3 ways to get your athletes (and yourself) out of your comfort zone

by Erica Quam

They say life begins at the end of your comfort zone. So why is it that we stay in our comfort zones instead of really living?

We are afraid of the unknown. We are afraid of what might happen. We are afraid to fail.

We’ve been hurt before or have had past experiences that have been painful. 

We don’t believe we’re good enough to do more. We don’t believe we deserve something better. Believing we have to have it all figured out before making a decision or taking the first step.

Getting out of your comfort zone takes courage! We tell our athletes to do it all the time. They are living it. 

In what part of your life could you take a risk and open yourself up to new possibilities?

  • Having a hard conversation with someone you care about.  
  • Saying no to an opportunity because you may disappoint someone.
  • Admitting fault and saying I'm sorry. 
  • Saying yes to something when you don't know what the outcome will be.
  • Telling someone you love them.

When we stay stuck in our comfort zone it impacts us on a physical, mental, and even a spiritual level.

When we physically close ourself off to the possibilities of life, we tend to have poor physical posture: shoulders forward, head forward, arms wrapped around to protect us. This withdrawn posture limits our breathing and creates tension in the body. Mentally, this can lead to being more tired, sad, or depressed. Our soul becomes dark and heavy.  

When we open ourselves up to the possibilities of life, we can begin to shine! We are happier, have more energy and feel more freedom. We actually breathe more fully and walk around with our chest lifted and heads held high!

If you find yourself stuck in a rut, try this:

1. Let go of perfection.

Do it imperfectly. We hold ourselves back when we try to be perfect. Striving to do a good job is not the same as perfectionism. This is internally focused. Perfectionists are externally focused - and concern themselves with what other people think. 

When perfectionism is driving, shame is always riding shotgun and fear is the annoying back seat driver.
— Brené Brown

We struggle in areas where we feel exposed. Brené Brown says that perfection is the notion that, "If I look perfect, act perfect, work perfect I can avoid and minimize blame, criticism and ridicule."

Take a risk without the worry of what anyone else will think.

2. Release the past.

Observe the stories you tell yourself. Pay close attention to the voices in your head....those gremlins who start to chatter when you try to play a bigger game. Maybe they ask you questions like, 'who do you think you are?' 'didn't you already try that and fail\?' 'remember what happened last time?'

The stories will have a much harder time surviving when you actually become aware of them. Take time to listen. Say them out loud - your voice is powerful. Write them down. Reframe them. Imagine if someone actually spoke to you like you speak to yourself. How would you handle it then? Most of us would fight back and prove the stories wrong! Yet when we let them eat away at us - without fully acknowledging the power they hold - they will get the best of us every time. 

Acknowledge your stories and move past them. Don't let them hold you back.

3. Change your physical posture!

Sit or stand up tall, move your shoulders back, lift and broaden your chest. Breathe freely! Changing your posture can make you more confident, more courageous, more willing to take that step outside your comfort zone.

Amy Cuddy talks about body language in her popular TED Talk. Studies show just by raising your arms, you increase your levels of testosterone in your body - giving you more confidence in yourself. Holding a pencil between your teeth tricks your body into thinking you are smiling. These two things alone actually change your hormones. How powerful is that? 

Get out of your comfort zone, coach. Model it and then talk about it with your team. What are you waiting for? Raise your arms up with a great big smile on your face and just go for it! 

Life's too short to play small!

What's one thing you will do that's out of your comfort zone? Share it here, then do it!