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I was at my Crossfit gym the other day, and the workout involved heavy kettle-bell swings. 70 pounds for men and 53 pounds for women. I tried to do the prescribed weight, but it was a struggle. I had trouble keeping up. After the workout, my back was sore for a week. The reality was that 53 pounds was probably a better weight for me.

My friend Jeff chose the 53-pound kettle-bell for his workout, and he did just fine. Now Jeff is in his late-50s and still crushes his Crossfit workouts like a champion. One of his mantras is: “It’s all about choosing the right weight.”

Choosing the Right Weight

What he means is this: In your workout, it’s best to choose the weight that will give you the best workout possible. If you choose too light a weight, your muscles aren’t challenged, and you don’t give them the opportunity to grow. But if you choose too heavy a weight, you can’t perform the workout as it was designed to be completed. And you might get hurt. The right weight is somewhere in the middle—challenging enough, but not too much.

Zone of Proximal Development

This principle applies to anything you want to improve in your life. You want to be in what psychologist Lev Vygotsky called the “Zone of Proximal Development.” You want to push and challenge yourself—otherwise you won’t grow at all. Staying in your comfort zone won’t result in growth and change.

On the other hand, you don’t want to push yourself to the extreme, or you will likely fail, get discouraged, and quit. The sweet spot is in the middle—something that is challenging and just out of reach, but something you can succeed at if you apply consistent effort and practice.

Discussion

What is something you are trying to improve in your life? What is a challenging step you could take—one that is not too easy but not too difficult?

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