It’s 5:00 in the morning. My alarm goes off and I drowsily open one eye just long enough to turn off the alarm and go back to sleep.
I’d wanted to get up in the morning to jog but I’m sleepy and I can hear a cold winter wind outside. So I stay in my bed and sleep longer.
It’s not that I needed the sleep. Rather, it’s that that the comparison between the effort and cold of a winter morning jog compared to the comfort and warmth of my bed is a battle that is hard to win.
Actually, that’s not the real battle happening.
There’s a war going on inside my mind every morning.
… and every moment of the day.
Oh, and it’s happening in your mind, too, as well as the minds of every other person at each moment of each person’s day. In any and every area of your life and business, this is happening… in your health, your financial situation, your relationships, your hobbies, your professional life, your education, and in everything else as well.
The War Within
Let’s skip the really violent imagery and say that’s a tug-of-war. In my mind and yours. Every millisecond of the day.
It’s a tug of war between two people: On the one side is the person you were and on the other side is the person you want to be.
- The person you were—this person represents stagnation and remaining idle in your comfort zone. This person fears change. This person believes that self preservation is the key to enjoying life, and they’re convinced that you can get by simply by doing things the way they’ve always been done.
- The person you want to be—this person represents growth and challenge, which occurs outside of your comfort zone. This person acknowledges that growth can mean risk. This person believes that the key to enjoying life is to stretch yourself farther than you’ve gone in the past, and they’re convinced that only the strong survive.
These two people battle back and forth. Sometimes one wins; sometimes the other wins. In some aspects of your life, one is stronger; in other aspects of your life, the other is stronger.
In my own life, I have no problem working out at 4:30 in the afternoon each day, and it’s the challenge-accepting person that I want to be who dominates to get me off the chair and into my workout gear. But at 5:00 in the morning when the wind is howling outside and I’m tired, the person I was is stronger than the person I want to be, pulling that tug-of-war rope over to the side of comfort.
Think about the things in your life that you want to change. How successful is your change? If you are struggling, the person you were is winning. If you are succeeding at making the change, the person you want to be is winning.
There’s One More Person In This Scenario
There’s a third person in this scenario, too: it’s you, right now at this very moment. And the “right-now-you” is watching this tug-of-war happen between who you were and who you want to be. You’re watching… but you’re also participating, jumping in to help one or the other pull that rope.
You-right-now are deciding whether you want comfort or challenge, stasis or transformation, and you are aiding the person you were or the person you want to be to win in that moment.
And look, not every moment of every day can be devoted to growth. That’s going to be exhausting and difficult on you mentally and physically. And you’re not going to grow in every area at an accelerated pace. And maybe there are areas where you are happy and don’t see a need to grow.
… all fine. But the tug-of-war happens anyway. In every moment; in every area of life.
Here’s How You Can Win
Assuming that you want to grow, and recognizing that it’s not always easy to leap out of bed at 5:00 in the morning when the winter wind is howling, here’s what you can do to step up and lend a hand in the tug-of-war to the person you want to be… to help the person you want to be and to hinder the person you were.
- Create a reason to push yourself. You might want to make a change in your life but you can’t seem to make it stick. When that happens, think about why you are making the change. Sometimes a change or improvement seems arbitrary, and that makes it a hard habit to stick to. But if the change has a stronger, more meaningful reason then it’s easier to stick to.
- Get rid of temptations. I’m not much of a snacker but if you are, and if you want to snack less, then you need to get rid of the snacks in your house. All of them. Even the ones you buy for someone else.
- Turn your change into a habit. Remember earlier I said that I had no problem working out at 4:30 in the afternoon? That wasn’t always the case. It was a struggle. I slowly made it a habit. Now it’s an expected part of my day and it’s locked into my schedule and I actually look forward to it… and feel like I’ve missed something important if I don’t workout one day.
- Become curious. Curiosity is a powerful and often overlooked tool when it comes to change. Rather than saying, “I’m going to try to do this in my business” (which is a statement), get curious about it and ask yourself, “What will happen when I do this in my business?” When you’re overwhelmed with a big challenge, curiosity helps you to explore that challenge and break it down into a smaller one.
- Make it fun. Our brains are wired to hate risk. Risk is scary. It’s the fearful step out of the warm and safe cave into the scary unknown. But have you ever lost yourself in a fun activity, only to discover that you’ve far exceeded your comfort zone? Let’s say you want to exercise a bit more but you abhor the thought of going to the gym to run on the treadmill. Well what if you and a few friends just started playing soccer in the evening? You’ll get the workout and barely notice it.
- Turn it into a short-term challenge. This one is an effective strategy for me. Whenever I’m faced with an out-side-of-my-comfort-zone opportunity to grow, that I cannot seem to consistently complete on my own (such as the winter jog!) then I turn it into a short-term challenge. For example, instead of declaring that I’m going to jog every day, I say that I’m going to jog for 30 days straight and that’s it. By the end of the 30 days, it’s a habit that I love and I can more easily continue doing it but the fact that it’s a challenge makes it more enjoyable in that habit-forming period.
At any given moment there’s a tug-of-war raging in your mind between the comfort-zone person you were and the risk-tolerant person you want to be. And you right now? You’re in the middle watching it happen and deciding on the fly who you want to help win in that moment.
Stay the same or grow. It’s your choice in this very moment.