In case you don’t already know, a comfort zone is the boundaries within which you feel comfortable. This can mean mental, physical or habitual or all three.
The reason a comfort zone is called a comfort zone, is that when you step beyond the boundaries, you start to feel a bit uncomfortable… more extremely, out of your depth. You should know that those boundaries are set by you based on your past experiences.
Within your comfort zone, you live the way you always do, staying on familiar territory. This almost guarantees that today and tomorrow will be the same as yesterday. This is most probably a deliberate survival function of the brain. I survived yesterday. I pulled through relatively unscathed, so if I live today the same as yesterday, I’ll pull through another 24 hours at least. What more can I ask for?!
Well I don’t mean to seem ungrateful, brain, and yes, you do normally do a wicked job (except that time when you made me fall over and break my wrist on a night out, cheers for that!), but you need a bit of training. You can ask for more than basic survival. You’re being a right wuss.
Basically, you are being held back by this function. Do anything and everything it takes to stretch the boundaries. Force difficult deadlines on yourself. Do something you’ve been putting off because you’re worried about the outcome. Force yourself to do extra physical exercise. Have more uncomfortable conversations that need to be had to get things done. Whatever you can do to stretch your comfort zone, do it, because living in your comfort zone can get sticky and uncomfortable if you have any desire whatsoever to improve at anything.
People talk about moving at a pace that is comfortable for you. I say move at a pace that is comfortable for the person you want to be and I’ll tell you why; you are built to live the way you already live. Your muscles are the size they need to be for what you already do. If you took on a more physical, heavy lifting lifestyle, your muscles would grow. They would then stop growing when they were strong enough to cope with the new way of life. People who want bigger muscles than their usual occupation and lifestyle would create, go to a gym and lift weights. They force the workload of a stronger person on themselves and their body responds. This is how the comfort zone is expanded and how you make gains in all areas of life.
In terms of goals to better yourself, think about where you would like to be in six months. If you were there now, how would you be doing things differently? Would you be more confident? Would you be feeling much more driven by the success of the last six months? Would you be speaking to some different people? Would you be going to different places? Would you be working harder to hold onto your progress and to continue to grow? Pretend that now is then, because this is the workload and the pressure you should be using to bully your comfort zone into backing off now, creating growth and room for more.
I find gym training is the best metaphor for this. Any challenges or questions I have, I equate to the gym.
- Why have I hit a plateau? I need to change my approach as this one has hit its limit.
- I’m suffering from overwork? Take a couple days off.
- I’ve reached my target and stopped growing. Increase my target.
- This is too easy. Targets are set too low.
- That person’s stronger than me. They didn’t used to be. They were where you are now, once.
- Know which exercises achieve the best growth, results and outcome for your desired model.
- Keep your eyes peeled for the latest development info.
- Have a spotter. You’ll make better gains with someone to push you.
- You make the best gains from the last 10% of effort, the extra mile.
- Back up your training with sleep and the right nutrition. Keeping you at your strongest.
- Keep your balance or you’ll fall flat on your face.
I could go on and on. But instead, I’ll dish out a few suggestions you can try today to get you started, along with what you’ll learn from it:
- do as many push ups as you can today. Do this every other day for two weeks and see how much progress you make. This proves that constantly ‘doing’ to your max potential forces progress
- if you have a deadline set for doing something (anything), shorten it by 10% and make sure you meet the new deadline. Teach yourself that you can surpass your own expectations
- if you have a short term goal that doesn’t have any serious restrictions like a boatload of money you don’t have, give yourself one week to do it. Use the internet to find out how to do it. Do it. Show yourself that you can pick a goal, research it and use the research to achieve the goal quickly
- if you need to do something or go somewhere and can’t be bothered, do it anyway. Get into the habit of making things happen before you think you’re ‘ready’. This helps to stop you putting things off
- think of something you don’t know how to do and learn how to do it. Prove to yourself that you can learn to overcome obstacles that you’ve never had to overcome before
I’ll finish this post with a story about an elephant. Might as well.
A brand new baby elephant is tied with a length of rope to a post. The baby elephant is too weak to break the rope despite trying plenty of times. The elephant remains held there by the rope as it grows bigger and stronger. Eventually, the elephant is strong enough to break the rope and break free. The elephant doesn’t realise this however, so it remains in the circle it knows it can move within comfortably, without even trying to break out of it. The elephant is conditioned to believe it cannot go any further. Don’t be an elephant!