We are all afraid of something at some point in our lives. From a kid who is afraid of the dark to a parent who is afraid of losing his job/security to provide for his family, to an athlete who may be afraid of not fulfilling its goal or being able to finish strong. Fear is inevitable, and when we learn to accept this as a part of life somehow fear becomes less scary.
When I was growing up I was very afraid of many things and yet I was extremely brave for some other things. I was always up for a fist fight with boys that were bigger and stronger than me (yes, I was that girl who would get in fights with the boys). I was always up to speak in public (I still am!) and I would get to the roof of our house and jump down (please don’t do this, it’s not safe). Yet, I was extremely afraid at the end of the school day that no one would come and get me. I was very afraid of being by myself in the house. I was very afraid of what would happen after I die. In my case, most of my fears were (are) psychological. It took me a good amount of time (and years of therapy) to overcome my fear of abandonment, my fear of being alone and my fear of the after life.
This weekend and this morning I had to see what thinking does to our “bravery” and I had to face fear one more time. The best part is that, as a runner who wants to be better every day, facing fear is pretty much what I do on a daily basis. I am always afraid before a hard workout that I won’t be able to hit the pace, I am afraid the days before a big race. I am afraid every time I see other people doing well. Don’t get me wrong, I am happy for them but still afraid I will never be as good as I want to be. But, again, being afraid is fine as long as you don’t let fear control you and become bigger than your desires and that your actions.
(Note, you can keep reading the couple of paragraphs below if you want to know what happened on Sunday with our family and fear or you can skip the paragraphs and go straight to the strategies to overcome/face your fears)
On Sunday Kevin, Kori and I went to Rappel Arizona. I had planned this as Kevin’s birthday surprise back in February. We arrived there not really knowing what to expect. Then we saw the obstacle course and, to be quite honest, it looked a little lame from the ground. Kori immediately said “This is like that place I went in Singapore!”. A year and a half ago we were n Singapore for Swimming World Jr Championships and we took Kori to a really cool obstacle course/zip line in the jungle. She told us here “I got this down” and I told her it looked a little bit higher than the one in Singapore. Long story short we put our helmets, gloves and harnesses and off we went.
When we started climbing Kori told me “it’s higher than I thought” and after the first obstacle she had that face I have seen before in her. The face I saw the first time she had to swim the 500 free (longest event she has done) or the 200IM (hardest event she has done). The face she had when she had to do something she was afraid of. I asked her what she was thinking and her answer was “I am thinking this is really high and I am telling myself there’s nothing to be afraid of but I am thinking this is scary” I reassured her if she would fall the harness would protect her (that’s my nice mommy side) then I turned into the hard mommy I am and told her “thinking only causes problems. Do things and be present, Enjoy the moment and be present without thinking what could happen or what you still need to do”.
I love when I give advice (good advice) to people and then I don’t follow it! I’ll tell you why but before I will conclude our climbing story. Kori not only took my advice but finished the whole obstacle course, then went on the airline several times (upside down, backwards…) and before we went rappelling (which she did quite well) we went up to this post to take a “leap of faith”. I have talked so many times about taking a leap of faith into the unknown and living behind what is holding you or not allowing you to know. Granted it is always easier to stay where we are because, well, we know it, than taking a leap into something that we don’t know but could be way better… but, in this case, you literally had to take a leap of faith hoping the harness will stop you before you hit the ground.
There were two posts. One with a platform where you stand and the other one with no platform where not only you had to climb up, you also had to find a way to balance and stand up in a little circle at over 30 feet high. I did the platform one. Kevin (no surprise here) did both. When it was Kori’s turn she did the platform one and then she told me “I will do the other one, the scary one, because I can’t let fear be stronger than I am”. She climbed up, stood up and jumped. I have to say, I was so darn proud of her! Not for the jump per se, but for facing what was scary to her
So, Remember what I said about giving great advice and then not following it? Well, today I had one of those days where I had to make the choice of either facing my fears or make excuses. I had planned a hard workout (my first real hard workout after coming back from my pneumonia/achilles tendinitis) and as I was getting to my ‘speed loop’ I realized I was thinking was too much. thinking about whether or not I would be able to hit the pace. thinking how this used to be easy a month ago and now I was hesitating I could do it. Thinking…. thinking! and, the problem with thinking is if it’s not a conscious choice (when you decide what to think or are aware of your thoughts) most likely the thoughts will start coming very fast without you even noticing them and most likely they won’t be the kind of positive thoughts we would like to have but the ones we have been having over and over for some time now.
So, WHAT SHOULD WE DO TO OVERCOME OUR FEARS?
1 Be present: I have noticed that when I am present, focusing on the present moment and only the present moment everything is fine. I can be okay in the now, it’s when I think about what could happen in the future (a moment that is not yet here) that I get anxious and afraid. By staying in the present moment I am fearless. My best Half Marathon I was focused not even on the mile I was running but on the steps I was taking. I never thought “man I am going too fast, Will I be able to hold it?” and I never thought “What mile is it? How do I feel?” I was just completely wrapped up in the moment, in taking one step at a time, in feeling my breathing, in seeing what was around me. At about mile 7 I felt the discomfort and for a second I thought “Discomfort and I have miles to go!” but I immediately came back to “I am here and now, I have no clue how -or if- I will be in ten minutes, let’s do the best I can now and in ten minutes I will focus on how I feel then”. Every time I practice this I run so well! but this, as anything, takes practice and training. Start by doing it WITH YOUR EVERY DAY ACTIONS, CATCH YOURSELF WHEN YOU ARE THINKING ABOUT THE PAST OR THE FUTURE. THE MORE YOU DO IT, THE BETTER YOU WILL BE AT THIS.
2. Invite fear into your life: When you fear something, move toward it. Feel it and breathe through it. Analyze it by asking yourself “Is this something that I should be scare of? What’s the worst that could happen if I do it?” If your answer is “I would probably die” maybe it will be better to reevaluate whether facing it is worth it but, if your fear is psychological (“I won’t be able to hit the pace”, “I am afraid people won’t like me if I don’t do this”, “I am afraid I won’t be as good as I think I am”) te ask yourself whether not doing it is better than facing those consequences. When I have to do a hard workout and I start to fear I won’t be able to,I remind myself it’s the effort that matters and by trying I will see where I am at and then, if it doesn’t go well, I can always try again and see if I got better at it. When I think about what people would think of me I remember I can’t control what other people think so it really shouldn’t be a reason for me not to try something.
3. Do the things that frighten you. Action builds courage. Tell yourself, “This fear will pass.” Your world expands as your courage expands.
4. Make your dominant thoughts positive. Fearful thoughts attract more fear. Positive thoughts attract success. Instead of expecting the worst, train your mind to expect the best. Make positive assumptions about your future.
5. Don’t give time, attention, or energy to fear. Hold yourself accountable. Be consistent, be prepared, be dependable, and focus on solutions.
6. Be innovative, take the initiative, and go the extra mile. If you don’t take action despite your fear, opportunity will pass you by.
7. Never dwell on scarcity. Learn to think, speak, and live as an abundant person. Turn off the news. Celebrate what you have. Be generous.
8. Revisit your victories. Strengthen your belief in yourself by reflecting on the last three years of your life and every success you’ve experienced. Success doesn’t have to do with winning anything It has to do with conquering the little things we are afraid of. I know a little girl who is 9 years old. She was very afraid of speaking in public. She was able to make a presentation in front of her class about Abraham Lincoln. That is a huge victory. maybe not a gold medal on anything, but certainly a first step towards being better.
If it helps, close your eyes and feel the celebratory emotion of each one. Bring the same drive, persistence, and talent into now and allow it to inspire and motivate you.
9. Live vicariously through the victories of others. Use the success stories of others. Read how the Brooklyn Bridge was built. Study the success of Steve Jobs, Walt Disney, Steven Spielberg, and Oprah Winfrey. Take note of the courage they developed and follow their path to greatness.
10. Ask your family and friends for encouragement. My family can see my strength when I forget I have it. At my request, they don’t hesitate to remind me of all trials and triumphs we have come through. They’re generous with praise and encouragement. Ask your loved ones to do the same for you.
11. Plan to be great. Step into your power and dream big. Follow it up with calculated risks and deliberate action steps. Have no doubt about your success. Your dreams are at stake here!
You have the power to do what it takes to break through any obstacles that stand in the way of yourself, your dreams, and your happiness.
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