The big idea behind building your brand, reaching your potential, and presenting the best version of yourself?
In my last post, I shared how a simple behavioral experiment with children and marshmallows revealed the single most important trait in creating lifetime success. In similar fashion, a marine biologist’s research using a barracuda and bait fish revealed a perfect metaphor for living life to the fullest.
Years ago,while listening to one of his early podcasts, New York Times best selling author Michael Hyatt shared a simple phrase that resonated with me:
“Life begins at the edge of your comfort zone.”
When I think about the times when I’ve disappointed myself by under-performing, falling flat, or simply settling for less than what I am capable of producing, this quote reminds me that the greatest obstacle to presenting the best version of ourselves has a lot more to do with internals than externals. Let me explain.
The Barracuda Experiment
After placing a barracuda in a large tank, the biologist released bait fish into the same tank. As you would expect, the barracuda attacked and ate the smaller fish. Then the researcher inserted a panel of glass into the tank, creating two separate chambers. He put the barracuda into one and the bait fish into the other. Again, the barracuda immediately attacked. This time, however, he hit the glass and bounced off. Undaunted, the barracuda kept repeating this behavior multiple times. Meanwhile, the bait fish swam unharmed in the second chamber.
After numerous attempts, the barracuda stopped attacking.
The biologist repeated this experiment several times over the next few days. Each time, the barracuda got less aggressive, until eventually he got tired of hitting the glass and simply gave up. Then the researcher removed the glass. The barracuda, now conditioned to believe it was impossible to get to the bait fish, never moved. The bait fish swam freely around the tank unharmed.
The point of the experiment? Too often, we act like the barracuda. The barrier isn’t “out there.” It’s in our heads, in the self-limiting beliefs — the false assumptions — we hang onto.
Throughout history, there have been numerous barriers that, once broken, turned out to be mere mental obstacles. For example, in the first half of the 20th century, many medical experts believed that running a mile in under four minutes was physiologically impossible, asserting that the cardiovascular system was incapable of processing the oxygen necessary to maintain such a fast pace, even in highly trained athletes. Then, rather ironically, in 1954, a medical resident named Roger Bannister ran it in 3:59.4. Within months, other runners throughout the world broke this seemingly impenetrable barrier.
As author Todd Henry says, “If assumptions weren’t challenged, innovation would cease. We wouldn’t have jazz, the personal computer, or the entire field of quantum mechanics.”
What about you?
The reason why many of us get stuck is because we set our goals and aspirations inside our mental barriers, where it’s safe. That’s why it’s called “the comfort zone.”
But if you want to get unstuck and start getting traction again, you have to set your goals on the other side of the barrier. You don’t have to get crazy, but you do have to stretch yourself and push past the invisible barrier in your head.
This is the secret to achieving break-through results!
Question: What unfulfilled dream or goal do you have that is on the other side of the barrier? What would it mean to you — and to the quality of your life — if you could expand your comfort zone and go after that dream or goal? What is one step you could take today to start?