Getting Better Means Seeming Worse
Imagine two burgeoning snow skiers with comparable abilities. The difference between them is that the first takes a lot of risks and really pushes himself where the second mainly plays it safe and stays within his comfort zone. To most observers on the mountain, it will probably seem like the second skier is better. But appearances can be deceptive. Who do you think will be a better skier come the start of next ski season?
I don’t care what the discipline is, if you want to improve at it as quickly as possible it means utilizing the zone of proximal development, and this means making a lot of mistakes that will make you seem worse than you are. You’ve got to find your edge, that point where you can still accomplish what you set out to do, but not without difficulty, and not without coming up short sometimes too.
When we stay within our comfort zones we don’t have to risk failure in the short term but we pretty much guarantee never coming close to the level of mastery we are capable of achieving. The thing to keep in mind is that as long as you are being safe with your body, your psyche will rebound just fine. It’s the fear of looking or feeling incompetent that holds you back, but once you go for it you will find that you don’t feel incompetent at all, but like someone who is working hard to get better.
If you are trying to increase your skills you have to pass through the fire, just like everyone else. Staying in your comfort zone might protect your ego but the decision bears a hefty price tag. You arrest your development and keep yourself from experiencing the joy of knowing that you are on the path of mastery. Who cares how observers view your performance? You will know that your mistakes are a sign of getting better even if these mistakes make you seem worse. In no time at all what is difficult for you now will become just as easy as what is easy for you now, and you’ll move along the continuum towards a point where those same observers who noticed your mistakes will look on with awe at feats they are not capable of approaching.