“Taking on a challenge is a lot like riding a horse. If you’re comfortable while you’re doing it, you’re probably doing it wrong.” – Ted Lasso
Society today is heavily reliant on technology and largely motivated by a search for immediate gratification. Today’s abundance of conveniences and modern securities are beneficial in many ways. However, is this much comfort good for us? While modern technology makes our lives easier, it also deprives us of some of the challenges, experiences and failures that allow us to learn and grow. Having the tenacity to push boundaries and step out of our comfort zones builds healthy resilience in our lives. It encourages us to show up as our best selves, accelerate our growth and enrich our lives. While sometimes unpleasant, we can’t enjoy success without a bit of struggle and sometimes failure.
The comfort zone is called just that for a reason: it’s comfortable. I prefer living in the “growth zone.”
I’m an avid reader – two books that I find myself revisiting from time to time are “The Comfort Crisis” by Michael Easter and “What Doesn’t Kill Us” by Scott Carney. In these books, the authors discuss mankind’s disconnection from the natural world as we pursue convenience. They explore how the comforts we enjoy from modern luxuries make us stagnant and passive, unable or unwilling to try new things. Easter uses the phrase “exploring the wild within yourself.” Both authors urge their readers to take intentional steps to seek growth rather than comfort, no matter how intimidating and difficult these steps seem. I call it unlocking our primordial prowess.
What I mean by that is: we don’t have to build prowess, it’s already within us. At our core, we all possess an instinct of survival. Embedding that prowess into our careers, family lives and hobbies is sometimes hindered by the comforts that surround us. Now, I’m not suggesting we abandon modern society and take to the mountains, but I am suggesting we find ways to actively tap into our primordial prowess to become stronger and more effective in all aspects of our lives.
By taking steps to seek out discomfort, we will push ourselves into the growth zone. While it takes intentional thought and effort to unlock our primordial prowess, here are some places to start:
Embrace new Challenges
How many times have you given up an activity – whether it was a sport, a musical instrument, or a home improvement project – because you weren’t immediately good at it? While failure can be uncomfortable, it is also the perfect opportunity for growth. Unlocking your primordial prowess is a journey – not a process that happens overnight. Along the journey will be challenges to overcome that will push you further to your destination. By identifying a goal and pushing yourself to achieve that goal, you’ll gain skills, build resilience and experience a level of achievement that is worth any of the discomfort you felt along the way.
Sometimes, no matter how well defined the goal, no matter the level of preparation, the end result is not what we may have envisioned. Prior to the Great Recession in 2008, I bought a real estate development and construction company that had tremendous opportunity and significant financial upside. I worked tirelessly at building the company while constantly facing the likelihood of an impending recession. During that time, I learned so many valuable skills through numerous difficult situations and failures – skills I carry with me today. Although very difficult and uncomfortable at times, I wasn’t about to let those experiences take me out. Down, yes, but not out. I reflected on my thoughts, reframed the situation into new challenges and got back to gettin’ after it!
Push your mental boundaries
Primordial prowess requires mental toughness and agility. Without it, even the slightest challenge or difficult situation can feel daunting. So how do you build mental toughness? By pushing yourself mentally – through adversity and from failure. By embracing the things that make you uncomfortable, you’ll develop tolerance and adaptability.
One of the most difficult mental challenges I have ever faced was the first time I sat on the back of a 2000-pound Brahma bull at an Arizona rodeo. As I attempted to get seated, over and over again, the massive Brahma wasn’t having any of it. He was kicking, thrashing about and snorting – he did not want me on his back. Putting aside the inherent danger in bull riding, I was completely focused on the task at hand – stay on Big Yella for a mere eight seconds. It would take all the concentration and focus I could muster in that moment. Challenging myself, as I did with bull riding, has helped me to develop determination and perseverance.
Continuous learning – whether learning how to ride a bull or perform successfully in any business – is necessary to be the best version of yourself. Prioritizing problem-solving, learning how to reframe thoughts and partaking in creative exercises are all ways to push your intellectual boundaries.
And finally, don’t spend another moment in negative thought. Develop a positive mindset, even amidst the most challenging circumstances. Challenge yourself to develop and keep a positive attitude and learn to reframe even the most negative of situations into something positive.
Our personal growth zones all look different, but the path into our growth zones can be similar. The first step is to pay attention to what makes us uncomfortable… and then confront it. When we exit our comfort zones, we’re inviting the opportunity to achieve greater fulfillment at work, at home and in our everyday experiences. By intentionally doing difficult things, everything else becomes easier, and by deliberately challenging ourselves, we don’t rely on convenience and instant gratification. Rather, we rely on our experiences to guide our growth. Waste not even a moment getting into your own growth zone!