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Are you ready to change your comfort zones?
by Jim Will, Ph.D.

Are you paying too much attention to who are racing against, instead of focusing on your own race? Now granted, it's pretty difficult to not notice who always seems to get the fastest average runs. You may even develop some strategies by knowing what their idiosyncrasies are. And perhaps this thought of ignoring the racers who win repetitive championships and awards is easier said than done. However, I believe if we do try to do something new and different then we will be asking ourselves to change our comfort zone.

This can be applicable not only in the arena, but in other endeavors you would like to improve or enhance on the job or at home. Once you evaluate your current comfort zones and find one or more of them is not serving you the way you would like it to, you might want to modify that old comfort zone in order to get some new results.

In the past, the typical method for change has probably been to get tough with yourself. You might even force yourself to adapt to the new situation and bring about the change in new behavior by sheer force; Gritting your teeth, clinching your fists, banging your head, making a deliberate and conscious effort to change. But the tension, anxiety, and stress of this "get tough" method can produce a very high level of discomfort. If "getting tough with yourself" works for you, then fine, continue on. If you're finding it's difficult to change certain habits and attitudes and would like to try a different technique – one, which I believe will be easier for you – then these next few paragraphs, might be of interest to you.

Why do you think the opposing football coach calls a timeout when the field-goal kicker is about to kick the tying or winning field goal? Why does the opposing basketball coach call a timeout when a player is about to win the game if he hits the next free throw? These are strategies used to try and psych-out the opposition. The opposing coaches are hoping the athlete will begin thinking of missing the field goal or the free throw. They're hoping negative self-talk, those little voices in their heads, start to work against them. When you get out of your comfort zone, weird things can happen. Your hands will sweat; you may guide your horse straight into a barrel an knock it down; you may may even fall of your horse.

Normally, the first thing you want to do when you get out of your comfort zone is get right back into your old comfortable zone where it's nice and cozy. But look out, because that's what keeps you from growing and enhancing your performances in all areas of your life.

Dr. Hans Selye, world renowned expert on stress research, points out that we all need to learn how to manage our stress because we all face it every day. You just can't eliminate the pressures you face – in the alley lane, at the office, or at home. However, you can learn to control your self-talk and expand your comfort zones, which ultimately will help you manage stress and give you more control over the tensions of life.

Be sure you're aware of and recognize the symptoms of stress. Many people live with stress for so long that they've gotten used to it. It becomes a way of life and actually becomes a comfort zone for them.

Public speaking is one of the highest anxiety producers. People have told me they would rather take a whipping than to have to give a speech in front of a crowd of people or answer questions with a camera and microphone in their face. If you are an inhibited and nervous speaker, for example, and you decide to get over your nervousness and improve your speaking performance by simply forcing yourself to deliver speech after speech, you'll probably still be very nervous for the first few, if not several, speeches. You might come across boring, tense, and basically ineffective – even though you're very knowledgeable about your subject. You won't be doing your best, even though you might be trying very hard.

There's an easier and better way to change your behavior. When you're ready to grow in a particular area, realize that first you need to change your subconscious picture of yourself. It's actually much easier and more efficient to simply adjust your comfort zone rather than to try harder in order to change your behavior. You need to expand your comfort zone first, before you change your behavior and in order to expand your comfort zone in a particular area you must change your self-image in that area.


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