Want to save your life? Then get out of your comfort zone

learning zone model

The learning zone model is widely applied across many disciplines, but holds particularly true when it comes to shooting and self-defense techniques.

Imagine three concentric circles.  The inside circle is labeled comfort zone, the next is the learning zone and the largest outer circle is the panic zone.  Most of us stay in our comfort zone because leaving there sends us towards our panic zone.  But we need to occasionally stretch ourselves and go into the learning zone, right between the comfort zone and the panic zone.  If not, we’ll never really become better shooters, better tacticians, or better…whatever.

For the adventurous types, getting out of the comfort zone may come a little easier, but still, as human beings, we’re invariably creatures of habit.  We like the same old thing we’ve been doing–the routine–because it makes sense.  We hear the same type of drills and shooting methods rangemasters have been teaching since World War II, and we take comfort in their proven history.  Well, the truth is things have improved a lot in defense training since then, folks, and a lot to learn.

Another reason for our reluctance to leave our comfort zones is simply ego.

A lot of people don’t want to try something new because they are afraid of looking dumb or feeling stupid. Learning new things may make us feel embarrassed and inadequate.  Trying new things can be very awkward.  But ultimately, those who allow these insecurities to guide their training do themselves a grave disservice.

Yes, we can be unsure or skeptical of things outside our traditions and habits, but there also has to be an ability and eager willingness to learn and stretch ourselves out of our comfort zones. Embarrassment is a risk factor we need to occasionally take if we’re serious about developing.

Along these lines, another reasons we may avoid trying new techniques is because we’re afraid of failure, even if only subconsciously.  Failure keeps us in our comfort zones, but in actuality, we learn by making mistakes and then correcting them. This is basically a law of nature.

When it comes to firearms training, we can’t improve much without feedback, no matter how many rounds we put downrange, which entails addressing our mistakes.  In the same vein, we cannot become better shooters if we practice incorrectly all the time.  We need positive practice and concentrated, helpful shooting sessions.

We need instructors who won’t belittle us, but who encourage us and make us want to learn more.

Unfortunately, there’s an abundance of people who are willing to give us affirmative praise when we’re not actually performing correctly or to the best of our ability.  Because you can find firearms “instructors” every few square miles in Anytown USA, the feedback may not be worth much.

Added to that we too often inaccurately believe we’re doing well.  Why is that?  Well, we don’t want a negative self-image.  We need positive self-esteem.  But, if we’re truly eager to learn, then we’ll ask for honest feedback.  We’ll seek out the best trainers and professionals, dedicated to seeing our development as shooters improve, and learn from them.

I recently wrote about the Gunsite Training Academy, questioning if they were behind the times and a little behind the learning curve.  The CEO actually wrote about why they weren’t after he read my piece.  Regardless of our disagreements over specific techniques, I’m sure there are good training principles that can be learned there and that they produce great shooters.  Like my friend and fellow firearms instructor Matt Graham says, principles never change but techniques do.

Anyway, my point in mentioning Gunsite is to invoke its founder, the late Jeff Cooper.  He once said, “Owning a handgun doesn’t make you armed any more than owning a guitar makes you a musician.”

Far too often, people don’t invest in themselves.  Buy a gun, buy ammo, but then invest the same amount you spent on that gun to actually learn how to handle and operate it well.  Get good training.  Learn.  Stretch yourselves.  Get out of your comfort zone and into your learning zone.  Doing so may actually save your life one day.

The views and opinions expressed in this post are those of the authors and do not necessarily reflect the position of Guns.com.

Safety warning: Jeffrey Denning is a long time professional in the art of self-defense and any training methods or information he describes in his articles are intended to be put into practice only by serious shooters with proper training.  Please read, but do not attempt anything posted here without first seeking out proper training.