It’s only moments before your team is about to play in the state championship against your toughest opponent yet. You sit there in the locker room knowing that you are going to have to step up big this game. You are starting to feel those butterflies in your stomach, as the nerves begin to creep in. While some athletes may crumble under the pressure, you have learned to embrace it and turn those nerves into an intensity that cannot be stopped.
Great athletes learn to be comfortable being uncomfortable. It is being able to step out of your comfort zone that makes you great. Many think the pro athletes you see playing on TV don’t get nerves playing in front of thousands of fans. The truth is that they are no different than you. They get the same nerves you do. What makes them great is the fact that they are willing to stretch beyond their comfort zone and put everything on the line. They aren’t afraid because they feel uncomfortable; they use the nerves to give them more energy.
Stepping out of your comfort zone is a crucial part of excelling in athletics. If you don’t push yourself out of your comfort zone, you will never see improvement. The only way you get better is by trying new things. Learn to stretch a little, to step into continual progress. One step at a time, keep pushing yourself to achieve more so you are always gaining more ground. But it is critical not to try too much too quickly. Get there fast by going slow. Too many athletes either become complacent or they do the opposite by trying to take too many steps all at once. Build your foundation by adding your blocks one at a time. Before you know it you will be leading the pack with consistent performance. When your foundation is strong there is no limit where you can go.
A few years ago, I got the chance to be poolside with the players at a pre-event for the Pro Bowl in Hawaii. Lorenzo Neal, who played for the San Diego Chargers at the time, had gotten up on stage to sing and asked Peyton Manning to sing with him. Peyton was hesitant at first. Even though he plays in front of millions of fans every week, he was uncomfortable singing in from of his teammates and friends. But because he has a champion personality and had a little encouragement from his wife, he agreed to go up on stage. Even Peyton Manning does things that make him uncomfortable. This is why he his so great. But to be honest here, Payton is a much better quarterback than he is a singer, as he has been stretching himself as a football player for a lot longer. I’d bet that after he retires, if he wanted to become a singer he would be able to; one because of his personality, and two because he keeps stretching himself to a point where he performs well in most everything he sets his mind to. This is the power of being able to stretch beyond your comfort zone and reach new levels of performance.