In preparation for a trip to Australia, I learned to scuba dive. On the first day of lessons, the first thirty or so minutes in the pool is just me floundering around trying to figure out the whole breathing underwater thing. Once I get that down, The instructor and I start going through drills. One of the first drills is how to clear your mask underwater. Clearing your mask looks easy enough: You take a breath through your regulator, lift up the bottom of your mask just a bit, tilt your head up, and breathe out of your nose. However, the first time I clear my mask, shit did not go well. I immediately inhale water and start choking.
Anyone who has inhaled water while under water knows a panic starts to kick in. You want to get out of the water to air as quickly as possible. I’m no different. My brain starts screaming “Get to the surface!” It’s worth mentioning that I am between the deep and shallow end of the pool, so getting to the surface is no problem, but I am stubborn and my ego likes to accomplish new things on the first try, so I stay under.
So, I am underwater coughing, gagging, and all around having a shitty time with my brain in panic mode. Somehow I manage to get a message through to myself. I realize if I don’t force myself to calm down and think rationally, I am going to have to surface or drown. I force myself to stop thrashing around, think, and push the fear down. Then, I take a couple of breaths and go through the process of clearing my mask again. This time I succeed. After succeeding I surface to begin working on the next drill.
I tell this story because it is an example of something I have found to have a lot of power: The ability to overcome fear and panic.
Before this experience, all out panic mode almost always ended in me quitting an activity and, sometimes (Okay, Most of the time), running away. In the majority of situations quitting or running away is what saved me from injury be it mental or physical. However, with scuba diving giving into panic could very well be what kills me. That difference is what forced me to overcome fear and complete the task.
Now, what if I take the same thinking and apply it to situations other than scuba diving? What if in my everyday life when I start feeling fear and panic rising up within me, I stop, take a deep breath, think rationally about the problem, and move forward with small calculated steps? My guess: I would find the fear and panic to be unwarranted and could continue on to complete the task.
How is this useful?
Think about the last time you tried to take on a new business endeavor or a new fitness regimen or a new hobby or almost anything else you have bailed on. Did you quit because you gave it a chance only to find you didn’t enjoy it or did you quit because things got tough and you started to panic? Think about the last time you went on vacation and didn’t go zip-lining or snorkeling or [insert other adventurous activity here] because you were afraid. Think about all those trips you want to take, but you are afraid because you don’t want to go alone. If you could overcome the fear holding you back from all those things, wouldn’t life be better? Wouldn’t you have more stories to tell?
I know I would.
Try it. The next time you find fear rearing its ugly head stop, take a deep breath, and simply think about the problem. Don’t run. Just think!
Best Case: You will find the fear to be completely pointless and be able to accomplish the task.
Worst Case: You can just bail like you would have anyway. What do you have to lose?