If you’re anything like me, you’ve watched a successful athlete or read about a certain CEO and thought; I want to be just like – insert pro athlete or millionaire entrepreneur here. An all-pro running back rushes for 250 yards and the venture capitalist shows up on the cover of Forbes. It’s easy to look at these individuals and become disillusioned. Sure, we would all love to play a pro sport or cash in on a huge investment, but that could never happen to us; could it?
While I can’t promise you that what I have to say will make you a millionaire or a sports superstar, I can help you break out of your comfort zone and improve your ability to do absolutely anything.
Figuring out what we want is easy; execution is difficult. That’s because we tend to jump in head first right from the start. We go from zero to 120% in a matter of minutes.
For example, want a better golf game? Who better to model your game after than Tiger Woods? You read somewhere that he hits 10,000 balls every day, and then plays multiple practice rounds. So the next day you set out to complete the same insane schedule. What sounded like a good idea was actually a terrible one. You can’t keep up, get frustrated and end up selling your clubs, refusing to play golf ever again.
See what happened there? Instead of setting yourself up for success with small and manageable actions, you went all out and failed hard. Think about it; this is exactly how most people approach diet and exercise.
Prime example: Planning to diet in the near future? Well, go ahead and binge for three days beforehand. Then, commence an extremely detailed and inconvenient diet plan. Begin a workout routine where you train for 2 hours a day. Try to maintain consistency. FAIL!
Find your Learning Zone
If you are tired of trying and failing – and you want to make a lasting change – start by identifying your learning zones. At one extreme you have your comfort zone, where everything is safe and cozy. You are never going to make any progress here. Then, at the other extreme you have your panic zone, where everything is stressful and overwhelming. Nothing gets done here either. But, somewhere in the middle, lies the learning zone. This is the sweet spot where we get shit done. In the learning zone we work at the upper limits of our abilities, but are able to overcome the challenges that confront us.
So the problem is that when we jump from doing nothing (comfort zone) to doing everything (panic zone), we end up failing before we ever find the sweet spot.
How to be Good at Anything
You can do absolutely anything if you figure out an effective and efficient way to reach your goal, one that pushes you to the limits of your ability (the sweet spot) without taking you over the edge. And, perhaps most importantly, you have to create a plan that is both challenging and rewarding to ensure adherence over time.
Do what works – don’t get caught up in a vicious cycle of trying and failing. Someone somewhere has already done what you are attempting to do. Instead of jumping in headfirst and redlining in your panic zone, research the highest performers in whatever domain you are attempting to master. Now, combine what works for them with what you are willing and able to do.
Do more with less – here we are looking for the biggest return on investment, in terms of effort and time. For example, high intensity interval workouts are better for weight loss than going on long, time consuming runs. And, a 20-minute kettlebell workout can produce better strength and weight loss results than traditional exercise programs. So, more is not better. Doing more with less, or in less time, is best.
Do you – this is the key to the entire process. You know what works and how to get better results in less time. Now you have to figure out what you are willing and able to commit to.
Let’s talk fitness. If you hate cardio, don’t do it; at least not right out of the gate. Get yourself on a consistent weight training program and get a handle on your diet. Then, in time, circle back and start adding in some cardio sessions. Find the most effective and efficient methods so you can do it as little as possible.
This is how you break out of your comfort zone, find your sweet spot and avoid the panic phase. Otherwise, you start by doing too much cardio, max yourself out and quit. No adherence means no progress.
Are you willing to break out of your comfort zone? How can you do it and still avoid the panic zone when learning a new skill?