The Fear of Fear

Be Not Afraid of Fear!

Face your fears
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What is one thing we all fear in common? Fear! To think of that obviously begs the question.many of us work hard to avoid fear, but when we do think about it, fear is a necessary thing in our lives.

When I speak of fear I am not talking about mortal terror. I am talking about the fear we feel when we are about to take on a task that is slightly to moderately above our abilities. The type of fear one feels when they are not 100% they can succeed at the challenge. As a skier you probably know what I am talking about. Your first time skiing that steep run, you sit at the top and need to garner the courage to drop in. That is the type of fear I am talking about.

The Fear of Fear — Motivation

The first and most common reason we need fear is to motivate us to take something seriously. We pay close attention to the task at hand we take care and proceed with due caution. This is a good thing. Some of the things we do have serious consequences if we do not do them right and we need the fear to keep us on track. However, we generally strive to keep that limited to our professional lives. Once we get home often we do the things we do without fear. Why? This is probably why golf is such a popular game.

I get it, but I am coming to view that as a sad thing. We need to feel fear in our recreational pursuits as well. Yes, you heard me correctly. If you do not experience fear on a regular basis your are not pushing yourself to grow. In life we are either growing or dying.

The Fear of Fear — My Recreational Fear

I have noted in the past I am not a skilled skier even by the standards of the Upper Midwest. However, I am an enthusiastic skier and love the sport. For the most part I handle most of the ski resorts around here with aplomb and bravado. That said, the most challenging runs around here do put the question of my abilities to the forefront, let alone the runs available to me when I am out West. Generally, I kept my ski trail selection to groomers. Occasionally I would foray off onto runs with moguls venture into glades. On my last trip to Whitefish Mountain Resort I skied some of their black runs and did take on moguls. (though not the obvious mogul run). Since I am a resident of the Midwest, the runs I typically ski on are not usually very steep. However, I do have access to some big-mountain steeps (in terms of grade, not length) and I pucker up at the tops of those runs.

My Strava analysis of my 2017 WI State Time Trial Championship Race
This is a true high-intensity effort and yes I fear them!
Also, this applies to my cycling too. When I am racing the fear of getting tangled up into a crash is there. Still, my biggest fear is not crashing but the effort I am about to undertake. I may be time-trialing or even just training alone – and I still feel the fear. My fear centers on the effort I am about to put out. In fact, when I have an high-intensity session, I had better feel fear at the start or it does not count as an high-intensity session.

Fear the Fear — Push Through the Fear!

looking over The Larch at Whitefish Mountain Resort
The Taste of Fear. Looking over Whitefish Mountain Resort’s The Larch.
Yet, I embrace the fear and I push through it. I drop in and start to turn or I push off and snap my feet into the pedals and go. When the run or effort is complete, I can joyfully say I overcame the fear. When the effort or the run is over I am a stronger and more confident.

In doing so I find I am actually a better skier than I give myself credit for. I find I am a stronger cyclist than I give myself credit for.

In fact, I am coming to question what I am doing if I do not feel at least a bit of fear. If I do not feel at least a twinge of fear, I wonder if my enterprise is challenging enough – if it will lead to growth or stagnation.

Yeah, I can lazily arc Midwestern blue and black groomers all day long and not feel a bit of fear, but that does not make me a better skier. I can go off on a short easy bike ride, but that does not increase my fitness or cycling abilities. I can write a simple Perl extract in a day but again it does not make me better professionally.

The Fear of Fear — Stop Fearing Stop Growing

Once you stop exposing yourself to fear you stop growing. Unfortunately, it seems in life we are either growing and living or…waiting for death.

The Fear of Fear — Be on Top of your Game

Looking down a steep ski run with skiers
Despite the fear, I want to ski this! Image: Hans/Pixabay
Sports psychologists often talk about this as well. That fear is a healthy thing to feel and in fact it is necessary. Without fear, we would schuss the ski trail and crash into the lift tower and suffer injury or worse. Fear forces us to grow to become better and to take the situation seriously. In fact, if you follow snowsports news closely, you know an all too common story.

It seems more ski fatalities occur on intermediate runs and typically involve capable skiers. The thought is the victim is skiing fearlessly and is being sloppy with their technique. The sloppiness leads to them catching an edge at the wrong time and the run into someone or something. We all know what they are talking about. On easy runs we drop our arms, we horse around, we relax a little too much, and the shins press less hard into our boots. Without fear, we tend to lose focus and become complacent.

The Fear of Fear — Lack of Fear Means Boredom

Sometime ago, I wrote about being bored with skiing. It was and it was skiing without any exposure to fear. I quit seeking new ski challenges – I visit the same resort and kept skiing the same runs. I did not venture off into the glades, I stayed out of the bumps. Just lapping groomers run after run trip after trip.

My last trip to this resort found me in the glades and in the one spot where they leave the snow wild. Guess what, it was fun, I enjoyed it – despite the slight fear I would taste. After a bit the fear became less and less noticeable and was replaced with trying to ski that run better. I did not do too well in the glades but the bump run was manageable.

Do not fear the fear!

Good Stuff!

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