Your body is wired to save as much energy as possible. You’re wired to be afraid of the unknown and resist changes at all cost. You, just as everyone else, like safety and easiness. To survive. But you’re also a curious being. It’s in your nature to strive for progress and personal development. To thrive. Much like staying in your comfort zone is programmed in your genes, so is your desire to achieve your peak performance and experience new things.
Thus you have to keep pushing yourself out of your comfort zone. You always have to push yourself through your doubts and insecurities. You have to constantly push yourself to focus more and remove waste from your life. The moment you stop pushing yourself is the moment you stop growing. You should constantly improve yourself. You should always challenge yourself. You should always push yourself to become the best version of yourself.
To push yourself is one of the secrets of success
You have to choose between the easier and the harder way many times in life. In this context, Nike still has the best slogan: just do it, choose the hardest way, because with time, the hard way usually becomes easy and the easy way usually becomes hard. There is a simple reason why that is so; because by pushing yourself and constantly growing, you are becoming a better master of life.
Life rewards those who master its rules and know how to play the game.
When it comes to pushing yourself out of your comfort zone, the biggest challenge is that with every push, you usually experience immediate (personal growth) pain and your desired results only come in the long term.
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That is mentally very hard, especially compared to not pushing yourself. Not pushing yourself provides immediate pleasure and the punishment only comes in the long term. And we all somehow care much more about now than about what will happen in the long term.
Let’s look at some practical examples:
- Eating a doughnut gives you immediate pleasure. Extra weight comes sometime in the future, if you eat too much doughnuts on a day to day basis.
- Going to the gym requires discipline and a lack of comfort now at this very moment. But results only come later. There’s the immediate result of feeling better after a workout, but real fitness progress and a better body image come in months.
- Spending money on a gadget you want gives you immediate pleasure. Peeling off the plastic film of a new gadget. Mmm. You can deal with debt sometime in the future.
- Saving money means immediate renouncement for you. But pleasure from having savings and receiving yields only comes sometime in the future.
- Giving your kid a computer tablet instead of playing with them gives you more free time immediately. Your kid ignoring you only comes years later.
- Spending time and talking to your kid demands an immediate energy investment. A good relationship and bond only come later, over the years.
- Smoking a cigarette gives immediate pleasure. It takes years for cancer to come.
If you want to really push yourself, you need to have a long-term perspective. You have to see all the rewards you will enjoy later in life if you sacrifice a little bit today. All the little sacrifices you make today, and aren’t really that hard, add up in the long term and bring a great difference.
Little everyday sacrifices (which aren’t even sacrifices anymore after a while, but become habits) are the ones that bring about the difference between average and successful at the end.
Never forget that self-doubt and insecurities kill more dreams than failure ever will. You need to constantly push yourself through self-doubt and insecurities. You have to push yourself through shyness and laziness and fear. You have to push yourself when you feel like giving up.
Pushing yourself is not easy at all. Being out of your comfort zone is hard. As Richard St. John defines it, you have to face C.R.A.P. You have to face:
You have to be proactive out of your comfort zone, you have to take responsibilities, you need to have the courage to constantly manage fear – fear of failure, fear of success, fear of public humiliation; there are so many fears you have to manage.
But dear reader, life starts at the end of your comfort zone. Out of the comfort zone is the place where magic happens. Playing it safe is similar to locking yourself in a safe. And that’s not what you want.
Your deep desire to experience life to the full should be much greater than any obstacle preventing you from going out of your comfort zone. You should see the world as an endless playground full of possibilities, where you can experience and enjoy things. Most of them out of your comfort zone.
Here are some general rules to help you push yourself out of your comfort zone slightly more easily:
- In life, fears show you what you have to face, where you have to challenge yourself and where you can really grow.
- Surround yourself with the right people, from friends to business partners. Don’t surround yourself with people who go easy on you, but with people who are honest with you and push you to achieve your greater potential. Surround yourself with people who are a role model to you. Your key relationships are the ones that should push you the most to be successful.
- Be a problem solver not a victim. Think proactively not reactively.
- Ask yourself: “What would [x] do?”, where x can be Bill Gates, Michael Jordan, Elon Musk or anyone you admire.
- Ask yourself: Am I thinking optimally in this situation? Am I doing the optimal thing and making the optimal decision regarding a specific situation? What is the optimal thinking and the optimal action in this situation? Thinking like that will open up a new possibility you should probably follow.
- Be aware that many fears and obstacles are just in your head. Most of them are just illusions stopping you due to bad past experience. It’s like having a bug in your brain’s “software”. Fix it.
Your life vision and mission must be greater than any problems you face. You’re born to do great things in life. Period.
Surround yourself with people who push you
Pushing yourself is hard sometimes. That’s why you need other people. That’s why you need the right surroundings and an environment that supports your potential, not letting you waste your life.
Remember, if you’re the smartest and the most capable person in the room, you’re in the wrong room. Surrounding yourself with the right people is the best way to grow.
The general rule concerning people you should surround yourself with is:
- 33 % of people who are less capable than you, and push them and coach them
- 33 % of people who are on the same level as you, and push each other
- 33 % of people who are more capable than you, and make sure that they push you hard. You can call them your mastermind group.
People who should love you, support you and push you most in life
Don’t push too hard
We know three zones. The first one is your comfort zone. The second one is the learning zone. And the third one is the panic zone. By stepping out of your comfort zone into the learning zone, you learn, you grow, you evolve. By spending time in your learning zone, your comfort zone expands. That is how you become more competent and capable. You master life more.
Stepping too far out of your comfort zone and biting off more than you can chew is sometimes even more dangerous than being in the comfort zone. Being way out of your learning zone brings anxiety, stress and negative feelings. You enter the panic zone and the panic zone isn’t anything good.
In the panic zone, you wire your brains with a new stopping mechanism that sees everything out of your comfort zone as a big danger; it wants to make sure you don’t hurt yourself. If you go too far and suffer, next time you won’t go out of your comfort zone at all. Neither to the panic zone, nor to the learning zone. Your brain will make sure of that. You basically block yourself with new fears.
It kind of makes sense. If you take the wrong thing too far, you can even hurt yourself (physically, mentally) and find yourself experiencing a great setback. Speed kills, and it can kill your potential as well. So be smart. And that rule doesn’t apply only to extreme situations that put your life in danger, but to all different kinds of situations.
Taking on too much debt or too big business risks, investing in things you don’t understand, pushing yourself too hard in the gym when you are risking injury, travelling to an unsafe country without having enough travelling experience etc. There are numerous options that could put you in the panic zone if you don’t play it smart. Even being too busy at something can be a form of laziness.
Thus you have to be smart about going out of your comfort zone. You have to take it step by step. You have to be gentle with yourself and proud of every small progress. If you improve yourself for 1 % every day, that’s a lot. In a decade, that’s an enormous progress. That’s the long term view.
Therefore don’t be afraid of progressing slowly, only be afraid of completely stopping. If you aren’t growing, you are declining and that is such a waste. That shouldn’t be an option for you. But also don’t go to the other extreme. Think about the middle path. It’s a path between the comfort zone and the panic zone.
Being in your learning zone also enables you to be in the flow. If the challenge you face is too big relative to your skills, you experience only anxiety and thus no flow at all. And if the challenge is too small relative to your skills, you get bored. You can’t be in the flow if you’re bored.
In the comfort zone, you can only be lazy and bored. Again, there’s a sweet spot somewhere in the middle, where the challenge is just big enough that it enables you to grow and still doesn’t scare you. Then you are in the flow, then you are in the right learning zone.
It’s better to conquer yourself than to win a thousand battles. One way of conquering yourself is by pushing yourself. Push harder, but not too hard. Make sure that you’re in the flow and in the learning zone. Now start pushing!