It wasn’t until I was in my early twenties that I discovered how much fun it could be to be a risk taker. As soon as I learnt how to get my two wheels off the ground I became addicted to the feeling of jumping, speeding and improving.
However, pushing my bike up to a run-in for a jump I frequently begin to question myself. I can feel the fear running through my veins like a physical army of ants, my knees tremble and at this moment I wonder why I put myself through it.
People sometimes flippantly call me “fearless.” This is very much not true. I face the same fears we all do, but I have realised that by breaking them down using the power of logic and previous experience, being fearful can become one of your most powerful tools.
Here are my 7 practical tips on thriving from your fears:
1. Being a scaredy-cat is cool
Despite how it may seem, most people who take risks aren’t fearless. I would hedge a bet that the guys doing the Red Bull Rampage are no less scared than the guy in the local woods riding 3 foot drops.
Don’t beat yourself up if you are scared. Fear is normal. If you are scared and you have the power to push beyond that, no matter what the degree of difficulty is, then you have what it takes. You will begin to achieve things that you previously thought were only achievable by other people. You will experience things that people who don’t push their limits will never experience and don’t even know what they are missing!
2. Try to fail
Often it’s a fear of failure that will stop us doing something challenging, rather than actually failing itself. If that’s the case, you might never actually find out whether you would’ve failed at all. Broken arms, concussion, twisted ribs these all happen but most of the time they don’t.
Go on, try and fail. In all likelihood you won’t even fail at all. And if you do…failure is your friend.
“It is impossible to live without failing at something, unless you live so cautiously that you might as well not have lived at all – in which case, you fail by default”
― J.K. Rowling
3. Failure is your friend
My attitude to failure isn’t even an “attitude to failure.” Things go wrong so often it is just part and parcel of life. The more often it happens the less it bothers you on a personal level and the more adept you become at simply finding a solution.
It’s less “pick yourself up and try again” which you might feel at the beginning, and more “so what can I learn from that?” Once you apply that to sport, well, you naturally will start applying that attitude to life without even realising it.
OK, so now you’re ready to take the first leap…
4. The first time will be the worst time
It usually takes me 7 successful runs to stop feeling terrified of something. There is a reason why people say that practice makes perfect. Once I have done something enough times, the fear is replaced by joy. THIS is the feeling you do it for, the feeling of absolute control that can only be achieved with practice and complete concentration. You stop feeling scared and you begin to feel free.
That’s when you set your sights on something bigger….
5. Get high – naturally
It might seem counter-intuitive to purposely put yourself in a situation that makes you fearful, as fear is a self-preservation tool to protect yourself from danger. But, the body can do wonderful things and as a reward from doing something scary it will pump you full of endorphins (or ‘happy hormones’ as they told me at school). You will laugh, cheer and giggle; and when you go to bed that night, reliving those moments will ensure that you fall asleep smiling.
For me, if I’m having a bad day I just need to take a minute to put myself back in the memory of doing something that scared me and I instantly can feel myself lightening up and a smile starting to form.
6. Be in the moment
An overused phrase… yes. You just need to go on Facebook to see photos of sunrises with cheesy phrases slapped on them telling you that you will be happiest when you live in the present. All very well, but it’s not easy sometimes to choose the things you think about and to shut out all the clutter. Fear is an emotion that will do that for you like nothing else.
And you will feel completely alive – the feeling of clarity and refreshment will stay with you long after the fear has subsided.
7. Sometimes it’s just not worth it
I would LOVE to be about a million times better at riding and doing things a million times bigger and faster than I am but I am at where I am at. Once you have learnt how to push the limits you need to learn that it’s OK to say no, I’m not ready, the risk is too high. There are times when you just think; today it’s not feeling right, that’s OK, I know I will say yes next time.