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Baby Steps towards the Uncomfortable

"Get comfortable being uncomfortable."

We have heard this said countless times in a variety of contexts. It may have been on an athletic field during practice or competition. It may have been before giving a presentation in school or work. It may have been before having a tough conversation with a coworker, significant other, or family member. What does it mean to be comfortable being uncomfortable? Is it a prerequisite for performing at our best that we have to be uncomfortable?

Anytime we are pushing ourselves to the edge of our capabilities, there is a good chance we are working beyond what feels safe and comfortable. We know what kind of weight we can lift in the gym or pace we can hold on a run, but when we're asked to lift a little bit more or decrease our pace and go a little bit faster, we start to stretch ourselves. Stretching our physical, mental, and technical capabilities is where the uncomfortable lives. Physically, it will be challenging and painful. Mentally, the voice in our heads will tell us to slow down, go back to what we know we can do, and get out of the discomfort as soon as possible. Technique may suffer and what felt like a fluid movement now feels pedestrian. All of this is part of stretching ourselves out of our comfort zone and bridging the gap towards the growth zone.

When we are working to get better, we are trying to establish a new normal, a new baseline. The only way we can do that is by putting ourselves in situations where we are testing our physical and mental capacity. A visual way to understand how we can progress is looking at a target with three different zones. There is the Comfort Zone, the Growth Zone, and the Panic Zone.

The comfort zone feels safe. It is doing what we are used to and know we can succeed at. It is familiar to us and can be considered our baseline in terms of performance. This is the pace and standard that we know we can handle.

Putting ourselves in situations that are beyond what feels safe is called the growth zone. This zone can be uncomfortable, challenging, difficult, exciting, and rewarding. It is where we stretch ourselves and create adaptations that make us better. There is no growth in the comfort zone and there is no comfort in the growth zone.

The panic zone is where we have bitten off more than we can chew. It induces such a high stress response that we may not learn from the experience and it may be detrimental to our progression. It is where we may not have the physical and mental tools to handle what is going on in that moment. While we may learn from being in this space, it can easily cause us to shy away from challenging ourselves in the future.

So how do we move from the comfort zone to the growth zone? It starts slowly by taking baby steps and challenging ourselves to go beyond what we know is safe and comfortable. It's pushing ourselves in training to go faster than we think we can. It is trying a new strategy that we have not attempted before. It is knowing what our weaknesses are and purposely tackling them head on. It is where we learn, are challenged, stretch our capabilities, and get better. It's where we can build our mindset to support the fact that we can do tough things in our lives. We want to consistently put ourselves in the growth zone. We can do this one small step at a time.

Our goal this week to identify what can we do to put ourselves in the growth zone. Can we do this in our personal life, our work life, or our training? Notice what moving into the growth zone looks like and what happens to our mindset after putting ourselves in these uncomfortable situations.

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