Day 14: 4 Practical Tips for Overcoming Fear
Photo Credit: Leland Francisco via Compfight
In this 30-days to Mastering Your Fears Series, The Skool of Life and The Fear Project are collaborating to blow the doors off our most primal emotion. Today my substitute teacher is Julie Gohring
The other day I went to one of my most favorite beaches in Costa Rica, Playa Avellanas. It was a text book perfect day for surfing. The conditions were perfect – sunny clear blue skies, off-shore winds, and 6-8 feet waves. Even the potholes on the dirt road to get there had been filled in for a much smoother ride. Everything was going just right; I was beaming from ear to ear.
I grabbed my board and booked as fast as I could to the ocean shore. I eagerly paddled out past the break in anticipation of catching my first wave of the day. I got in position and watched for the next set. As the first wave came in, I decided I rather wait for the second wave in the set. When the next wave rolled in I started paddling hoping I could match the speed of the wave and be lifted up. This is the exact moment when you must commit to the wave. It is the split second before you stand up and take the drop into the face of the wave.
As I felt the wave lift me, I hesitated. Uuuuggghhhh!!! I missed it.
I paddled for the next wave, waiting for the lifting feeling to prompt me to stand up. And when it came, again I froze. I didn’t pop up. Something was holding me back.
I just couldn’t commit.
Later that day I started to think about my frustrating experience in the water and what it takes to fully commit to something – a wave, project, or person. I quickly realized underneath that lack of commitment is that pesky, sneaky, pervasive enemy of mine.
FEAR. Just sitting there, doing what it always does, hiding deep within most every thought holding me back. And reminding me of my fear of wiping out. My fear of getting smacked by the lip of the wave. My fear of the board hitting me, etc.
And just when I started to feel like a loser for letting my fears get the best of me, I remembered Jaimal Yogis new book, The Fear Project which I recently read and experienced some relief. The Fear Project reminds us that we are biologically wired to be fearful as an ancient evolutionary survival mechanism. And our brains are constantly searching to identify situations that could cause us distress.
Alas, I’m not a wimp, I thought. I don’t have to feel bad about the fact that I don’t naturally have the GUTS to hurl myself down this steep slope of speedily cresting saltwater. It is natural to feel this way. Yippee!
While my surfing fear pales in comparison to what Jaimal faces surfing the gargantuan Mount Everest of all surfing spots, Mavericks, (which he writes about in The Fear Project) his story about how he approached conquering his fear is noteworthy and insightful. But more importantly, replicable. Something we can all learn from and apply to our own personal situations.
You’ll have to read The Fear Project (which I fully recommend) to get all the juicy details of Jaimal’s story, but here are my top 4 takeaways to overcoming FEAR.
Make a list of all the things that could happen that are scary, and then think through and practice what you would do. For example in surfing you could get caught on the inside and sucked down in the water for some time so it is important to remember not to panic and train yourself to hold your breath. You can practice this voluntarily so when you are in a situation like that unexpectedly you will be prepared. You could also apply this type of preparation to any other type of activity that fear is holding you back from.
You can retrain your brain to think differently about an experience that you perceive negatively by experiencing or practicing it over and over but in a way your mind associates positively. For example I get nervous during the takeoff on waves, especially big ones mostly because of my fear of wiping out and the board or fins hitting me somewhere, like my face. By practicing on smaller waves where I feel more confident and actively associating those positive feelings of peace, joy, and enjoyment when I take off I can slowly over time retrain my mind to build positive associations with take-offs and utilize this when taking off on bigger waves.
Studies show that training mentally can be almost as effective as training physically for something. This is why elite athletes like professional sports players and Olympians include this in their training. Spending time each and every day visualizing with detail the exact situation you are preparing for and how you will perform is powerful. Once you can do it in your mind you can do it in real life. Once you see it in your mind, it becomes easier to do in reality. For example before I go to bed I watch a short surf video on YouTube and then close my eyes and try to imagine myself in that video as I fall asleep.
You must be aware of your fear, your anxiousness. Just your acknowledgement that is there is half the battle. Don’t fight it go with it. Let it transform you in a positive way so you can utilize it to your advantage. Your fear can give you a heightened awareness to your situation that will help you perform better. For example when I am in the water and I notice I am anxious, I immediately tune into it and allow it to sharpen my awareness of what’s around me and refocus my energy on the task at hand.
Try ‘em out. See if they work. I know they have helped me.
Or better yet, discover all Jaimal’s pearls of wisdom for yourself by reading The Fear Project.
Julie is a blogger and surf junkie that lives in Tamarindo. You can check her out on the blog Life after the Box. If you want to say hola you can drop her a message at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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