Geoff Miller

Comfort Zones, Confidence, Keep it Simple: Mental Skills Manual Part III

In Tips for Improving Performance on November 17, 2009 at 10:01 pm

The Mental Skills Manual is meant to teach players how to answer the following:

  1. Know who you are
  2. Know what you want
  3. Know what to do when you don’t get what you want
  4. Know what to do in the meantime before you’ve mastered these concepts.

Part III is a continuation of developing self-knowledge.  In order to “know who you are”, you must be able to understand your comfort zones and keep it simple.

Click Here for Part I of the Manual, which offers an Introduction.

Click Here for Part II of the Manual, which begins the unit on self-knowledge.

Know Your Comfort Zone

Your comfort zone is simply defined as that place in your head where the game slows to the right pace, you feel relaxed, confident, and adaptable.  It’s the psychological feeling that you have when you are in control of your thoughts, emotions, and actions.  Some people have a wide comfort zone and others feel uncomfortable unless they have everything they need working for them.

These two figures show how comfort zones can give us information on how to manage intensity and develop confidence.

Figure 5: Intensity Comfort Zone

In this figure, you can see that performance is best with just the right amount of intensity.  If you are tired, bored, or don’t care about what you are doing, you won’t have enough energy to compete.  And if you have too much intensity, your strengths turn into weaknesses and you get inflexible.  This inflexibility comes from recognizing that you are outside your comfort zone.  If you can’t be comfortable because you’re too amped up, at least you can make yourself comfortable by behaving in your tried and true ways.  The control freak has to be the one driving when he is stressed out or late.  The introvert wants to be left alone when he feels pressure.  And the extrovert wants someone to talk to in that same pressure situation.

You’ll see these characteristics get magnified when intensity goes up.  And you’ll notice that those same people who were flexible under normal conditions “need” to have their environments right in order to deal with added intensity.  It’s important to know where that threshold is on the high side so you don’t turn your strengths into weaknesses and on the low side so you can stay alert and energized throughout the daily grind of the baseball season.

Figure 6:  Building Confidence by Expanding Your Comfort Zone

Imagine that you are riding a bike downhill along the slope of the line in Figure 6.  At the beginning of your ride, you’re feeling comfortable and confident, just breezing along.  By the middle of the graph, you start to pick up some speed and you’re recognizing that you’re not quite sure how you’re going to stop yourself at the bottom.  And then you reach the really steep part of the hill, go even faster, and start careening out of control.

This example demonstrates an important difference in comfort zones that can be used to build confidence.  Most people mistake the feeling of discomfort with the true recognition that they are in physical danger.  We all have felt that sinking feeling in the pit of our stomachs when we are outside our comfort zones and it can feel like we are actually in harm’s way.  But the truth is that most of the time, our bodies are reacting to a stressful situation that isn’t dangerous.  Recognizing the difference between discomfort and danger is the trick to learning from experience.  The biggest benefit of experience is that we’ve been there before, and we know the situation that we’re facing.  As you gain experience, you get more comfortable with what you’re doing and your confidence increases.

Keep it Simple

This final section on the topic of Knowledge is a reminder to keep it simple.  The discussion of knowledge immediately gets people thinking about becoming smarter, which it should.  But getting smarter doesn’t necessarily mean being more analytical, especially when translating this knowledge on to the field.  There is a danger in overloading yourself with too much information or engaging in too much thinking when you set a goal to increase learning.

Remember, our ultimate goal is to KNOW what to do WITHOUT thinking about it.  So keeping it simple reminds us that we are still playing the same game we all have known since we were young.  We are just adding more of what we know to that equation so more and more of the game becomes automatic.

One simple note on why it is important to keep it simple:

Player Drafted from: Learning Style Too Much Info Keep it Simple
A. Plus Ivy League NCAA Analytical Overcomplicates Back to Basics
F. Minus Rural High School Slow Overwhelms Comfort Zone

The chart above shows that keeping it simple is the best strategy for slow learners and analytical brains.

  • For the slow learner, more than simple bits of information will be overwhelming.  Keeping it simple keeps this player in his comfort zone.
  • For the bright mind, more information leads to complication.  In a pressure situation on the field, thinking should be minimized.  Reminding the analytical type to keep it simple helps him get back to basics.

To be continued…Part IV will begin discussion of the next section, which addresses how to “know what you want.”

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Geoff Miller’s book, Intangibles: Big-League Stories and Strategies for Winning the Mental Game — in Baseball and in Life, was released in August, 2012. For more information and free sample chapters, please visit:

For more information, please contact Geoff Miller at


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