Our comfort zone is the place where we naturally feel at home. The idea of our comfort zone was theorized back in 1908 by psychologists Robert M. Yerkes and John D. Dodson who explained that a state of relative comfort created a steady level of performance. However, if we want to maximize performance, we need a state of relative anxiety or in other words a place where our stress levels are slightly above normal. This place is called “Optimal Anxiety,” and it’s just outside our comfort zone.
When we step outside of our comfort zone, we’re officially taking a risk, which can cause us some stress. What’s going to happen next? How will this all shake out? Overall, we’ve come to see the word “stress” as a bad word – BUT based on the theory of “Optimal Anxiety,” a little bit of stress can be a catalyst for growth.
While staying in your comfort zone can result in consistent, steady performance, stepping out of your comfort zone can ignite the spark for you to achieve something magical and achieve new goals you never thought you could.
Those who are willing to take risks often reap the biggest rewards. Stepping out of your comfort zone is an important factor in your personal growth. After all, how can we each expect to evolve if we continually stick to the same routines? Reaching new goals and milestones often involves the taking risks.
Ronnie Coleman is arguably one of the best bodybuilders the fitness world has ever seen. He was not only known for his training exploits but also for his engaging personality. He left us with many lasting quotes but greatest of them all is “everybody wants to be a bodybuilder but don’t nobody want to lift no heavy ass weights.” Amen Ronnie! Amen.
That’s cool (and if you can imagine Ronnie’s voice, semi funny) but what’s the point.
Well it all ties back to comfort zones. Ronnie Coleman didn’t become 8x Mr. Olympia by being comfortable and going through the motions(for the sake of this article, lets leave those extra-curricular supplements off the table). Putting together a last minute workout and just being happy that he broke a sweat and made it to the gym. Year over year, he lifted more weight, he lifted heavier weights and he sweat more than he ever did. And so did Arnold, so did Franco and anyone that’s wanted to do something great and reach new levels.
Here’s the thing, by no means are we saying that we all want to become Mr. or Miss Olympia. Further to that, we know that most out there don’t even want to put on 1/10 of the muscle mass those athletes have. What we are saying is that perhaps what you’re currently doing is not working. If you’re always running 3 miles on the treadmill or doing the same 1 hour workout then you’re probably seeing the same results.
Improving physically takes new levels of adaptation. In order to take our bodies through adaptation, we need to expose them to new stressors. In order to experience new stressors we need to take a stroll into the unknown and leave our comfort zones. You see what we just did there?
So you’re used to running 3 miles in 20 minutes? Have you tried running it in 19 minutes? Or perhaps have you done 10 1-minute sprints with a 1-minute rest in between for a total of 20 minutes. So you can bench press 135 pounds for 10 reps without breaking a sweat? That’s cool. But have you thrown on 185 and struggled to get 5 reps?
We all want to be a little healthier, a little fitter and little more muscular, etc etc. But we’ll never achieve these goals by spinning our wheels and living in our comfort zone. Albert Einstein is credited with saying “the definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over again, but expecting different results.” A truer statement has never been said.
If you want to lose 5 pounds, it might mean cutting back on some of those sweets you just can’t live without. If you want to build a little muscle, you’re going to have to try some weights that scare you a little bit.
Change is scary and so is the unknown but probably scarier than both is never knowing your true potential.