a load of butter on it and shove it in your mouth before anyone sees you? Is this the place where you don’t go foraging in the fridge and the cupboards after 8pm, whilst your other half is out, or in the shower? Or the place where you leave the grab bag of minstrels on the shelf in the supermarket?
Learning to exist in our discomfort zone
Learning to exist in this zone isn’t just about mastering those skills necessary, but it’s also about developing the right mindset. It’s difficult to spend long periods of time in the discomfort zone, because you have all the habits, beliefs and rules that keep you psychologically attached to your comfort zone.
It’s like another world, and what works well for you in your comfort zone doesn’t necessarily transition well into this new world of the ‘discomfort zone’. It can create resistance and self-sabotage. And the reason you sabotage yourself is because, deep down, your belief system suggests that you don’t belong there. You believe that you don’t belong in a place that doesn’t comfort eat, doesn’t snack out of boredom, or because the food is there, or doesn’t eat a big mac, fries and a strawberry milkshake followed by an apple pie when they take the kids for a Macdonalds treat.
To help navigate through this discomfort zone, you need to change your beliefs about yourself.
The problem is the life we want, doesn’t exist in our comfort zone. It lies beyond the fringes in this ‘discomfort zone’. And to get there we are going to have to do things that make us uncomfortable, and we are going to have to keep doing them until they are no longer uncomfortable.
Much like when we first started learning to drive and, in my case, you kangaroo up the street in front of your family on your first couple of lessons. But you carry on until the skills necessary to drive the car safely become a habit and the norm, till you can do it almost without thinking. But this means, you’re going to have to resist buying that bar of chocolate and eating it in the car, because ‘calories don’t count if no-one sees it’.
You are going to have to leave the cheese in the supermarket, don’t even buy it, so that you can’t be tempted, and whilst it might be the norm for you to always chuck it in your trolley, and it will feel strange to walk past it and not pick it up, eventually it will become part of your belief system that you don’t need to eat that cheese, and you don’t want to buy it.
And you will have to do these things until it no longer feels uncomfortable and the new behaviours are the new normal, the new comfortable. Only then are these things a new habit.
Expanding your comfort zone
Your comfort zone only expands when you successfully overcome your discomfort. As you push into your discomfort zone, you will confront unfamiliar problems, that you haven’t confronted before. They are the problems standing between your present circumstances, and the goals you want to achieve. These problems are the tests you need to pass in order to deserve to achieve this goal.
The problems and tests that you have to face in your discomfort zone force you to adapt, they force you to think differently and adopt new beliefs and maybe alter your deep held psychological rules.
Whatever problems you face in life whether it is out of necessity or choice, they lead us to a place of growth and development, making us stronger and more able to cope with other challenges. They often have hidden opportunities to overcome self-limiting beliefs, fears and habits.
It’s important to acknowledge that your problems will never just disappear. They might take on a different form, or manifest in a different way, so whilst you might be a bit overweight now, in a few years, that might manifest into type 2 diabetes, or joint problems. The root is still the same, your eating habits. So, in order to achieve your goals you will need to confront these problems sooner or later. If you don’t, you just keep repeating the cycle over and over again. This is evident with the number of times we join groups to lose weight, we haven’t properly faced our problems. We haven’t tackled those limiting beliefs about where comfortable is.
When we neglect to face these problems we reinforce these limiting beliefs and make it more difficult to overcome our problems in the future. So, the trick is to never be discouraged by our problems or setbacks. Embrace them. Approach them with a curious nature. View them as a challenge that we need to overcome, and learn from in order to grow and develop, to allow us to progress along our journey.
This week have a think about how the habits in your comfort zone might be holding you back – and why?
What do you believe about yourself that keeps you tied to that comfort zone, then work on stretching into the discomfort zone, until it becomes your new comfortable.
You don’t have to pick lots of things at once to change, just pick a habit that would be beneficial for you to either stop doing, or develop, then get cracking.
Next week, we will focus more on how we can stretch our comfort zone, by using ‘optimal anxiety’.