Reaching Just Beyond Your Comfort Zone

Reaching is to practice in a zone just beyond your current abilities. There are three zones of reaction that we as humans live in: The Comfort Zone, the Reach Zone, and the Survival Zone.   

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The Comfort Zone is where many of us operate. It’s the location of the skills and abilities we’ve acquired. While the comfort zone is by definition the most ‘comfortable’, we can’t make progress or build skills in the comfort zone since it consists of the abilities we can already do easily.

The Reach Zone is to reach just beyond your comfort zone. This means to stretch yourself slightly beyond your current ability. The Reach Zone is often referred to as the sweet spot. Deep and deliberate practice is not simply about struggling; it's about seeking a particular struggle, finding the edges of your ability and practicing just beyond that edge. Get outside your comfort zone in a focused way, with clear goals. Have a plan for reaching those goals, a way to monitor your progress, and maintain your motivation over time. The biggest gains in skills and strength come when you're constantly reaching just beyond your current ability. Your body and brain grow most quickly by being pushed just outside their comfort zone, but not by too much. The 

The Survival Zone is just beyond the Reach Zone, and all learning and skill development stops, because your brain and body react to protect themselves. The survival zone is where the sympathetic nervous system sends the brain into the fight-or-flight response. Your brain is not concerned with learning for tomorrow as much as it is worried about surviving today. In skiing terms, you lockup, put your weight on your heels, and go straight. This zone is where injuries happen. It’s a very delicate balance, and a balance that’s critical to maintain. 

“A successful individual typically sets his next goal somewhat but not too much above his last achievement. In this way he steadily raises his level of aspiration”. Kurt Lewin

Skiing all out in training could be holding you backSki racing is defined by time and speed. No one has ever won a race just because they were technically perfect. It is one of our sport greats hurdles. Our sport is judged by speed, but too much speed places the brain in the Survival Zone.  A defensive zone where learning shuts down and natural survival instincts take over. It is crucial that practice and training remove speed and time as the main measurement of skill acquisition. Try using different means and measurements to track progress. For example, try angulation—edge hold and clean initiations are harder to do the slower you go. Speed hides flaws in technique. Hermann Maier would train at race speeds less than 30 percent of the time. The rest of the time he spent on trying execute better, not faster. Find the flaw and fix it.

●    Comfort Zone: A sense of ease and effortlessness. You’re working, but not reaching or struggling. Successful Attempts: 80 percent and above.

●    Reach Zone (also known as the Sweet Spot or learning zone): You will often feel frustration or difficulty to execute with alertness to errors. You’re fully engaged in an intense struggle, as if you’re stretching with all your might for a nearly unreachable goal; just missing, then reaching again. Successful Attempts: 50–80 percent. THIS IS WHERE YOU WANT TO BE.

●    Survival Zone: You know when you are in this zone. You have a sense of just holding on. Speed has a lot to do with it. Course conditions, steepness and exhaustion can put you in this zone. A course that has ruts and holes all over the place. Trying to ski a flush on the steep section. Taking one run too many when your legs or focus have left you. This zone is dangerous, and your brain knows it. It stops paying attention to the myelination process, and as a result your survival instincts take over. This zone is where serious injuries tend to occur.