Build Your Discomfort Zone- by Tom Morris
When I was 11 years old, I played peewee football for the McAdoo Chargers. The first practice was two hours long. I remember it being incredibly tense with drills and intensity, in blazing 95-degree heat. I remember our coach blowing his whistle and saying practice was over, yelling out, “Tony, they’re all yours!!”
Tony was the coach’s son. He was only twenty-something and not that much bigger than us, but his demeanor and agency were much larger. He yelled, “Get on the line! As soon as I blow the whistle, RUN!!” Time counted down as we all sprinted to the other end zone. I felt like my heart was about to explode. Sweat was flooding off my head. I heard Tony yelling, “The harder you work!!” We all responded in labored breath, “The harder you surrender!!” He screamed, “I can’t hear you!” We gasped back, “THE HARDER YOU SURRENDER!!” Then he blew that god forsaken whistle, and that was our command to run again. We got to the opposite goal line, and he would yell again, “The harder you work!!” This time we screamed…“THE HARDER YOU SURRENDER!!” This went on for the next 20 minutes.
We ran conditioning after every practice, always repeating that line. Every single time we ran, I contemplated faking an injury or just collapsing. But for some reason, I pushed through time and time again, not only to finish, but to win each and every sprint. Tony created an environment bad enough to make us all want to quit, but not bad enough that we would. He pushed us harder than we ever thought we could be pushed. Tony is one of the first people who made me push through the discomfort zone.
The Discomfort Zone. It’s the point that furthers a person’s discomfort, but not far enough to make things impossible or hopeless. We grow when we explore our discomfort zone. Every time we do something that is outside of what we consider comfortable, it forces our body and mind to continue to adapt to new situations. The challenge and uneasy feeling is what makes us better. Discomfort transforms us. It helps us maximize who we are as people, what we can gain in life, and the resilience we use to smack adversity in the face.
As a strength and conditioning coach, it is my job to systematically push my athletes to stretch their discomfort zones. Progression is the key for an athlete to be successful Progression must push the limits of what athletes consider possible. The road of progression is what builds discomfort. Now this seems like a no-brainer, but in reality, it is an extremely challenging task for many athletes. It is not easy to push your body past the point of total exhaustion, or past the point of what you thought you were capable of. It is not easy to work on the skills you’re not good at, to do mastery drills that are uncomfortable because they challenge every inch of your body and mind to become elite.
This is the threshold that average athletes cross to become elite. The elite athletes not only push through the physical pain, but also the mental torment of failing at something and knowing that have to repeat it again and again. They have to go back at it and try to master it. Failure is a big part of pushing the discomfort zone. To truly push your discomfort zone, the task at hand has to be so challenging that success is anything but guaranteed. This is the journey that stretches our discomfort zone. It is the effort of the process that will ultimately lead to the expansion of an individual’s discomfort zone.
Tony was one of the first people who took me out of my comfort zone. Success does not depend on your ability to push yourself. Success depends on the pushing others do for you. Surround yourself with coaches, peers, and teammates who will ultimately push you to expand your discomfort zone. Success in sport and life is dependent on how you handle adversity. It’s dependent on being able to push yourself so hard that you may fail. How you react and respond to that failure is a direct reflection on the width of your discomfort zone. Ultimate success involves an environment that ensures growth while improving your mindset, an environment that allow individuals to work on their flaws in an effort to turn them into successes. The personal growth of your discomfort zone is a byproduct of the self-drive, the people you surround yourself with and the environment that you practice in every day. Push yourself every day, surround yourself with people who will challenge you, and live in an environment that will always challenge growth. I thank Tony to this day.
REAL WORLD MOTIVATOR WHO WORKS AS THE DIRECTOR OF ATHLETIC PERFORMANCE AT INDIANA UNIVERSITY, HE SPECIALIZES IN STRENGTH AND CONDITIONING FOR OLYMPIC AND COLLEGIATE ATHLETES. HE IS NOT A “MOTIVATIONAL SPEAKER”. HE IS A MOTIVATOR THAT TAKES TIME AWAY FROM HIS FULL TIME JOB TO SHARE HIS STORY TO SHOW PEOPLE THAT ANYTHING IS POSSIBLE.
INDIANA UNIVERSITY, 2005-PRESENT
ASSISTANT ATHLETIC DIRECTOR OF ATHLETIC PERFORMANCE
LASALLE UNIVERSITY, 2004-2005
DIRECTOR OFATHLETIC PERFORMANCE
PENNSYLVANIA STATE UNIVERSITY, 2000-2003
ASSISTANT STRENGTH COACHCONTACT
(814) 777-1575 TJMORRIS@INDIANA.EDU HTTP://TOMSTEAMCHARITY.ORG/