When I go running in Richmond Park, there is a little voice inside my head telling me I should slow down. This little voice looks for excuses why I should take it a bit easier, for signs that I am going too fast: ‘my limbs ache’, it tells me, ‘if I’m not careful, I will strain my ankle’, ‘my chest feels too tight’, ‘I haven’t paced myself properly and I am going to run out of energy’, that sort of thing. If I listen to the voice and slow down, the voice becomes more insistent, not less. The only way to shut it up is to do the opposite – to speed up a bit, to push myself. That way, I seem to get into a rhythm. I guess I ‘get into my stride’. And the voice goes away.
We need to push ourselves just a little beyond what is comfortable. Not just when running in the park, but in life more broadly. We need to push ourselves or else there is no learning, no development and no reward.
“Instead of fleeing from the unknown, stretch into the unfamiliar and unexpected. It’s one of life’s paradoxes. Stepping outside your comfort zone, risking your neck, and embracing novelty actually interject more excitement and happiness.” Bryan E. Robinson Ph.D.
This is how we learn and grow. There is no building our expertise or our usefulness without pushing ourselves to the next step.
“Move out of your comfort zone. You can only grow if you are willing to feel awkward and uncomfortable when you try something new.” Brian Tracy
This is difficult for all of us, because pushing ahead brings with it the stress of responsibility, and the fear of possible failure or disappointment. It carries with it the risk that you may get things wrong. And that has the potential to dent your self-esteem.
To push ahead, you need courage and confidence in yourself.
(This is one of the reasons why social anxiety can be such a hinderance to living a fulfilling life – because we are overly sensitive to the stress of leaving our comfort zone, and it is therefore doubly difficult for us to push ourselves to the next step. Indeed, some of us have little or no comfort zone, we are stressed at any level of responsibility, no matter how light it may seem from the outside …)
There is some comfort in the thought that, no matter how rich, clever or powerful we are, we are all at that same psychological point – of having to find the courage to take the next step.
“If everything seems under control, you’re just not going fast enough.” Mario Andretti, Racing Driver