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Turning Fear into Fuel

“If you want something you’ve never had, then you’ve got to do something you’ve never done before.”

Fear literally halts us on our path to greatness, we procrastinate for hours sometimes days, even years on visualising that moment where we achieve that one goal. In our minds we conjure negative outcomes fuelled by the fear of failing, potential rejection, feeling embarrassed or disappointed in ourselves, and above all angering or hurting others. Self-sabotage before we’ve even taken the first step! Fear is simply what might happen and not actually what will happen. The key emphasis here is that this is ‘what we fear’, we are the masters of controlling our own thoughts, so we can channel fear, into positive thoughts and visualise ourselves successfully overcoming any obstacle or set back.

When presented with a situation that induces fear, we typically enter into ‘fight’ or ‘flight’ mode- a response triggered by a release of hormones which prepare us to either stay and face the threat or run away to safety (Goldstein, 2010). It is believed this fight or flight mode is also the first stage of adaption (Goldstein, 2010). I find this quite interesting as in one hand fear has the ability to disable us, but on the other, fear has the capabilities to help us adapt and overcome our perceived threats. Personally, my greatest moments of fear have happened when the outcome is important to me and I have processed and acknowledged this fear, adapting overtime.

SAS Who Dares Wins. I’m in a helicopter, 20m above freezing black sea water, looking Ant Middleton directly in the eye. He’s about to release me, backwards freefalling head first into the water. I am not to move an inch of my body and remain rigidly still otherwise I could hurt myself. As I’m falling it feels like forever, and I’m waiting to impact hard into the water. Those few seconds felt like minutes. Once Ant had let go of me, the fear left me, fear is only ever there in the moments before an event. Once the event is in motion, we naturally respond, fear only ever hinders us beforehand. Racing Triathlon is similar, the few days and particularly the hours prior to a race, I’m very nervous, but as soon as I hear the gun, I go into action mode, my body takes over. Learning to have confidence and shift through the negative thoughts is a skill that can be self-taught over time. 

Training as an Athlete. You learn to remove the fear of pain, and control it. Some sessions I know beforehand are going to nearly break me, the thought of the session has kept me awake through the night and nervous as the session grows closer and closer. Instead, I focus on the effort required to deliver that session. I tell myself; this is going to take everything you’ve got Lauren, and it will hurt, and you will want to stop. If you stop- you fail. You can make it through. I focus on how it will feel once I’ve completed it. The endorphins, the relief, the knowledge it is another quality session bagged for when I need it.

Public speaking. I feared any school presentation, corporate speaking event or situation where all eyes were on me. I decided to take Public Speaking Lamda levels, hoping it would help me to feel less anxious when speaking - perhaps a little bit. But the best thing I did for feeling anxious about public speaking, was to do more of it. Face the fear. And gradually, I became more confident- I used a simple thought process, to place myself in others shoes. When I listen to someone talk, rarely do I focus on them, I actually focus on what they are saying. When you stand up to address a room full of people, they want you to do well, speak well, as they are interested in what you have to say- rarely are they there to watch you fail or get anxious. It’s actually not about you, but rather what you are talking about. I learnt to change my perception on how I felt about public speaking by redirecting my thought pattern.

Breaking it down- channel your fear, and redistribute it as fuel;

1. Identify your fears- write down what bothers you the most. It is also useful to note at what point the fear sets in, a few hours before, days, weeks, and see if there is anything in particular that triggers this fear, so you can learn to control the reactions you have to fear.

2. Acknowledge the fear and the negative appraisals- nerves and fear will always be present, it’s a safety mechanism humans have to protect us, but we can still recognise the situation and handle how we approach our thoughts.

3. Positively affirm the doubts- Every potential negative scenario our mind conjures we can write out on a piece of paper, and then next to it, we can write a potential positive scenario.
Eg. If I take this opportunity it might not go well and I could lose money. If I take this opportunity, it is risky, but I have the skills and it is in the right direction of my goals.

4. Embrace the chance of success- we shy away from opportunities to grow outside our comfort zone as we fear failure, but ask yourself a simple question, do the positives outweigh the negatives? If you do fail, can you redo it? Will it affect anyone? Apart from disappointment will it hurt you? Usually nobody is actually watching you, therefore it doesn’t matter if you don’t succeed at first, with time, effort and patience you will get there! You only stop when you are satisfied- no one else.

5. Be realistic about the risks- stripping back the layers of fear; we can grade our fears. Many scenarios pose a threat, but on a scale of 1-10 how likely are they? And on a scale of 1-10 will I regret not taking this opportunity? This can be a case of lowering the stakes and stopping yourself from attributing too much fear and worry to something which is an opportunity to learn or grow.

Next time you feel fear and nervous, ask yourself a few questions?
- Am I nervous because this is important to me? YES.
- Do I have the skill set to handle this situation no matter the outcome? YES.
- Is this an opportunity for me to grow outside my comfort zone? YES.
- Do I have anything to lose by giving my best in this situation? NO.

Go forth and be the best version of you- if not, keep trying until you are satisfied with your own artwork.

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