Imagine being under water, upside down, trapped in your Kayak.
You can feel your lungs burning because you didn’t have time to grab a full breath … though you are surprising yourself how long you are managing to force yourself from gasping down a lung full of water …
All you can hear is your heart pounding.
I don’t need to imagine what that would be like because I can remember in vivid detail. In fact I have had nightmares about it.
My overriding thought was drowning myself was a heck of a way to celebrate my birthday!
Learning from the things that scare us
Don’t worry, I’m not going to dwell too much on what happened in this article, I feel I have been melodramatic enough – but I do want to share more about what I learned from it. If you want more about the story, check out this interview Dries and I did shortly after.
Long story made shorter, I felt I was going to drown, and that scared the heck out of me!
After this traumatic event was over and I dried off, I had to make a choice. Do I get out and never go back in the water, or do I go back the next day?
I chose to go back, but only after a VERY restless night where I analysed every horrific far-fetched scenario you can imagine. If I didn’t go back then I would have gone from having one scary experience to having a brand new phobia. Great birthday present!
Fear versus Rationality
Was I actually going to drown? Probably not.
In fact the fear was making the situation worse!
The fact is, though, with fears it is not all about reality. Perception is actually the controlling factor.
At the time it felt like I was drowning. In those cases perception IS reality. I couldn’t take a step back and objectively work out that in all likelihood my instructor was trained. Yes, he reminded me a little too much of shaggy from Scooby Doo, but I am sure I am not the first to have my equipment malfunction on his watch.
The more scared I got, the more danger I was in.
To begin with I was pretty calm. I tapped the bottom of my little boat three times as instructed. When nobody came over to help I proceeded to tug on the cord which (in theory) would make me pop out of the Kayak and float to the surface.
I started panicking when no amount of tugging on that cord would release me from the boat’s grip. Then I really started panicking when I realised I was going to need to draw a breath real soon.
It’s not too far removed from when a particularly nasty and influential individual nearly caused me to stop building my programming training business. The reality was he was only influential with a specific group of people who were never going to be my customers anyway, but my perception was that if he publicly attacked me then nobody would ever buy my training again.
Feeling out of control of the situation and imagining far-fetched scenarios, giving into the fear and the emotion, nearly pushed me into making the worst possible decision.
What has all this got to do with you?
This scenario is not too different to other scary situations you or I have been in if we look past the potential watery grave. We feel confident right up until the uncertainty and lack of control gets too far out of our comfort zone and experience.
Rather than let fear dictate our actions we should instead seek to grow our comfort zones and experiences so we are better able to handle situations that come up.
I have tagged this as “moving the fear line” as a play on a popular marketing phrase 🙂
Business is often uncertain
In business we are going to be faced with situations over which we have little control and that scare us. A lot of what I work on with coaching clients is about mindset and their fears, and I have had to work on these things myself.
- Putting ourselves “out there” in public.
- Selling and self-promotion.
- Criticism and trolls.
- Fear of failure.
- Fear of success.
- Financial fears.
- … And more.
What can we do?
We have to take some action if we are not going to give into these fears.
- We can either let the fear dictate our actions or make a different choice.
- We can try to be objective and see where the perception ends and where the reality starts.
- We can aim to understand what the actual worst case and likely scenarios really are.
- We can face our fears and go ahead and do stuff anyway.
What really might happen?
- My first job was working for a hospital. I worked with people who literally made life and death situations.
- From birth my daughter has faced several health issues and has had her life saved several times.
- My Dad was an officer in the fire service, he had to send people into burning buildings.
What do we risk in business? Some money and reputation?
Not quite the same, is it?
You know what really helps me?
I have always, and continue, to put myself in situations that scare me. Both business situations (such as public speaking which terrifies me) and leisure situations, such as those below!
Why? Because that is how we put things in perspective. It’s how we stretch our comfort zone. That is how we gain experience, and that is how we grow as people, as well as in business.
If I hadn’t been through scary situations and come through the other side, I don’t think we would have had the courage to move country and leave our comfort zone entirely behind.
What we quickly learn is what doesn’t kill us makes us stronger 🙂
I am not talking about taking unnecessary risks or living on adrenalin. But do shake yourself out of any rut you find yourself in, don’t live your life running on rails. Surround yourself with people who challenge you.
After all, if you only do what you have always done, you will only get what you have always got.
What do you think? How do you face your fears and stretch yourself? Please share your thoughts in the comments …