It’s often said, “growth takes place outside of your comfort zone”. While that is true, the implication is often that outside your comfort zone is the only place growth happens, and that’s not true at all.
Studies indicate that children do better in school when they come from a stable home, grow up primarily in the same community (as opposed to moving around), have an extended family network, live in a community with a low crime rate, etc. In other words, they flourish where they feel comfortable or safe, e.g. their comfort zones. People who work for companies that are stable and well managed with decent compensation that show appreciation to their employees and offer opportunity for advancement are generally happy and productive at work. Why? In part, because they are working from their comfort zone. Do children and adults also experience growth when the step out of their comfort zones? I think the answer certainly is yes, but in order to step out of their comfort zones, they must have a comfort zone to begin with.
I am proposing that jiu jitsu is probably not unlike other areas in life and that we benefit from having a comfort zone and operating a good deal of the time from there. Finding a home gym where you are comfortable and cultivating a good relationship with your teammates, then developing your “A” game, are a few crucial components to creating your comfort zone. A comfort zone in jiu jitsu would be one where you feel comfortable trying new things and failing. In your comfort zone you can expose your weaknesses and work on solving problems.
Even when you challenge yourself to step outside your comfort zone you can do it from within your comfort zone or take your comfort zone with you. Whoa…. Let me try to make sense of that. If you’ve been doing jiu jitsu for a while and have decided, it’s time to step outside your comfort zone and enter a competition you could just sign up for the next competition whether anyone from your team was going or not. It would make more sense though, to sign up for a competition that your school was going to as a team. You would be exposing your self to the rigors of competition intensity training while training with your teammates, you would be going through the weigh in process and finding your brackets and the correct mat with your teammates, you would have your coach or another teammate in your corner, you would have your team with you to support you if you lose and celebrate with you if you win, etc. etc. If you’re going to re-invent your game and try some things that are completely new, wouldn’t it be easier to do that with your favorite teammates in an environment where there was no pressure to be “winning” rounds?
In closing, I wouldn’t suggest that you take the one or the other approach, but that you would seek a healthy balance of both. Cultivate a great training environment that would be your comfort zone and then stretch the limits as needed and as appropriate.
Train hard. Train smart. Get better.