Break Out of Your Comfort Zone
adapting barefoot running comfort zone habit change habits warrior spirit
I've had a few really uncomfortable times in my life, but the most recent and easily the most extreme was when I was learning to approach girls at social gatherings. You don't know what it means to feel awkward and out of your element until you walk up to a girl you don't know and try to start a conversation with her. Sweaty palms, dizziness, blurred vision, the sense that you are talking way too fast and there isn't enough air to breathe. There isn't any positive reinforcement either; most of these ladies just blow you off, or awkwardly try to get you to leave without being mean. Until you act confident, nobody wants you around, and it's hard to act confident until people want you around.
Of course, I knew all this, so I kept trying, using new greetings and methods to start conversations. Simply repeating my attempts to meet people made me more sure of myself, in imperceptibly small ways. Slowly, people started to respond to me, and I actually did start to feel a little comfortable. But to get there, I had to literally ignore my discomfort and the voice in my head screaming to get the hell out of there. I ignored my gut and just did what I knew I had to do. Eventually, my gut got in line with my head.
Adapted to Avoid Adapting
We are hardwired to avoid changing our habits. Even if a particular set of habits makes life frustrating, our subconscious knows they are at least safe and survivable. Therefore, they are better than potentially better, but unknown, habits.
The mind does this in very interesting and convincing ways. Developing the exercise habit, for example, leads to fear of injury. Because your body is new to the movements, it is also hypersensitive to aches that are normal for an active body, in much the same way sunlight seems blinding when you've spent all day in the dark. A muscle ache suddenly feels like a tear, and to your untrained body, it might as well be.
This principle of oversensitivity is basically what makes breaking out of our comfort zone so painful. All the new and unusual stimuli are so powerful as to be painful. In many cases, we are so unused to the new experiences that they actually can cause harm or injury.
The first time I tried barefoot running, I couldn't run an eighth of a mile without injuring myself, while I knew there were runners who could go for fifty miles with no shoes. Many people close to me said that I simply couldn't run barefoot, and a part of me agreed. After all, I had injured myself running such a short distance. But I knew that I was doing too much, too soon. There were hundreds of people who could do what I wanted to do, so I too would be able to do it. I just had to start smaller.
Push Through, but Take it Slow
When you face that initial shock of trying to change a habit keep the following in mind:
- Discomfort is normal and expected. Ignore it. It has nothing to do with the actions you need to perform to learn your new habit. It is simply your mind responding to imagined fears.
- There are lots of people who have done what you are trying to do, and many of them started from a much worse position. Do not for a minute believe that you cannot make the change.
- Start smaller or slower if you have to, but realize that even the smallest change will elicit a powerful fear response in your mind.
- At some point, you just have to suck it up and break through the discomfort.
- Learn the difference between discomfort and pain as a warning to injury, especially when learning physical skills. Be understanding of your body, but not too soft.
- On the other side of the fear is confidence. Trust that you will get there.
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Fight on, Brave Warriors,