This past weekend I was down at REI buying a new watch; one that would track my heart rate, my calorie count and all these other fitness-oriented things, in addition to telling me what time it is. My fitness trainer told me I needed this watch, to go with my new fitness routine and my commitment to shake up my workout and my eating program.

You see, I have officially hit middle age (if you are under 50 you may call me old, but in my mind this is middle age) and with middle age I have found both my metabolism and my energy level have slowed down. A disappointing trip to the doctor left me with the news that according to medical science, “slowing down” is just a part of life and something I was going to have to accept. Well, that idea may be okay for some people, but not for me. The idea of putting on five pounds every year and needing to sleep an extra hour or two every night is just not my idea of how to age gracefully.

Looking for answers and certain I could find a solution, I headed to the internet, the personal trainer, and every fitness magazine I could get my hands on. What I learned was that my body was slowing down partly because of age, but more so as a result of my exercise and eating habits having hit a plateau. That plateau is what is often referred to in the fitness world as working out consistently and regularly in Zone 3.  The “dreaded Zone 3,” as the sales representative at REI referred to it. You see, the body has exercise zones, and to avoid boring you with the details, suffice it to say that even if you work out everyday and eat healthy, if you are not “shocking” your body now and then (e.g. you do different exercises, at different intensity levels, and vary your diet) you will get stuck in the dreaded Zone 3.  Your body will know what to expect, how to react, and will actually start to burn less calories, which can result in weight gain and loss of energy: less results for the same investment of time in a workout. Bummer, huh?

All of this got me thinking, as I made small and very minor changes to my diet and exercise routine, pushing myself to work in Zone 4. I watched as the the weight literally fell off and my energy level increased (I honestly am in the best shape of my life) and I wondered: If this works for my exercise routine, could it work for my business?

I started to think about Zone 3 and the other parts of our lives. I mean, in order to grow and expand our minds, we have to stretch them, do new things, give ourselves new challenges. So why would this not be true of our businesses?

Think about this economy. Think about your customers, and think about your competition. How much have all of those things changed? How much are they continuing to change? Now look at what you are doing to operate your business, attract new customers, provide great service, and retain your client base. Is any of it different, new or causing a shake up or shock to your routine? If the answer is no, then you are probably stuck in Zone 3; the dreaded Zone 3.

Growing your business is much like shrinking your waistline. The older we get/the longer we have been in business, the more we have to be open to trying new things, taking risks and pushing our business to work in Zone 4.  Pushing ourselves into Zone 4 may get our heart rate up. It may take us out of our comfort zone, but the return on investment will be a shock to our routine, and just the shock we need to take our business to a whole new level.

3 Ideas to Bust Out Of Zone 3

1. Helicopter View – Get your leadership team together. Do it now and set aside a half-day or a couple of hours to brainstorm. Take a look at your business from a helicopter view. Take this time to stop working in your business and start working on it. Talk about what is going on with your company, your customers, and your team. Have an honest, deep discussion about what you are doing that is producing results, and more importantly, what is not. Question why you are still doing what is not, and brainstorm on how to change. Leave this session with 3 new actions and execute them.

2. Customer View – Twice a year, at least, walk through your company as a customer. This is critical, especially if you are in leadership. What is it like to be your customer? What is easy about working with you? What is not, and what needs to change? How could you move your team from providing service to providing an experience?

3. Outsider View – Get a coach, a mentor, or a mastermind group. It does not matter, just find someone, some group; any skilled, professional outsider who can push you to look at your business objectively, hold you accountable,  and support you in your efforts to question your routine and try new strategies and initiatives. The most successful people understand they cannot do this alone.

Yes, Zone 4 is hard work and it takes effort, but when it comes to growing our businesses, getting our bodies in shape, or expanding our minds, Zone 4 is where there is the best return on investment!