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.
If you will create a new picture of yourself, that picture will work like a magnet that pulls you forward naturally, bringing you into your new comfort zone and allowing you to grow into the life you want to live. When you try to push two magnets together (one representing your comfort zone and one representing your self-image) the polls are aligned, they push each other apart. This is like trying to expand your comfort zone while your self-image remains unchanged. You're trying to push yourself outside of your old comfort zone simply by force.
But if you first change your self-image, the effect is like changing the polls on the magnets so that they attract each other. Your new self-image will pull you forward without the pain, exhaustion, and anxiety you normally feel. The best way to change your self-image is through visualization. Begin by deliberately visualizing the kinds of changes you want in your new self-image.
The more clearly, specifically, and vividly you can imagine the changes and the resulting new self-image, the stronger and more real the pictures at the creative subconscious level will become. Once your subconscious accepts this new image and expectation, it will then go to work to make the new image a reality.
As your reality or self-image changes, your comfort zone changes automatically. Be aware that when your comfort zone changes you will find yourself in an environment that used to be your old world but in which you now feel out of place.
Setting a goal and programming it into your reality structure has the positive effect of creating a magnetic tension in your system. It turns on creative ideas and releases drive, energy, and motivation, and it broadens your awareness of opportunities that will help you attain your goals. It's just like the old phrase you've heard: whatever your mind can conceive and believe, you can achieve.
Here are some specific steps you can follow to expand your comfort zones:
- Get in your mind a clear and specific picture of the new self-image you want: the new attitude, behavior, or skill. For example, if you want to change your self-image from that of a nervous and ineffective public speaker to that of a relaxed and confident speaker, then picture yourself easily delivering speeches in a relaxed, confident, and effective way. Include details in your picture, including how you will feel walking to the winner's circle or podium, and how you will sound as you deliver the speech.
- In your mind, clarify exactly what needs to be done to achieve this goal, in terms of your time, your money, your effort, and your risk. Identify the possible temporary setbacks that might need to be overcome. Again, clarify exactly what is required for preparing a great speech: the gathering of facts, the rehearsal, and any lessons or coaching needed.
- Picture yourself actually experiencing the end result of your new self-image and behaving in your new comfort zone. See yourself in the alley lane being focused. Repeat this entire experience to perfection over and over in your mind's eye, many times. Eliminate careless comments such as "it seems like every I race, I am hundredths of a second too slow, or just miss winning in a division." Or "what else could possibly go wrong?" Or "it's so frustrating to just keep missing a win."
You might be thinking you need to pick up three hundredths of a second in performance – and that could very well make the difference in winning. However, you can help yourself tremendously, by expanding your comfort zones and changing your self-image, with the help of your self-talk, and you will begin to accomplish the positive changes you truly do want in your life both in and out of the arena.
Jim Will, Ph.D