Have you experienced pain? I’m not talking about a stubbed toe or a splinter in your finger… I’m talking about serious, put-your-existence-on-hold, pain. In my years of working in healthcare I’ve seen a lot of pain. From chronic aches and pains to acute injuries that redefine a person’s very existence.
Pain can be a horrible thief. Perhaps the only virtue that it brings with it is this… It prompts us to take action. Pain propels us into a highly motivated state to make something happen. A state where we must find answers and we must make changes. If there is any possible way, we will do whatever is within our power to get out of that imprisoned state. Pain… Discomfort… Discontentment… Unless you’ve given up these things are really hard to ignore.
When I work with patients in my clinic and discuss pain with them I often tell them about what I call “The 3 Zones”. The 3 zones are the red zone, the yellow zone and the green zone. As you can see, I was feeling quite creative when I decided to name them.
Red zone simply means that something is out of control and it is interfering with your life. When somebody is looking to fix or change something, chances are, it’s because they are in red zone. After achieving progress with the problem we end up in yellow zone. Yellow zone means that the problem has decreased significantly. It is still present but it is no longer raging out of control. Green zone means that the problem has been resolved. Congratulations! You have reached the finish line! Now go and live your life to the fullest.
Each zone describes the extent to which a problem is affecting your life. Consequently, each zone also correlates to how motivated we are in order to make it better. As long as we are in red zone, for example, we are determined and committed to do whatever it takes to make things better. Then something happens…
We stay the course… Then we make a little more progress… We continue doing what has brought us this far… Then we make a little more progress. Before you know if we are out of desperation and firmly planted in the yellow zone. For the first time in forever, things are better… Stable.
Do you want to know what happens next? We start to get comfortable. We’re not so bad off anymore… Certainly a lot better off than we were. Human tendency starts to kick in and we start to neglect the things that have brought us this far in the first place. We start to get lazy with our program. We start to accept this new-and-improved status as the destination rather than simply a point along the way.
We’ve all seen this many times. Disabling pain becomes an moderate pain and so the treatment plan is put on hold. A nutrition plan starts to give the results we are looking for so we start to cheat. A fitness program starts to cause improvements so we celebrate by taking a week off… Sound familiar?
These examples relate to physical outcomes but do you think there is any difference in this human tendency when we’re dealing with the mental world of our mindset? The pull in this arena can be just as strong to become neglectful with the very things that brought our progress in the first place. Once the fire that prompted our action has calmed so can our motivation to press on. We can become comfortable.
Here’s the truth, though… The greatest victories in life are found beyond the fields of mediocrity. This is why we must persist. Our motivation while in red zone is provided for us in the form of whatever it is that we are trying to escape. By the time we are in yellow zone, though, we must find our own drive by constantly reminding ourselves of the outcome that we set for ourselves in the first place. The yellow zone of intermediate success can swallow dreams by trying to seduce you with comfort and ease… “Settle in and stay a while”, it says… “You’re so much better off already.” And it’s tempting… And it’s easy… And it’s a journey left incomplete.
As you are on this journey to become the greatest version of yourself please remember this of the yellow zone… No matter how good the yellow zone feels when it is compared to the red zone, well, the green zone is beyond your wildest dreams. Red and yellow just aren’t good enough anymore. I’ll see you in the green zone.