One evening during the week, I left the office feeling very tired. I had spent the whole day training a new employee on some of the tasks that she would be undertaking on another project that the company I work for had just won.
On the bus ride home, I wrestled with the idea of going straight to bed or going for my daily evening power walk. The power walks had been going great and I was happy about the progress. There was not a significant change in the way that I looked but I definitely felt different.
I dragged myself up the stairs, into my house and slumped onto my bed. As I lay there, guilt started to creep in. I could clearly recall the words from Atomic Habits, “Successful people feel the same lack of motivation as everyone else, the only difference is that they still find a way to show up despite the boredom.”
Light Bulb Moments…
It was this comment that somewhat motivated me to get out of bed, get into my walking shoes and walk out the door. I planned not to do too much and just make things easy and enjoyable. I decided to take the most scenic route and walk leisurely. I was hoping that somewhere along this route I would find myself power walking somehow.
This route that I took passed right next to a stream. It was beautiful at sunset and as an avid photographer I liked to take images at this spot when I saw something photograph worthy.
On that day however, I was unable to take any photographs. This was not because there was nothing to photograph but because I powered through my power walk making the greatest number of steps that I had ever done since I started power walking.
It was after this walk that an idea hit me. People need to get out of the house and power walk more. It puts you in the zone!!
Let’s Start at The Beginning…
I know all of this makes no sense. So, let me start from the beginning. I had spent about 30 minutes on the morning of this day going through a productivity class. In this class the teacher talked about something called the flow state.
The flow state is an optimal state of consciousness where we feel our best and we perform our best. James Clear, author of Atomic Habits defines the flow state in a way that I really like. He says “The flow state is the experience of being in ‘the zone” and fully immersed in an activity”. I seem to have experienced that state while on this walk.
James talks about ‘the zone”. What is the “the zone”? The zone is a state of complete focus. It’s a state where you are immersed in activity as Clear puts it and there is almost no getting you out.
Photographer’s reading this know that when you are retouching small details on the face of a portrait, you can spend up to three hours trying to match skin tone while dodging and burning. That type of focus is being in the zone.
Let’s go back to my class. The teacher mentioned something that caught my attention which connected all these things I had picked from Atomic Habits. He mentioned that there were three “zones”. One, the Comfort zone, two, the Stretch zone and three, the Panic Zone.
The Comfort zone is the state where the activities we engage in are easy and we get bored quickly. This is like sleeping, binge watching and mindlessly being on social media.
The Stretch zone is the state where we are engaged in an activity that is challenging but is not beyond our abilities. For me these are activities like power walking because I feel running is uncomfortable. (I will get there though).
Finally, the Panic Zone. This is a state or activity that is far beyond our abilities. My panic zone activities are sprinting, power lifting and figure drawing.
The Stretch Zone…
The Stretch zone ideally is where we want to be. This is because the way to maintain motivation and peak levels of desire is to work on tasks of just manageable difficulty.
Let’s imagine if I was to compete with a 4-year-old in a race. This challenge would be too easy and I would easily get bored. What if I was to compete against Usain Bolt? This challenge would be too difficult and I would lose my motivation.
But what if I was to compete against an equal? I would stand to lose some races but I stand a chance to win some as well but only if I really try. This is the Stretch zone. This is where your mind needs to be to stick with something that you are working on.
I know…power walking is not the most profound or desirable activity. But, just hear me out. My struggle with exhaustion and slumping into bed was my comfort zone, taking a power walk was a challenge that was easy to take up but not too difficult to do, this was my stretch zone. Going to a gym and lifting massive weights and getting back home sore was definitely out of the question and this was my panic zone.
We are two months into 2021 and I know that you had set some goals or you had habits that you wanted to start building. There is a high probability that you may not stick with them for the long term. I understand this and it is the reason I wrote this article.
What you need to find is your stretch zone, your prime area of performance. Stick with this and gradually add on challenges to keep you focused and engaged.
I know I will be Power Walking for the remainder of the month but next month I start to stretch out into my panic zone, running.