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“Life always begins with one step outside of your comfort zone.” ― Shannon L. Alder
When was the last time you left your comfort zone?
Close your eyes for a moment and try to remember a moment in your sports career when you felt nervous or even terrified about a “big move”.
Joining a new club, starting a new coaching role or trying a different training method for the first time. Now envision the moment you took this step, and it worked out well for you.
What was it like? I am confident it was a feeling of pride and accomplishment. You never regretted taking the risk, am I right?
Stepping outside your comfort zone offers an amazing experience for athletes and coaches. Growth begins and you become a better, more complete player or coach.
Learning to leave the comfort zone is not just essential for an athlete’s development, but for anyone.
In this article, we going to explore what happens inside and outside the comfort zone, why you should take risks and that it is all about balance.
Growth starts outside your comfort zone
It’s remarkable how children learn to leave their comfort zone constantly and unintentionally without effort and fear. When kids learn to cycle or swim for example they don’t worry about failure or what others think, they just do it — until they fail.
That is the “make-or-break” point — are they carrying on or giving up? This is when parents and coaches need to step up and explain what is going on here.
As we become older and gain more experience this becomes a familiar process. Try something new — fail — try again. Or in the words of Winston Churchill, success means moving from one failure to another with enthusiasm.
But despite our awareness about the importance of going new paths most rather opt to stay in their comfort zone.
Look at a “modern lifestyle” of an average office worker:
I used to work in a multi-story big inner city office building and some colleagues arrived in the morning by car, parked the car in the company car park, took the lift to the fifth-floor offices, started working sitting in front of a desk, had lunch sitting down in the kitchen, did some more work and finished their day at 5 p.m. Then went back into the lift, into the car drove home watched some TV, had dinner, and went to bed.
A predictable future with zero risks and no fear. Some might strive for such a lifestyle, but we must understand that comfort can ruin our lives. If you want to achieve your goals and make lasting progress in life, you need to choose growth instead of comfort.
Staying in your comfort zone means preventing active learning, unveiling your full potential, and discovering your true strengths.
Our brain is programmed to automate learning processes once they are fully understood. Take for example driving.
When we first drive a car, it feels overwhelming and complicated. With the additional pressure of navigating through traffic with many unknowns driving is a true challenge for a beginner.
But after a while accelerating, braking, changing gears, and being aware of our surroundings all become an automatic process.
While this is a very useful function of our brain, it also means that we hit a point of stagnation. And unless we keep challenging ourselves with new tasks we won’t learn more significantly.
When you lose your drive to learn and to achieve, you lose the ability to create meaning in your life.
Now that we know why staying in our comfort zone isn’t good for us at all, let’s explore how to break out of it.
Just do it!
The easiest and quickest way to get out of your comfort zone is by taking a swift and direct decision! Sounds easy — but it’s true.
Sometimes this step is also referred to as the 3-second rule. This means don’t think about it for more than 3-seconds and just do it.
However, it’s important that this is seen as a tool to create “momentum” rather than going all the way. Moving out of the comfort zone has a lot to do with little steps.
Small steps, every day
The problem with trying out new things and taking risks is that we often focus too much on the big picture and worry about failing.
However, if instead, you take small steps, it’s much more likely that you remain focused. If you train for a marathon, you wouldn’t run every day 26 miles in the lead-up.
Instead, the secret is all about constant improvement and pushing to the next goal.
Striking the right balance
Getting out of the comfort zone is one thing, establishing permanent positive change is another. Often, we fail with consistent long-term goals because we fail to strike the right balance between comfort and discomfort.
In sports, going too fast and hard often results in injuries, defeat, or other forms of disappointment. Therefore finding out how far you can push yourself and others and knowing exactly when to stop and when to carry on is essential.
Try something new
One of the best tactics, to improve your game and expand your comfort zone is to constantly try something new. The key to preventing giving up is to accept that you’ll fail at some point.
Learn a new skill, apply a new gym routine, or implement new daily habits. Whatever it is, make sure you do it with a level of enthusiasm and the expectation that you’ll have good days and bad days, but if you stick to it, it will be rewarded.
A final thought
The idea to live a comfortable life, where everything you need is at hand and nothing needs to be hard “earned” might sound tempting.
However, no matter where you are in life and how much you’ve achieved, in order to avoid stagnation, we need to become comfortable with being uncomfortable.
Especially in sports pushing ourselves, as coaches and athletes, is key to meeting our goals. Only if you learn to take brave and intuitive decisions, time after time, find the right balance between comfort and discomfort and aren’t afraid of trying new things you will become the best version of yourself, over and over again.