Fear shows up in a variety of ways in our life. This fear can change in intensity depending on circumstances and our state of mind in any given moment.
How we learn to wrestle with this fear determines the extent to which it gets in our way. At times fear can be smothering, while at other moments a minor annoyance. This blog post is meant to challenge you to think about how you allow fear to show up in your life and the ways you learn to navigate it.
When I think of fear, I think of my friend Justin, a former downhill mountain bike racer, who literally pedaled his way, as fast as he could, down treacherously steep terrain at speeds faster than 80km/hour, against other top racers around the world. Having to maneuver a mountain bike amongst at tight pack of racers down a steep mountain at that speed was no easy task as you can imagine.
I also think of Tracy Edwards, the first female skipper to captain an all female crew in one of the most grueling around the world yachting races back in 1989.
The Whitbread Around the World Race took 9 months to complete and exposed Tracy and her team to some of the most ferocious waves on earth. As Tracy described, "We were sailing in the middle of the Southern Ocean. It's the middle of the night in the dead of winter. It's absolutely freezing and we find ourselves battling 60-foot waves. At one point, one of the other teams lost two men overboard. One of them died. The other one was in critical condition."
I asked both Justin and Tracy the same question. "How did you learn to cope with the fear?"
They both acknowledged that it's not about jumping straight into the deep end. It's about building up a slow tolerance to fear. In Justin's case, he started on smaller, less steep hills. Over time, he learned to challenge himself on steeper and steeper terrain. Rather than just gliding down these hills, he learned to peddle faster and faster into the fear as he blasted his way down the mountains. Although the fear never left him, he was always able to manage it as he had trained his body and mind to do so.
If we substitute water for land, there is no difference with Tracy's story. Over time, she learned to navigate bigger, more difficult waves. She didn't just airdrop herself and her team into 50-60 foot waves in the middle of the ocean. She learned to better cope with her fear by dealing with 20-foot waves, then 30-foot waves and so on. Gradually she built up her tolerance and was able to face the enormous waves that she did in the Whitbread Around the World Race.
In both cases, fear was always there with Justin and Tracy. But the slow exposure to more and more fear over time and with consistency is how they learned to deal with it in ways that still allowed them to thrive.
According to an Inc Magazine article, the top ten fears that hold people back are:
Change, Loneliness, Failure, Rejection, Uncertainty, Something Bad Happening, Getting Hurt, Being Judged, Inadequacy, Loss of Freedom
The psychologist who wrote the article stated that acknowledging your fears and facing them head-on could be the key to reaching your greatest potential.
Everyone's fear's are different, but if you were to zero in on a few re-occurring fears in your life, what themes above would they fall under? For example, fear of public speaking might fall under the themes of being judged, failure, rejection, or something bad happening.
Another example might be the fear of change. Maybe it's changing our lifestyle, changing our job, changing routines and habits that don't serve us, etc. This fear of change can bleed into other fears such as:
What if I fail ? (fear of failure)
What if I lose friends as a result of making this lifestyle change? (fear of rejection)
What if I don't have what it takes to change jobs? (fear of uncertainty or fear of inadequacy)
When faced with the common fears that most people experience, how might we use Justin and Tracy's stories as a metaphor for how we can learn to navigate fear in our own lives?
How might we slowly introduce more and more fear into our lives to be able to build up our own tolerance of it? How can we take tiny steps each day to face our fears in a way that allows us to one day thrive despite these actual fears?
In closing, a final quote I will share is: "Courage is not the absence of fear. Courageous people do feel fear, but they are able to manage and overcome their fear so that it does not stop them taking action. They often use the fear to ensure that they are not overly confident and that they take the appropriate actions."
Want to hear more about Tracy Edward's amazing journey in the Whitbread Around the World Race? In our podcast, she not only shares her deep learning from this journey, but the work she is now doing to make the world a better place. To listen to her story, click the photo below to bring you to our episode. Thanks for reading and taking the time to listen to the podcast with Tracy if you haven't heard it yet.
KAUST Faculty, Pedagogical Coach. Presenter & Workshop Leader.IB Educator. #RunYourLife podcast host.