We don’t know what we’re capable of. I love saying that. I love saying that because it is true. We are not testing ourselves to our limits each day. Most of us are spending lots of time in our own comfort zones, repeating behaviors we are comfortable with each day, spending almost no time in pushing boundaries out. Yet the only real growth is time spent outside our comfort zones.
When was the last time you did something that really stretched yourself? When was the last time you did something, looked around with wonder, and said, “I did it!” ? When was the last time you solved a difficult problem you’d been working on for days or weeks? When was the last time you stretched yourself beyond your normal exercise regimen to climb to a new level previously not reached? All of these require time and practice spent outside of comfort.
Comfort feels right. It feels normal. It feels safe. It doesn’t make us feel foolish or dumb. It feels spot-on. Yet we are not growing here. We’re not stretching here. We’re not leaving our mark here. We like it here. Only our comfort does not equal our potential. Not even close. We must consistently keep pushing against our comfort to new levels of activity, behavior and challenge. Doing the same old thing will result in the same old results. And those may even be good. There’s nothing wrong with a good result; it’s just it’s not a great result or an incredible result. If we want great or incredible, we need to go beyond the good.
How do you go beyond the good? Consistently try to perform things just beyond where you are comfortable. Push yourself regularly. Track your progress. Hire a coach to help guide you beyond your comfort zone. Figure out where you are already good and seek the help of your coach to get to the next level quickly. Set a deadline 3 or 6 months out. Nail down what that next level looks like and aim for it. Review your goals three times per day so that they are etched into your conscious. You now know why you’re doing this, and your why will power your will to achieve that next level.
If you want to really understand human motivation, you must know and understand the why behind the behavior. Get the motive down. And there is always a motive, whether conscious or unconscious. The motive moves us to action. Our motives are about the why and also about the who — who are we doing this for? Who needs us to show up? Who needs us on our ‘A’ game? Interestingly and strangely, we often do far more for others than we will do for ourselves. Take advantage of this and stretch yourself for others more often. Your family needs you on your ‘A’ game. Your team needs you on your ‘A’ game. Your customers need you on your ‘A’ game. Your why is what really guides you and your conscious action. Your who is the complementary motivator for your why. Know and study your motives. Really get them down. This works for professional work as well as personal recreation and training. Your motives essentially power your lifestyle.
Naturally, the only real way to grow is to regularly practice spending time outside of your comfort zone into the next level, whatever that may be for you. One of the natural side effects about this is it will make you feel alive again! You’re now regularly doing things that you didn’t think you could, and that feels incredible, almost superhuman. The more time spent in stretch goal work, the more alive and satisfied with your striving you will feel. And you’ll want more! More of these feelings of aliveness. More of the adrenaline rush. More of dissing your current comfort zone. And you’ll be setting the example for others. You’ll be the role model for living outside of your comfort zone.
Find comfort in your discomfort. Become used to being uncomfortable and you will be living outside your comfort zone regularly. Yes, things will feel uncomfortable. Yes, you’re stretching yourself in the gym. You’re stretching yourself at work. Good. You’re stretching yourself in living with the discomfort. Great! You’re doing this so regularly now that it is a part of who you are and what you’re known for. People look up to you and wonder how you do it. You’re setting the standard for growth by really getting after it. And you’re doing it even when you don’t feel like it, the essence of discipline.
You can’t grow much when you are comfortable, whether in the gym, the workplace, or other environments where you might seek it out. You have got to regularly stretch what’s right, what you’re currently capable of, what you think are your limits and push beyond them. These are the keys to growth, to discipline and to self-mastery.