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Staying Calm at The Edge of Comfort

comfort zone

This morning in a strength training class at the gym, I started thinking about The Edge.  The Edge is that place where your comfort zone ends and real change and growth begin.

Truth be told – and I will always tell you the truth – The Edge is a pretty frightening concept!  But for those struggling with behavior change, getting comfortable at The Edge is crucial.  Allow me to show you why.

Today, the weight was heavy and the set was going on too long.  As I tend toward inner drama, I was fairly certain that I was about to die.  Of lifting 2kg weights.  I started to get really pissed about dying right there in the gym.   My inner monologue went something like this:

“This trainer, this BITCH, couldn’t possibly be counting!  I am way smarter than her.  I should just stop.”  

I watched the woman on my left do just that.

“We did more on this side and now I will be lopsided!  I should totally stop.”

I saw 2 folks in the front row set down their weights.

“I am going to end up injured!  I should stop.”  

The lady on my right started half-assing it.

“This HURTS too much!  I MUST stop!”  

Half the class is now chatting and not even pretending to be participating.

But you know me, I don’t negotiate with the terrorists and panic mongers in my mind.  When I get to The Edge, I don’t stop.  I breathe deeply, loosen any facial tightness (which immediately lowers anxiety) and I talk back to the voices in my head:   “It’s OK. This is where it gets good.  Your muscles can handle this.  This is where they get strong.  ”  The Israeli trainers call out “Lo Cara Klum” which means, Nothing Happened or Relax folks, there is no looming disaster.

In that moment today, I reflected on how I got to this point where I am now so comfortable on The Edge.  When I was still eating emotionally, addicted to junk food and binging, I couldn’t bear to even think about getting close to the edge of my comfort zone!   My tactic was to just keep up the constant eating so I could numb the fear and remain smack dab in the middle of Comfort-Ville.

As I worked with my health coach, she encouraged me to slowly,  slowly take steps toward that edge, promising me I could retreat at any time if  it got too scary.  Of course I found that the more steps I took towards my fear of discomfort, the less I feared it in the first place!

And THAT was the magic discovery!  My friends, if you are frightened of getting too far away from the center of your comfort zone, it is because you believe your world is flat.  In a flat world, when you get to the edge, you fall off into nothingness.  But in fact, our worlds are big round things and just like sailing into the horizon, the farther you go, the farther the sea extends before you.

Growth.  You have to push beyond the edge to grow.  Trainers say that the last few reps in the “I can’t do it!” zone are the only ones that matter.  The ONLY ones that matter!!  If you are working out and not seeing results, you are not pushing far enough out of your comfort zone.

Likewise,

  • those last few hours of the day when you think you need to eat even though you aren’t hungry
  • that unbearably strong desire to shove some chocolate in your mouth when you are angry at your husband, boss, kids, mother-in-law…
  • those moments when you honestly think you will either fall asleep on the sidewalk or die if you don’t get some coffee or sugar right away!
  • the last mile, the last reps, the last steps, the moment when you physically think “I cannot!”

…are the exact moments on The Edge you must push through in order to improve yourself!

The more times you make it through your edge moments, the easier they become.  The more times you do not eat emotionally or for reasons other than hunger, the less often you have the desire to do so in the first place.  Push through those last reps or miles and your next workout is even easier because your muscles are stronger.

Push through The Edge, and watch in wonder as new ground appears below your feet.  It wasn’t the edge after all.

So the next time you think you can’t make it, breathe deeply.  Relax the muscles in your face and neck.  Unclench your fists.  Start the inner monologue:  Nothing happened.  I can do this.  My body can do this.  My mind can handle this.  Everything is going to be OK.

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