We’ve all set goals throughout our lives. Some were easily achieved, while others we just gave up on. This is because most plans are either set within our comfort zone or in a discomfort zone. While our initial motivation for change generally puts us on a path to setting lofty goals, it can lead us to failure. Finding a balance between these two zones is critical in increasing productivity and avoiding stagnation. The “SKILLZ zone” is the optimal place to do this. By teaching children this early on, we ensure that they have the necessary tools for consistent future successes.
We’re all very familiar with the comfort zone. This is where we feel secure in knowing that we have the skills to help us maintain the status quo. Many people spend a lot of time in this zone because it doesn’t require much change. This is also the place that we retreat to when we feel panicked or overwhelmed. And although feeling safe is essential, the comfort zone doesn’t give us space to grow, so we become indifferent to expanding ourselves. This essentially blocks us from learning any new skills that could be beneficial to our growth.
On the opposite side of the comfort zone is the discomfort zone. This is where we feel completely overwhelmed and out of control, so surviving it takes all our attention and effort. This often happens to those who set goals so far from their current abilities that they become overwhelmed and panicked. Because we are “wired to survive,” these uncomfortable feelings cause us to retreat to our comfort zone, and any possibility for new skill achievement comes to an abrupt halt. We are then become apathetic to anything challenging.
The key to breaking free from this cycle is to set goals that are challenging yet attainable and allow us to develop new skills and enter the “SKILLZ zone.” This is the zone where dreams are not so far off that we are too scared to try but are also not close enough to be too easily achievable. In other words, when new skills are just out of our reach, we are in the sweet spot for learning. For children to settle into the “SKILLZ zone,” they must feel the environment is safe and supportive.
In the Gentle East Early SKILLZ program, this zone is the foundation of the program’s design. Since each class is age-specific, the starting point and goals are based on appropriate physical, intellectual, emotional, and social development for that age group. This, when coupled with the game-based approach to learning, creates an environment that is fun yet challenging. Also, the Instructors who run each class utilize their knowledge of science and psychology and Teaching SKILLZ to create an environment that makes each student feel safe. All this combined makes the achievement system of earning stripes and belts an enjoyable process and gives each student more confidence to set the next goal.
Learning new skills and abilities should be enjoyable. Getting there should come through engaging activities where we feel safe enough to try something beyond our current limitations while also not overboard. Consistent progress towards achieving small goals engages a child’s curiosity and discovering what else they can achieve. By doing this, we help them make challenging themselves a habit, which will give them the power to achieve anything they want in life.