Comfort zones feel great. They’re, well, comfortable. You’re in control. You can just act and not worry. When it comes to growth, though, comfort zones aren’t so helpful.
If you want to achieve that best version of yourself, you have to grow physically and mentally. Growth means thinking about the peak -- your fittest, your strongest, your best -- and acting with intention towards that. That’s not so easy. That can be daunting, and even discouraging.
To avoid feeling unhelpful pressure and anxiety, start small. Remember the famous Chinese quote: “A journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step.” Only worry about taking that very next step.
Get used to pushing your limits just a little at a time to improve your physical and mental habits, and before you know it, you’ll be achieving things you were not able to achieve before.
Here are 5 ways you can nudge yourself forward toward personal greatness:
1.) Focus on mastering one new fitness skill at a time
Find an exercise you can’t do but want to. Don’t try something way above your level, just look one level up and go from there.
PRO TIP: The Skill Progression feature of the Freeletics Coach was designed to guide you in taking things step-by-step!
Or, if you feel good walking briskly for 30 minutes but are not quite up to doing a run during that amount of time, challenge yourself to go a little further on each walk while still capping your walk time at 30 minutes.
First, find out how far you can walk in that amount of time, then pick up the pace and see if you can go a little farther every time you go, while still coming back in half an hour. (If you have a phone with GPS on it, you can turn that on and use one of many free apps that can record your path as well as the distance you travel.)
At some point you might even start to feel okay with jogging or running part of the way, so that you can cover more ground -- give it a try!
2.) Buy or cook one food you’ve never bought or cooked before
Comfort zones apply to eating as much as anything else. We all get stuck in the habit of eating the same things, even if they are healthy.
But what if you went off the beaten path (or should that be the “eaten path?”) and tried something completely new while still keeping it nutritious?
For example, you could try making something with different types of beans or lentils instead of meat -- they work great in dishes such as spaghetti Bolognese or chili con carne.
Why not switch to drinking green tea instead of coffee? Green tea is full of antioxidants and is regarded as one of the healthiest drinks available. If you find it too bitter, add some fresh lemon slices or a few mint leaves.
If you’re a chocolate lover, try switching chocolate snacks for cacao nibs. They’re great with nuts and dried fruit or added to your breakfast smoothie.
Go wholemeal when baking. That’s right, try swapping white flour for whole grain varieties -- perfect for healthy blueberry muffins or pizza bases.If you think you eat a bit too much meat, then give meatless meals a shot and cook vegetarian/vegan meals on one day per week. It’s a great chance to get experimental with food and allows you to sample new flavors, textures, and spices. Get adventurous, and you might find a new favorite.
3.) Try a completely different kind of exercise
We all have our preferences when it comes to working out fitness. Some lean into running, others just love weight lifting. All good. You don’t have to give up your favorites to try new ways of working out!
Do a couple of workouts in a new exercise discipline: swimming, yoga, running, bodyweight training, etc.
You may even have places and people around you that enable you to try some of those lesser-known Olympic sports that are so fun to watch, but that you may not see yourself doing.
Maybe you’ll get into what you discover. Maybe you won’t. The point is to try something new, and that in itself is a kind of growth!
4.) Read or listen to something completely new
Stimulate the mind (and grow it!) with new content. We tend to gravitate toward reading or listening to the same kinds of topics. So, go wild on this one.
Find a book, a podcast, a blog (etc.), that covers something you’ve never thought much about and absorb it.
If you’re looking for some inspiration for your next book to read, head to Goodreads and peruse the thousands of reviews that readers have left about different books. Pick a genre that would surprise your friends if you told them you were reading a book from it. For example, if you’re not really a history buff, why not pick something about an event or era of the past you may have wondered about but never really explored. You never know -- it may open up a whole new passion!
Podcasts are also a great way to learn something new and there’s never been a wider variety of podcasts than today. All the top podcast listening apps have search and discovery features that can guide you through the galaxy of shows and topics that people are sharing their ideas on.And then of course, there’s plenty of new (and old) music to be discovered. So broaden your horizons with something that’s a little out of your usual comfort zone. For a real trip down the rabbit hole of musical genres, spend some time clicking through the website “Every Noise At Once”. You’re guaranteed to discover fascinating types of music you’ve never heard of before.
5.) Shift one thing in your daily routine
Adding in or taking something out of a daily routine is hard. So, start with this: Just mix it up.
Are you used to rolling out of bed and checking social media? Save that for lunchtime, and move the lunchtime walk to the morning.
Try setting the alarm half an hour earlier, and perform some stretches or even yoga. Stretching is the perfect way to ease your way into the day, especially if you wake up feeling a little sluggish, tense, or achy.
If you like to get home from work, hop into the shower, then sit down for a spell of watching TV or a streaming service, switch up the viewing time for something else, like reading or cooking.
Or you could simply even change up the order in which you do those things: for example, chill for a while when you get in from work, maybe catch up on the latest episode in that true crime series you’ve been glued to, then finally run a relaxing bath before bed to help you wind down and get your body ready for sleep.
Little steps will equal big strides
Remember, when you push yourself outside of your comfort zone, even just a little, you overcome fear of change.
And with each newfound drop of courage, you train your brain and body for more challenges.
And then, if you stick to it for long enough... ta-da! You’ll have made a lot of progress.
There’s nothing wrong with taking small steps. In fact it’s the perfect way to set the stage for fitness success and all other kinds of achievements.