Nothing to fear but fear itself.
As children we feel fear, as adults we feel fear. The feeling of fear stays with us for life.
If you had a system for conquering fear, do you feel you would live your life differently?
Would you take up more challenges?
Would you live a more compelling life?
Do you feel that teaching your child a system for conquering their fears is a practical and very valuable skill?
I’m trying to slow down my breathing, It’s 5 am and at this high altitude the air is cold, I take a big breath in and out. I can feel my body shaking, my knees literally moving forwards and backwards as I try to stand still here in the snow, trying to keep in control.
I’m not shaking because of the temperature, I’m shaking due to the production of catecholamines by the sympathetic nervous system to mobilize my organs and energy stores to flee a stressor; essentially gearing my body up for fight or flight!
You see, at this moment in time, I’m Standing on the edge of a cliff and 2 inches in front of me is a 3,000 ft drop. On my back I have a parachute and to my left is a friend who is going through the same process as me.
I’m standing on one foot, balancing, and it’s proving difficult. This is a simple task when you are at sea level and it should be no different to doing the same thing on the edge of a cliff.
There are two things that make this infinitely harder….
1) The chemical warfare going on in my body which is the physical symptom of
2) The psychological warfare going on in my mind.
To be in this position, ready to confidently perform at such a high level took years of hard work and meticulous training, hundreds of skydives from a plane in preparation, a huge amount of studying on turbulence, angles of attack, glide ratios, and packing parachutes, all of which required a masses of attention to detail and focus.
Alongside the physical training comes the mental training, to overcome fear. We are not born courageous and brave, it’s something I believe we can learn, it’s nurture, not nature.
On my journey I developed a process to deal with fear and to control my mind and therefor control the physical symptoms of, essentially, being terrified, coping with Fight or Flight.
While standing on one foot I’m breathing the cold air in, filling my lungs and exhaling slowly. I’m looking at the horizon, it’s a beautiful sunrise in the North of Italy in the snow capped cliff of Monte Brento. I fill my mind with an overwhelming sense of gratitude to feel and experience something so few humans have (or ever will) while viewing such a beautiful natural environment.
I teach my mind to be calm. To have no thought other than the simple task of standing in this position, in the same way we teach our students to focus solely on their breathing during meditation.
A few more breaths and the shaking stops, I go over my drills, arms forward, de-arching my back and into a tracking position to glide forward for 12-15 seconds as I move thousands of feet away from the cliff, placing my right hand behind my back on my pilot chute ready to deploy the parachute. Check chest strap, leg straps, helmet strap, I’m ready.
I look to my partner, 3, 2, 1… jump. A big breath in, slowly released as we both glide through the dead air, building up speed and into a tracking position where we can control our bodies movement. Arch, deploy parachute and canopy opens with a huge *thwack*, a reassuring sound.
I have always found fear fascinating. It’s something we all feel and face, some more regularly than others and it’s intensity can vary depending on our comfort zone as we previously discussed.
From my experience the fear doesn’t go, but by learning a process to deal with fear, getting to know fear and understanding that it’s there to help us or prepare us to be more alert and improve our reactions we can tolerate a higher level of stress and control fear. Much like a fire can be controlled, ensuring it doesn’t escalate and get out of control.
While fear for each individual varies so wildly, from a daring base jump to a speech at a wedding, or a presentation in class; learning to deal with fear and developing a process to help you through it can have a profound effect on how we face the challenges in our lives.
In the next blog, I’m going to give away our 5 Step Warrior Process for conquering fear…. Stay tuned!