I was reminded the other day about pushing boundaries when I saw this model posted by "howmental" on Instagram, on getting out of your comfort zone.
Whilst routines create a stable and comforting environment, they can also restrict our ability to develop and improve. It’s really easy to fall into the trap of never pushing your comfort zone. Doing something new can be both exciting and frightening. It helps stave off boredom and is good for your brain, but needs to be done so as not to cause too much anxiety. Stepping into the unknown can make us feel vulnerable and no longer in control. It can sometimes be difficult to shake yourself out of a routine, we're all guilty of this. How many of you do the same practice routine without giving it a second thought? Just running through the motion kidding ourselves that it will improve our performance.
It's important to push yourself outside your comfort zone and there are many benefits in doing so, not only in your chosen sport but also in life generally;
You’ll get more done - Comfort kills productivity, because without the sense of unease that comes from having deadlines and expectations, we tend to do the minimum required to get by. We lose the drive and ambition to do more and learn new things. Pushing new boundaries helps you to find smarter ways of doing things and increasing your productivity.
You’ll find it easier to adapt to unexpected changes - taking risks in a controlled fashion and challenging yourself to do things you wouldn't normally do, allows you to experience some of that uncertainty, but on your terms, in a safe environment. Learning to live outside your comfort zone when you choose, can prepare you for life changes that force you out of it.
You’ll find it easier to push your boundaries in the future - Once you start stepping out of your comfort zone, it gets easier to do it again and again. Stepping out of your comfort zone, you start to become more accustomed to slightly raised anxiety and stress levels. Getting those levels right is known as "optimal anxiety", where you're able to push farther and increase your performance.
You’ll find it easier to harness your creativity - By trying new experiences and learning new skills, we open our mind up to new ideas to inspire and educate us. Trying new things can also force us to reflect on our old ideas and where they clash with our new knowledge, inspire us to learn more and challenge.
What is your comfort zone? Your comfort Zone is a behavioural space where your activities and behaviours run in a routine pattern minimising stress and risk. It provides a state of mental security, with low anxiety, and reduced stress. Staying in your comfort zone creates a steady level of performance, which is great if your happy with your achievements. However, if you find your not getting the results you desire then its time to step out of that comfort zone.
How can I breakout of my comfort zone? Breaking out of your comfort zone is a good place to be, as long as you don’t overdo the stress levels. There’s a huge difference between controlled anxiety and the very real anxiety that many people struggle with every day. Everyone’s comfort zone is different and what may expand your horizons, may strike fear in someone else. Knowing your limits is key, reaching optimal anxiety can bring out the best in you, but too much can be a bad thing. For example if I suggested "I want you to jump out of a plane 10,000 feet in 15 minutes - I'm pretty sure that would set your stress levels raging, but for those who love an adrenaline rush, they would be rushing towards the plane in excitement. Don't worry I'm not suggesting anything as outrageous, instead of you want to improve your performance try adopting the following 6 steps.
Take these 6 steps to breakout of your comfort zone:
Step 1 - Get some Information - Anxiety usually comes from a fear of the unknown. To break through your comfort zone, you need to first educate yourself. Your goal here is to look into whatever skill or activity you’re pursuing and ask/research ways to improve. Try talking to people who have done the same thing, speak with a coach or read books on the subject.
Step 2 - Have a Plan - Once you've got some ideas sit down and create a plan of action, pushing your boundaries on what you think you might be possible. Create a step-by-step plan starting with the easiest thing to do first. Set yourself some little goals to achieve along the way
Step 3 - Hold yourself Accountable - Being held accountable is key to breaking through your comfort zone. Tell your family and friends what your trying to achieve it will force you to deliver.
Step 4 - Take Baby Steps - To keep yourself motivated and to reduce the anxiety set yourself small goals to achieve, steadily pushing the boundaries and comfort levels. This will help you to stay within your optimal anxiety and maximise your performance
Step 5 - Remain Positive - There will be times when you experience a negative outcome. Something that shakes your confidence and makes you feel scared. The trick is to not to let anything prevent you from pushing past the point of comfort. Recognise that you will have negative outcomes. 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. In fact, you should recognise that you’re actually being given feedback about how you can do something better.
Step 6 - 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 ways to challenge yourself that you would never have imagined to do.
The point of stepping out of your comfort zone is to embrace new experiences and to get to that state of optimal anxiety in a controlled, managed way, not to stress yourself out. Take time to reflect on your experiences so you can reap the benefits and apply them to your day to day activities. Then do something else interesting and new. Make it a habit if you can. Try something new every week, or every month.
Similarly, don’t limit yourself to big, huge experiences. Maybe meditation pushes you out of your comfort zone just as much as bungee jumping. Try the former if you’ve already done the latter. The goal isn’t to become an adrenaline junkie—you just want to learn to learn what you’re really capable of. That’s another reason why it’s important to return to a comfortable state sometimes and just relax. Just don’t forget to bring back as much as you can carry from those inspired, creative, productive, and slightly uncomfortable moments when you do.
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