Progress and growth are two of the most fulfilling things in life. There’s nothing quite as satisfying as looking back and realizing you’re doing something better, faster, or more efficiently than you were weeks or months ago.
However, life isn’t always rainbows and butterflies. There will be days when you look down at the scale day after day after giving an honest effort and see the same number you’ve seen for weeks. No matter how high a stock price increases, it always stops, levels, and maybe even decreases after a certain amount of time. This period of time when things don’t seem to be improving or getting worse can be a dangerous place if not used correctly. It’s a place I like to call the neutral zone.
The neutral zone is a time when you feel like nothing is really happening in life. It usually takes place right after a big accomplishment or a bigger disappointment. It’s the time in life when everything starts to level out. The neutral zone is a great place for reflection and goal-setting, but can quickly become a progress killer. Why? Because the neutral zone is comfortable. The neutral zone is safe. Stay too long in the neutral zone and you won’t know how to get out.
Darren Hardy wrote a book titled “The Compound Effect.” The compound effect teaches that doing small things consistently turns into huge changes down the road. He gives the example of three friends. The first does small positive things consistently, (holds back on a bowl of cereal in the morning, exercises for 20 minutes a day, etc.). The second does small negative things consistently (eats an extra bowl of cereal, watches tv for 20 minutes, etc.). The third doesn’t do either of those things. Darren compares the three years down the road and there are significant differences between the first and second friends, but not much different with the third.
The third is in the neutral zone.
You may think, “Well the third friend is in a better position than the second friend that did the negative things,” but I disagree. The second friend is making choices that are affecting him negatively, but at some point he can compare himself with the first friend and realize he needs to change. There’s a visible difference and if he cares enough, can set a goal to get back. The danger of the third friend is complacency. There isn’t a difference and therefore he’s safe to continue in his mediocrity.
Now the neutral zone is okay for some, but if you want to accomplish big things and see success you should only use the neutral zone as a place to plan your next goal and plan of action.
If you find yourself stuck in the neutral zone, here’s a few things you can do to start pulling yourself out:
- Pick one thing you won’t allow yourself to be mediocre in. It can be anything: making your bed, holding the door for others, working in excel sheets, anything. Track your progress in that one aspect. If you choose to excel in holding the door for others, then you better be the best damn door holder you know. Seeing progress in that aspect will engage the power of momentum and help you move onto the next thing.
- Spend time with someone you haven’t spent time with. It’s said that your lifestyle is a combination of the five people you spend the most time with. If you’re in the neutral zone, you may need to find someone to influence you out of the neutral zone. If you’re not in a position to meet someone, read about someone.
- Analyze your life, determine where most of your time is spent, and replace some of that time doing anything else. Even if you cut 20 minutes out of your Netflix time to stretch or do Yoga (there’s some killer Yoga Youtube videos out there) you’re switching up your neutral zone routine and opening yourself up to change.
The neutral zone can provide a lot of opportunities when it’s used right. Good things come to those that are ready for them so use the neutral zone to prepare yourself for those opportunities.