“Life begins at the end of your comfort zone.”
Neale Donald Walsch
Only when you stop letting fears and anxiety hold you back, will you start to make those major breakthroughs in life.
Unfortunately, we as human beings often force ourselves into boundaries (our comfort zone) and we refuse to push past.
We’re ruled by habits. We do things the same old way because it’s comfortable.
But the risk in staying firmly inside our comfort zones is that it creates psychological barriers that can lead to nervousness and anxiety when we are confronted with something new every time.
With time this can also lead to limitations and to the belief that we can not achieve or do something.
How to get out of your comfort zone
There are no fancy formulas to overcome our fears. Like everything in life, what has to happen first is for us to take the decision to get out there and play.
To help you in the journey we have put together 7 steps to follow to get you on the right track. So let’s take the first!
1. Get Information
Anxiety usually comes from a fear of the unknown. Usually we imagine the worst-case scenario of what could happen when we push past the boundaries of what makes us feel safe.
To break through your comfort zone, you need to first educate yourself. Talk to people who have done the same thing, i.e. your coaches or gym buddies. Read books or articles on the subject. Check out videos on the Internet or documentaries about this subject.
Information is power. And the more you know about something, the less scary and more powerful you’ll feel.
2. Have a Plan
Create a step-by-step plan to reach your goal to get out of your comfort zone, using the S.M.A.R.T. goals scheme and breaking it down into smaller benchmarks.
Once you’re clear on the specific steps to take, you need to create a S.M.A.R.T. goal around it.
Specific – What specifically do you want to achieve? Vague goals lead to vague, half-hearted attempts to reach them
Measurable – How will you measure your progress and know when you’ve achieved the goal?
Attainable – Is the goal something that you are physically capable of achieving?
Relevant – Is my goal realistic and results-based?
Time-Bound – What is the time-limit for achieving the goal?
For example, if your goal is to increase your cardiorespiratory fitness, and you think running is the right kind of cardio exercise for you, then a S.M.A.R.T. goal might be something like:
“To be able to run for 45 minutes non-stop at 6km/hr, within the next 3 months”
For each S.M.A.R.T. goal, you then need to create benchmarks by using concrete, quantifiable criteria. These are mini-goals that put you one step close to pushing past your comfort zone.
Week 1: Run 10 minutes at 6km/hr, walk 1 minute, repeat (twice a week)
Week 2: Run 12 minutes at 6km/hr, walk 1 minute, repeat (twice a week)
3. Hold Yourself Accountable
Remember, the journey starts from yourself.
Playing the “blame game” won’t get you anywhere. It does not help if you attribute every positive result to good luck and characterize every negative result as something that just happened to you or it’s someone else’s fault.
When you take full responsibility for everything happening in your life, you want to tell your friends and family about what you’re trying to do.
You want them to give you that ‘push’ as you’re pushing your boundaries. They will make it hard for you to quit because you know you’ll look foolish if you did.
Use a diary or an app to keep you on track or, even better, find a buddy to share your adventure. Show up for the other person, provide honest feedback to each other and keep strategising together.
In the fitness world, coaches are the most valuable “accountability partners” you can ask for! If you need any help with your goals, reach out!
4. Take Baby Steps
Way too often when people decide to start exercising or tackling a particular movement, they begin by doing too much. Progress takes time. Start easy and be consistent.
Goal maintenance is all about forming good habits.
Forming habits is about consistently pairing your cues with your routines (specific behaviours), and your routines with your rewards.
Complete the neurological loop enough times, and the routine becomes habit.
ROUTINE: ‘Pack / prepare jogging gear each night’.
CUE: ‘after dinner’ (preceding action)
REWARD: ‘watch an episode of my favorite show’
Completing the loop would look like this:
“Every night after dinner (CUE), I’m going to pack / prepare my jogging gear (ROUTINE), so that I can watch an episode of my favorite show (REWARD)”
5. Aggressive Challenges
To really blast through your comfort zone, you sometimes need to shock your “normal” in order to become comfortable with being uncomfortable.
A rapid-fire approach to do this is to take up an “aggressive challenge”, do something that makes you scared or uncomfortable.
You won’t have time to think about your fear. Instead you’ll be so busy pushing your boundaries that you forget about what used to make you scared.
Identify a competition/race/event/group you can join to push your limits and motivate yourself towards your goal.
Find extra motivation by taking this to the altruistic side and racing for a charity/cause like Breast Cancer Awareness or an Environmental Organisation like Kiwis for Kiwi.
6. Remain Positive
Recognize that you will have negative outcomes sometimes. It’s a natural part of the process.
Don’t allow negativity to creep into your mind. Remind yourself that it’s going to happen.
The trick here is to create the mantra of “next”.
Whenever you have a negative experience, you quickly identify the mistake that you’ve made and simply say “next” as you move on to achieve your goal.
7. Keep Expanding your Comfort Zone
Never stop expanding your comfort zone. Even if you arrive at your stated goal it’s important to keep pushing those boundaries.
Look for new challenges. Find stuff that you would never imagined you would do.
Like running the marathon after you ran the half marathon for the first time. Or you could work on another skill completely (once you can do a butterfly pull-up, you can aim for handstand walk).
Your Comfort Zone will Expand
The good thing about the comfort zone is that it’s flexible and malleable.
With each action you take outside of your comfort zone, it expands as you become accustomed to pushing your boundaries.
And once you master that new skill or action, it eventually becomes part of your comfort zone.
This is great news for you because it means that you can constantly increase and improve upon the behaviors that you’re comfortable with.
ASK FOR HELP
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