When facing a new challenge, whether physical, emotional or intellectual, I used to approach the edge of my comfort zone like Chuck Yeager approached the sound barrier. As the vibration of fear entered the cockpit of my soul, I wrestled for the stick as rivets popped and adrenaline pumped.
But a funny thing happened. As soon as I made the transition to supersonic flight, the ride smoothed out. My fear, still present but now relegated to background noise, was replaced by exhilaration. The stress of the challenge increased my focus and sharpened my thinking. When it seemed time slowed down, I knew I was operating in “The Zone.”
How can you operate in The Zone, too? How can you avoid the paralysis of fear? Start by owning your feelings, not denying them. Embrace fear, letting it wash over you and break on the shoreline. If you experience the taste of fear often enough, you will be desensitized to its paralyzing effects. The second step involves self empowerment through actively training your emotions.
As a personal trainer and lifestyle coach, I am fortunate to interact with successful people on a daily basis, sharing insights, trading secrets of success and telling war stories. There are several techniques I have learned over the years to retrain my brain so that when I confront fear, I can move past it quickly and refocus my thinking. One of the most effective techniques I have learned is to engage in activities that elicit an initial response of fear, yet are relatively safe. Once past the initial jolt of fear-induced adrenaline, the ride can be exhilarating.
My father was a veteran of WWII, a Navy man who served in the South Pacific. I always had an interest in WWII planes and enjoyed going fast. So three years ago, for a milestone birthday, I had the opportunity to have stick time in a seventy year old WWII Navy fighter plane. Nothing says “I can do this” like performing a 3G barrel roll and a series of aileron rolls with the cockpit open. Ott, my unflappable instructor pilot sitting behind me, guided us through the maneuvers with an invisible hand on control that would override mine should things go awry. The cramped cockpit, smell of aviation fuel, sensation of vertigo and roar of the engine, all conspired to create a feeling of fear. Yet the awareness of experiencing a once-in-a-lifetime event helped to transform that fear into the focus needed to maintain control and enjoy the ride.
What experiences are you afraid of? How can you taste the fear without choking on it? Once you understand what gives you that visceral jolt, you can be creative in determining how to give yourself the controlled, inoculating doses. When administered with creativity and precision, the transformation will be empowering. Your life will begin where your comfort zone ends.
What techniques have you used to overcome fear?