Let's Get Uncomfortable!

Life Begins at the end of your comfort zone, claims American author Neale Donald Walsh. Before you read any further, take a moment to congratulate yourself for getting to where you are today. Your artistic passion is has found a footing or you’re holding down a job that you feel good about or you’re just able to manage the ups and downs of life better now than ever before.

Still though, you’ve likely reached a bit of a plateau in some aspect of your life.  All that work to get out of your comfort zone and make some changes only to find out that you’re now just in a new comfort zone! For better or worse, this one is at least a much better place.  It is safe and secure, like a cushy reclining chair on a lazy Sunday afternoon.  In this spot, you know that you don’t actually need to change anything, but you also know that somewhere beyond this chair is something much greater.  It’s just that this chair is so comfortable and we know exactly where it is, so much so that we can probably walk into our home, close our eyes and find it without looking.

The small problem with mindlessly moving to that favorite spot on the couch to unwind is that each time we do this; the cushion gets depressed a bit more.  And as that spot becomes more welcoming to our mind (and tush), getting up to try something new becomes less and less likely.  Somewhere, all of us are residing inside our comfort zone and all of us can benefit from a comfort zone challenge.

So, let’s get uncomfortable! What exactly is a comfort zone challenge?  Tim Ferris, author of the 4-Hour Workweek refers to it as a planned action to face a fear with the primary goal of overcoming this fear or increasing your courage and confidence. This action includes a calculated risk of negative social evaluation but does not expose you to real danger or long-term negative consequences.

Therefore, a comfort zone challenge is more like purposely and purposefully taking a seat on the other side of the couch or in a different spot in the room.  It isn’t hanging a high wire rope in your living room and trying to balance on it.  You merely want to change things up and remind yourself that you are stronger or more capable than you think you are.  In the perspective shift, you may notice something new or you may realize that you’re ready to take a bigger chance the next time you head towards that spot on the couch.    

Simple challenges may look like deciding to:

  • Eat solo a restaurant without using your phone to keep you company
  • Use public transportation and go someplace you've never been before
  • Sharing your work before it's completely finished 

A real challenge is one where, like the description above, you do something socially outside of your norm. This is an opportunity to elicit the kind of reaction that reminds you of when you were young and dreaming big; when you said what was on your mind and then did it without worrying about the outcome.  Only now, it is planned and with a purpose: to expand upon your courage and learn to be more confident.  Our skillsets can be acquired through books or experience.  What sets one apart from anther with the same skill is the confidence in oneself and the belief in that skill.  So get out of that chair, take small social risks at predetermined times to steadily stretch your comfort zone little-by-little. 

Have nothing but hope; talk to strangers the most.
Communicate effectively with acquaintances.
And with friends and foes, cast every word like a vote.
                                       -p.shadi.coachbar pcc

[Best] Picture This: The Benefits of Visualization of Future Success

Just before I sat down at my local coffee house to start writing this Life Coaching blog about engaging all the senses when visualizing goals, I closed my eyes and took a deep breath.  As I exhaled, I began to paint a mental picture of my future self.  In that moving illustration playing on the back of my eyelids, I see Paul sitting next to you, the reader, who was perusing my finished blog.  From this dissociated position of myself in the future, I begin to fill in all the details about the image as if I were looking at it playing on a movie screen.    

[Best] Picture this: you and Paul seated side-by-side outside of the same coffee house.  Shining through the freeway overpass above, beams of sunlight magnify the steam rising from the cups of coffee on the table.  Envision a full body image of Paul leaning forward in his chair, foot tapping in anticipation of you finishing the blog. See Paul focused on your facial gestures and your eyes locked on the computer screen.  You finish reading, turn to Paul and with your head tilted to the side, you offer your hand in thanks for sharing another part of his experience.  Zero in further and really notice the two hands coming together in a mutually beneficial embrace.  Now pan back out to see Paul’s face: satisfaction.

And then, just as my mental paint brush has filled the entire canvas, I take another breath and associate myself into that future space.  Meaning, I am not longer looking at Paul, I have stepped into that future state of blog completion and I am now looking through my eyes.  Once again, I see steam rising from the coffee, but this time, the aroma wafts through my nostrils, so much so I can taste it as well.  I look at your eyes scrolling across the computer as I hear my toes drumming on the concrete sending small shockwaves up my legs.  I hear coffee house music muddled by the droning cars on the freeway above while I see your head turn towards me with a look of gratitude in your eyes. You stand. I stand. A firm handshake. In my heart and mind, I feel both humble and proud. 

And come all the way back to this moment at the same coffee shop. I am just a line or two into my writing, but my mind already senses the satisfaction that will come with the completion of this blog.  When I was first viewing this dissociated future image like a movie screen in front of me, my mind began to fire off as if it were a recent memory of success.  When I associated into that wonderful place, it was as if I was there and quite simply, my brain didn’t know the difference.  Recent studies now reveal that thoughts produce the same mental instructions as actions. 

Furthermore, the brain likes, even craves visual images allowing visualization work to be a powerful, yet simple coaching tool.  This full body visualization engages my critical thinking in my frontal lobe. As I do this, my occipital lobe, where sight begins, lights up as I visualized future success now beginning to store itself into my temporal lobes, the home of memories.  Associating into the future state and engaging every sense, produces the same wavelengths as if I were actually getting that affirming handshake.  I feel that grasp in my parietal lobes responsible for pressure and touch. All of this culminating in a veritable explosion of light that sends positive vibrations all the way down to the core, my amygdala which assigns a memory with an emotion: good or bad or anywhere in between.  The more times we visualize the good, the deeper the grooves in the neuropathways until one day, what once was a rut is now a route to success.   

In coaching, we come across people who often don’t think they can do something or think something is standing in the way from their success.  Whether depression is limiting the belief of a future or anxiety is producing exaggerated possibilities of forthcoming doom or overcoming a failure to launch into adulthood is the goal, visualizing future success bridges the gap between the difficulty of now and positive possibility of tomorrow. Successful athletes visualize themselves making the winning shot.  Chess masters visualize the entire match in their heads.  Why not us?