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Are you sitting comfortably?
Last week The Knowledge looked at comfort zones, and how we can push ourselves beyond them to affect positive change in our lives. This week we are focusing on the concept of ‘Optimal Anxiety’, how we can use a little bit of stress and discomfort to light our fire and boost our motivation to achieve absolutely incredible things!
Take a risk!
Did you know that Richard Branson re-mortgaged his family’s home to fund virgin records and almost lost it?
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.
What a risk to take! But what rewards it gave him!
This isn’t uncommon for people who we hold in high esteem and think of as successful. They will all at some point have taken a risk, and of course, reaped the rewards.
And what does risk taking do? It pushes you out of your comfort zone, into this place of ‘Optimal Anxiety’!
Risk-taking is scary – but if we do it right and take a well managed, well thought out risk, we can get into that state of optimal anxiety and really reap the rewards.
Putting ourselves into a state of optimal anxiety is the place where we grow the most. It’s the place where we achieve our goals, where our confidence grows and the place where we really start to believe in ourselves. Optimal anxiety is the place where we change.
We will have all been in this state before at some point, I am sure. Tricky situations at work, terrible personal circumstances, nerve wracking job interviews, and whilst that time was hard, when we come out the other side we think, ‘Wow, I just did that, and I smashed it!’ It’s usually a situation that is thrust upon us, that we don’t necessarily choose, but we deal with it and we come out the other side a changed person.
How can we use optimal anxiety?
Imagine a boxer, he’s lined up to be fighting the current heavyweight world champion. Many 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 in the gym, push on through training when his whole body is screaming at him to stop. It will ensure he gets early nights, doesn’t overeat, he will stop drinking alcohol – 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. The result is that they may come to the ring out of shape. They need that risk of losing, the fear of being beaten, to ensure their training is absolutely on point!
Optimal anxiety can help you too, but to access the incredible motivation it gives you, you must first choose to step out of your comfort zone and agree to do something that really challenges you!
What doesn’t challenge you, doesn’t change you
You will have been inspired by others perhaps many times before, but back off, as that dream to emulate them seems unachievable. If you really do have a dream of completing something amazing, 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 that you will need to do soon. For now, just make the decision to have a go!
Take it seriously
Once you’ve made the decision, then it gets exciting, this is the bit where you get a pen and paper and write down how you’re going to achieve this amazing thing 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, your confidence and self-belief will be through the roof. This will allow you to progress and make constant improvement.
The things that previously frightened you are now 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.
Your ideas for a challenge could be anything – physical challenges are great as not only do they get you moving, but they are a great measure of your improvement. Your physical fitness can be seen in your performance.
Do you have dreams of climbing a mountain, taking part in an event like Tough Mudder, swimming the channel, cycling from coast to coast, or hiking Hadrians Wall?
Take your first steps
Once you have decided on your challenge, start to take small steps. Rome wasn’t built in a day, and the steps you need to take to achieve your challenge will be taken over a long period of time.
If you want to climb Scafell Pike, don’t make that your first goal. Look at somebody who has done it, inspired you and make 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 of 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?
If you can come up with some answers you’ve tried, if you can’t then nothing is likely to ever change for you.
This week, we want you to think about what sort of challenge would put you into a state of optimal anxiety. How could you push yourself out of your comfort zone, to set you on a path to unrivalled motivation and determination?
What we become in the process of striving to achieve a challenging goal is far greater than what we achieve on completing the goal itself!
Use your Facebook Group or the comments below to tell us about whatever your challenge might be – and please keep us updated on your progress. We love to hear from you, at every stage of your journey, whether you are doing good or bad. If you need help, ask a question, and you will get so much support from the whole Be Strong community.
In next week’s Knowledge we will explore the scientific benefits of getting active for us all.