Wednesday, October 9, 2013

Get Ready to Be Uncomfortable

Not this kind of uncomfortable...
Today, I'd like to share with you what I think is the real secret to the success Michelle and I have enjoyed in our fitness journey.  It's not about the perfect program or meal plan.  It's not some poster slogan.  It's certainly not a supplement or magic food.  It's about getting uncomfortable.  I'm not talking about pain or training to exhaustion.  It's something much simpler and more fundamental than that.

Let me see if I can explain.

Last week, I asked Michelle what she wanted for her birthday (she's turning schfurtny-trax, for those who are curious.  C'mon, you know the name of our blog...).  Almost without hesitation, she told me, "I want to learn the Olympic lifts."  First of all - I confess that I fell in love with her all over again at that moment.  Here is a woman I've known for 23 years and she still surprises me.  

We've been focusing on powerlifting for the last year and she's made tremendous progress.  She's flat impressive to watch at the gym.  She's really worked hard at focusing on the things she had the most room to improve on and drive through.  Who am I to deny her this one simple wish?  Besides - you try stopping her.  

So I made some calls and got a referral for a truly remarkable coach.  I'll leave out the name-dropping for the moment and save that for a later post.  We made contact with him and, as it turned out, he was lifting in a competitive meet at his home gym that weekend.  This was the best of all worlds.   We went to the meet and watched competitors of all sizes and skill levels yank bars from the floor to their chests or straight over their heads.  To call it impressive would be an understatement.  We had a little quality time with our new coach and, after about three hours, headed back to the homestead.

It was on the drive home that things began to sink in.  "I'm a little scared of all of this," Michelle confessed to me. "Am I totally crazy?  I'm in my forties for the love of God!"  As you can imagine, a fairly animated conversation ensued.  

"What's the worst thing that could happen?" I asked her.

"Well, I could hurt myself, but that's no different than any day at the gym, is it?"  I replied that it certainly wasn't.

Becoming "Settled"
Not what I meant either...
Michelle and I have been very fortunate to have taken career paths where we were basically (and sometimes literally) put in an empty room and told "I need you to make this happen."  A comfort zone isn't a luxury we were ever granted.  As it turns out, after two decades of this, it's become a compulsion.  Neither of us is satisfied with something after we've mastered the challenge.  It seems utterly natural to seek out the next opportunity to learn and grow.  

And that's the secret!

I'm not suggesting that everyone needs to go to extreme lengths and bungee jump out of a burning airplane with a frayed rubber band.  But I do know that, most often, we create our own limitations.  Have you ever watched a child work themselves up to taste something new?  It's an ordeal!  They're so sure that it's not for them that it would be easier to get them to put their hand on a hot stove rather than take that first bite.  And then what happens?  Chomp! Either they like it or they don't.  But we celebrate, right?  "At least you tried it, little Johnny!" 

When did we lose that?  When did we stop trying new things, for fear that it would be a disaster?  We chain ourselves up with thoughts like "I've never been a good 'X'er." or "I'm too old for something crazy like 'Y'." At some point, we yield to the expectations and assumptions associated with getting older.  Forgive me, but screw that!  I'm not letting any expectation or assumption define my vitality and love for life.  And, in my humblest of humble opinions, you shouldn't either.  Don't settle!

Get uncomfortable
If you ever want to feel true satisfaction, try something you didn't think you could do.  Or, better yet, work at something you know you can't do today until you can!  But doing that means leaving your comfort zone.  If you haven't felt that "what was I thinking? I'm going to make a total fool out of myself!" sensation in a while, it's time to dust it off.

Now, mind you, maturity has its own gifts.  Among them, a sense of consequence.  You don't need to do something dangerous to find something that scares you. 

Definitely not what I had in mind!  Awkward!
There are so many benefits to getting outside your comfort zone!  One - it makes you humble; you remember that you still have something to learn.  Two - it gives you something to learn!  I'm absolutely a firm believer that life-long learning is the key to an agile mind.  Three - it brings back your sense of awe.  Let's face it; we've seen a lot of things in our lives.  It's difficult to find something that truly knocks your socks off (until you seek it out).  Four - it gives you confidence that flows over into the rest of your life.  And five - you might find a new passion in life.

So what are you waiting for?  Try something new today.  Yes you might not be as good at it as you want to be (yet).  But you might be awesome!  Either way, we celebrate, right?  At least you tried it!