Not long ago, I participated in a skiing event that truly challenged both my mental and physical abilities. Although I have skied for many years, the fact that I learned as an adult, has always left me with this little nagging feeling that I’m not as good as I should be. Don’t get me wrong – I am a perfectly capable skier, and I have skied at resorts all over the world. My children began riding the chairlift as soon as they were big enough to haul themselves up onto it. Needless to say, by the time they were 10 years old they could ski faster, harder and on far more difficult terrain than I ever dreamt would be possible for me. Or so I believed…
So then, what was the big deal, when my group was decided to head down a heart-stoppingly steep run? To put it bluntly, it was FEAR! I succumbed to the little voice in my head that speaks rather loudly when I’m with this particular group of daredevils. One by one, as they disappeared over the edge, I managed to work myself up into a panic. The only one left, I talked myself right out of jumping over the edge and sheepishly headed down the long, gentle, green run to catch up with my friends. As I was winding my way down the baby hill, I became aware of another voice in my head. My son, who is particularly skilled at this type of run, and one of my biggest cheerleaders, managed to work his way into my consciousness. I could hear him saying, “C’mon Mom, you’re a great skier. Don’t let your head get in the way. You can do it. I know you can!” By the time I caught up with my friends, I was mortified that once again, I had let my “head get in the way”.
Sure enough, they wanted to do it again. This was my opportunity to face my fears! And maybe I wouldn’t have to go home and tell my son that I panicked…
In this particular scenario, as with most of life’s challenges, it is fear that holds us back.
Fear can be debilitating. Fear robs us of our ability to see possibilities and it robs us of our self confidence. The fact is that fear almost always presents itself when we stretch ourselves, whether it’s on the ski hill, at the start of a new job, or when building a new relationship. It is simply a fact of life that we cannot know what the future holds. We cannot control the future any more than we could control the past. The only thing we can control is ourselves.
Experiencing fear is a unique opportunity for us to begin to understand it’s source. It is important to know that as soon as you set a goal, fear is going to emerge. Once we come to terms that this is part of the process, we can look at fears differently – as something to handle, rather than as a road block. Most of the good things in life require a certain amount of risk, and risk is uncomfortable. If you are the type to avoid the uncomfortable feeling of fear, you might never get what you want in life.
Fear is not real. It is self-created. We look at a challenging situation, and make up all kinds of possible negative outcomes that we are sure will happen. In our minds we can create all manner of negative outcomes to almost any situation. Imagine trying on a different perspective. One that allows us to believe that there are endless possibilities out there. Choosing the perspective that things might go well, is far more useful than one which limits you to the negative scenarios. What might you gain by leaning into the fear? What will it cost you not to? What are some small steps you can take towards the fear? Often taking the first step into our fear empowers us to take further steps. Each step provides us with greater confidence to keep going. What could be the payoff of eliminating this fear?
Gaining an understanding of what makes you afraid of going forward, can help you deal with it. In the skiing scenario, I was afraid of falling, humiliating myself, not looking good in my friend’s eyes. These were all imagined fears that I made up in my head. And they stopped me. I believe I felt much worse for not attempting the run, than if I had done it and fallen.
So, back to the mountain. After a few gut wrenching moments peering over the precipice, I took a chance and launched myself over the edge. Things went well, at least until I took a little tumble. Actually, a big tumble, but the only thing hurt was my pride. I reached the bottom intact, with my friends cheering me on and I felt fantastic! Learning that several of them had taken a fall too, made me realize that we all felt fear at the top of the hill. Each of us dealt with our own fears, envisioned an exhilarating run, and took a chance. Rather than giving in, I chose to believe what I knew to be true about my abilities on skis. I knew that if I stretched myself, that the outcome might just be one that not only moved me out of my comfort zone, but would give me the confidence to push my skiing to the next level. And sure enough, my third attempt was done with my heart still pounding wildly in my chest, but I’m happy to report it was without incident!