Status Quo: the existing state of affairs.
Comfort zone: the level at which one functions with ease and familiarity. The comfort zone is characterized by doing the same things in the same ways with the same people at the same time and getting the same results before asking the same question—why? Why did this happen?
Fear of failure is probably my biggest fear.
If I’m not great at something right away, I can tend to back away from it because I don’t want to look stupid or feel foolish in front of anyone. How many opportunities have I missed out on because of it?
It has kept me in my comfort zone more times than I care to admit.
Rarely is anyone good at something the first time. That may be a “duh” statement, but for this recovering perfectionist, it’s liberating! Fear can cripple us and be a major obstacle in us growing to our full potential because it keeps us on the sideline—and in our comfort zone.
But I don’t want fear determining what I do or don’t do in life. Can you relate?
I think it’s safe to say that many of us fear the unknown, that place space outside of our comfort zone. How interesting that growth happens outside of our comfort zone and not within it.
In fact, life resides there, too! When we push past our perceived limits, we find new terrain that we didn’t know existed and new energy that causes us to ask, “Where else can I step outside of my comfort zone?”
To maximize our performance, we need something called “Optimal Anxiety.”
This is a state of relative anxiety—a space where our stress levels are slightly higher than normal. That space is just outside our comfort zone. It’s important to find that optimal zone because if there’s too much anxiety, we're too stressed to be productive, and our performance drops off sharply. If there’s not enough, we’ll never change or grow.
“In any given moment we have two options: to step forward into growth or to step back into safety.” – Abraham Maslow
How did you get better in your sport?
There is no way you could have improved by remaining in your youth recreation league. To get to the level you are at now, you needed to continually challenge yourself and play with better players.
You needed to lift heavier weights to challenge your muscles to gain strength.
You needed to run longer and harder to increase your endurance. To get to the next level, you needed to get out of your comfort zone.
That’s still the case.
But there is a key to remember when doing this.
As you get out of your comfort zone, you need to stay in your strength zone. Knowing what your strengths are is vitally important because it’s there where you get the greatest return for your efforts. By focusing your energy to grow and develop in specific areas of strength and living in light of them, you will be more engaged, more productive, more satisfied and more fulfilled in life and at work.
The next logical questions to ask are easy: Do you know what your strengths are? What lights you up? What keeps you up at night because you’re so excited? What energizes you when you are doing it? What do people compliment you on consistently? In what areas, when you are challenged, does it excite you?
List them out.
It’s important to get feedback from other people to help confirm, enlighten or give some insight to some possible blind spots.
Email or text 4-6 friends/teammates/co-workers and ask them to tell you three strengths they see in you. If you have a boss/director/coach in your life, have them be one of those 4-6 people you ask.
List the strengths they shared with you.
How will you get out of your comfort zone in an area of strength this week? Pick one area per week and try to do something daily in that area to get out of your comfort zone.
Outside of your sport, think of other groups/activities you are involved in. Are you the head of the group, the smartest, the most talented, etc? If so, you need a new group!
It may be fun to be the big fish in a small pond for a little while, but you will never grow if you remain there. You need to get around people who are better than you so you can be challenged to grow and be stretched.
Taking small steps in everyday situations can help you make getting out of your comfort zone a more regular practice.
To learn more about Amy Snow’s leadership training, one-on-one or group coaching for current athletes and athletes in transition, go to amysnowcoaching.com