EXPAND YOUR COMFORT ZONE
You know your current comfort zone, defined as the daily routine you do and the things that make you feel secure, content, and in control. However, most of our daily comfort-zone rituals will leave us unprepared to deal with even the smallest discomfort and will certainly render us incapable of handling an emergency or life-threatening challenge.
Challenge Your Limits and Daily Routines
Push the boundaries of your comfort zone at least once a day. There are so many opportunities to do this without attempting all at once to become an ultra-marathon runner, although this is a great goal. You must first expand your mind to the possibilities of doing certain things that you previously believed unachievable. Start with small steps and note progress by keeping track; make a list, and check off all the things you do each day to challenge yourself, both physically and mentally. Ultimately, by expanding your comfort zone you will increase both your physical and mental toughness, which are the keys to survival.
I believe that if you first focus on changing small things, you can begin the process of thinking differently, and ultimately achieve the goal of acquiring the SEAL mindset of survival, which will allow you to endure anything. You will quickly see that doing things differently makes you think differently. Observe your current routine and then start by doing simple things another way. For example, use the stairs instead of the elevator to take you up only a few floors. Climb at a reasonable pace and know that when you reach the top, you have just expanded your comfort zone. When in your car, don’t fight to get the space closest to the store, but purposely look for one that will make you walk. Force yourself to meet three new people and learn at least five things about them. If you have to balance your checkbook, leave the calculator in the desk and make your brain complete this task. Open up the contact list in your phone and memorize five numbers each day. You must seek out ways to expand both mind and body. Start paying attention to how you think about things. If you expand your comfort zone in this manner, you will be better able to do the rest. If you already exercise or jog, for example, increase your distance or speed. Run that extra mile, or run it a minute faster. Do that one additional push-up. Try holding your breath for a minute, and then try two. When in the shower, after scrubbing down with the warm water you usually prefer, finish the last thirty seconds with a blast of cold water. By pushing your physical limits, you are also forcing your brain to expand its comfort boundaries, thus gradually making yourself physically and mentally tougher.
Now that I am out of the Navy and getting older every day, I continue to push my comfort zone by engaging in activities I did when I was in SEAL team, including skydiving, shooting, climbing, and long swims. Instead of doing these things in preparation for a mission, I do them not only to maintain these very perishable skills, but also to keep my mind and body sharp—I still push the comfort zone and know that this will allow me to be every bit of the warrior I used to be.
Everyone’s comfort zone is different, so for some of us, expanding it means starting with drinking one less beer or forgoing dessert. Yet all of these little daily victories will bring us confidence later, especially when our lives depend on it. It’s so much easier to do nothing, and it seems natural not to bother, but I tell you: These first exercises are essential in changing your mindset and eventually can be the very things that will separate the survivors from the victims.
Here is a visualization I use: I like to imagine that pushing my comfort zone daily is similar to rolling a boulder up a hill. If I let it, the rock will always want to tumble back down, and I’ll have to start from the bottom again. Expanding the comfort zone on a daily basis will actually make it easier to get that boulder closer to the summit—and to our success or ultimate survival.
COMFORT ZONE CHECKLIST (all answers need to be yes):
Did I challenge myself today?
Did I do something positive that my mind initially didn’t want to do?
Did I do something positive that my body initially didn’t want to do?
Can I do more?