In his book The Talent Code, Daniel Coyle suggests growth occurs at the edge of our abilities. So, what does that mean? Simply put, it means that we don’t get better in our comfort zone. Athletes are machines with 3 gears – physical, technical and mental. Every athlete knows that if they want to improve their physical gear, they have to put their bodies under stress. No pain, no gain, right? But who likes pain? Doesn’t it make sense to avoid things that will create discomfort? Nope. Not if you want to get better. The sore muscles tell us something important is happening. The muscles are responding to the stress and are becoming more powerful. Athletes embrace that physical discomfort because they know it’s making them better.

The same is true for the other two gears and a failure to recognize and embrace this is one of the biggest contributors to unrealized potential, and poor performance. If you want to consistently build and strengthen your technical and mental gears, you have to get comfortable being uncomfortable.

If you’re the best player at one level, you need to push yourself to the next level where you won’t be the best and the game seems too fast. To a level where you might even feel a little scared (a feeling that stunts growth if avoided). If you’re really confident dribbling with your right hand or doing a tried-and-true dismount, it’s time to stress your game. Dribbling with your left hand, or working on a tougher dismount will make you feel awkward and less skilled. It may even make you feel a little embarrassed (another feeling that stunts growth if avoided).

The moment of truth – the decision that will determine whether you get better, or get back to being comfortable – is whether you choose to remain uncomfortable for a while. If you do, you’ll adjust, learn and grow. Your game will speed up until it is as fast, or faster, than the players who once intimidated you. You’ll gain confidence in your new skills. You’ll become comfortable again. And you know what that means . . .

I learned that courage was not the absence of fear, but the triumph over it. The brave man is not he who does not feel afraid, but he who conquers that fear. ~ Nelson Mandela