Fear and Courage
Today, I wanted to talk about Fear and relate it to our training, competitions and life in general.
It’s very easy to see people who are either great at controlling fear or those who have not yet figured out how they can manage it. We can see this a lot in Martial Arts Gyms and if we look harder, we can see it all around us. From the fighter that pulls out of his fight a few days out from the night with a bad excuse or a person who fears leaving a job they hate.
I won’t bother trying to get into the deep psychological aspects of Fear, there are plenty of other better equipped and more knowledgeable people to do that. Instead, I’m going to look at it from a practical angle and through my experience as a Fighter and Coach.
Fear is one of those things that we don’t need defining. We know what it is and with a bit of self analysis or help we can identify where it stems from. I could write for the next hour a thesis on Fear, however it’s still not going to help us manage it. I choose the word ‘manage’ because there are many theories and thoughts around the concept of fear and its importance; even as far back as 2500 years ago people were discussing this. Aristotle, even defined fear as a necessity, something you need to have, you have to move forward and whilst doing so, creating the virtue of ‘courage’. You don’t want to have too much courage and no fear so that you do stupid things, or have too much fear and not enough courage.
So then how can we manage our fear or develop ‘Courage’?
Firstly, find the cause of the fear and talk about it, talk about how you will defeat it. A few years ago, I was in a gym and a person I just met started talking with me about my training goals, he then proceeds to ask me ‘ what I wanted out of training and fighting?’, and so on. I started to tell him a few simple goals and how I would achieve them.
I then asked him about his goals, he replied with ‘We shouldn’t talk about our goals, that way if we fail its not a bad thing and you won’t feel or look like bad if you don’t achieve them. It won’t be a big deal that way’ I took a few meanings away from that statement, none of which I will ever be able to find out if they are right or not. Maybe he meant, don’t say things because if you fail, you will look bad OR just do what you do and hopefully it all comes together OR there is a lot of competition out there and chances are slim. It may have been a mix of everything, I will never know. There is something I know about his advice though, ITS WRONG!!
Susan Jeffers mentions this in her book ‘Feel the fear and Do it anyway’. “Don’t be afraid to talk about your plans, in order to properly investigate, by fear that if it doesn’t work out you will look like a failure. “You’re not a failure if you don’t make it, you’re a success because you try.”
So let’s say, we know our fear and have spoken about it, what else is there?
We can look at the words we use when discussing our fear. You can say instead of ‘I should’à’I could’,’ it is a problem’-à’ it is an opportunity’ and, ‘if only’à ‘next time’. These tiny changes in our language can have a dramatic effect on our progress and outlook.
Some people overcome fear by using the fear of failure as a driving force in their endeavours; athletes especially are renowned for this. Competitive drive can help use that fear as a positive influence. Fear doesn’t have to be seen as a destructive emotion/vice. We see this regularly with fighters, they are scared to lose, they fear losing and the repercussions, so they will do everything in their power to win. This, if managed well, can bring great success as a competitive athlete.
I would even go a step further and focus your fear from being afraid of mistakes to the fear of ‘not trying’. Develop a mindset where you fear not making mistakes. You will have a mindset where you fear not trying, you accept mistakes and understand it’s all part of your progress. For some people this will be difficult, for others it might take practice, but it’s definitely something for everyone to work on.