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Pushing Through the Fear: LIVE IT! BRAVE IT! SEND IT!

Have you ever wondered how are your fears holding you back and what are they stopping you from achieving?

Fears whether real or imagined make very little difference to our brains, which perceive them as danger triggering the conscious or the unconscious fight, flight or freeze responses. In all honesty though: how many times have you actually been in real danger when you felt fear? How many times have you had to run for survival?

The likelihood is probably: not that many. But if you are frank with yourself you will probably realise that too many times you turned opportunities down, because, in the depths of your unconscious mind, the fears painted a horrid picture of the worst things that may happen when you step out of your comfort zone and begin to venture into the unknown.

So you may wonder what happens when you brave it, face your fears and go for the things you want, despite being scared.

I chose to reflect on this topic because 3 months ago, harassed by my other half, I picked up a sport that challenged nearly all of my comfort zones and the beliefs I had about myself and in some aspects about others.

I started Wakeboarding.

To make it even more challenging for myself I went all in and said yes to a wakeboarding holiday that my boyfriend planned with his group of experienced wakeboarding friends.

My boyfriend was trying to convince me to wakeboard with him for over 12 months until I run out of excuses not to do it… in the end, it was a fear of missing out on an amazing holiday in Turkey’s Hipnotics Cable Park that mobilised me to take action. Oh irony!

Once the holiday was booked and paid for I went to learn the basics on the UK lake, during rather chilly April! The beginnings were hard… even though I got a lot of praise and encouragement the first fear I had to face was related to the discomfort of immersing myself in a cold lake.

Well, let me tell you: that will never feel pleasant! However, it’s by far the best therapy I’ve ever tried.

This sport is not easy albeit extremely rewarding when I stretch my comfort zones and learn something new. I really want to emphasise here this belief that I had for so long, that some people are just naturally good at certain things (like certain sports, subjects or skills such as public speaking), which is only true to some extent. Just like the belief that some people don’t feel fear. During the holiday I met this amazing rider, his name was Berk and he has been wakeboarding for 16+ years, he told me: ‘I am a confident rider and even though I can ride like a PRO, there’s no day when I am not feeling fear when facing obstacles or doing tricks - I just learned to channel that fear and still go for it’.

You may therefore wonder what may help with channelling your fears.

Embrace courage - a virtue that all of us are capable of developing, just like we once developed fears. Courage is what helps us to push through our fears and broadens the experiences we have in our life.

The truth is risks are always there, but what is the real cost of not trying?

Staying in safety and security is great, but what does it do to us really?

Personal growth through continuous learning has significant meaning in our adult lives. Our brains are malleable and should constantly be challenged with learning new skills to keep mental acuity as we age.

Now ask yourself when was the last time you learned something new?

When have you last consciously driven yourself towards change?

As far as my story goes, I sobbed when I tried my luck on a full cable for the first time - I was frantically scared of speed and feeling out of control. I could hardly make it onto the water and when I finally did, I swung on the corners feeling like the cable will rip my shoulders from my back and send me up to the top of the mountain. I was watching everyone else flying effortlessly around the lake and loving it, and there was me: the only one who didn’t seem to know what I was doing - that was the story that I’d been telling myself anyway.

What I didn’t see initially, was that others were falling also - quite frequently, but instead of feeling sorry for themselves they were embracing these falls and keeping going.

When I looked closer, I realised that my expectation to get it right the first time was naive and unreasonable and that it actually goes against everything I learned in this lifetime - through failure!

There’s no success without failure and the only virtue that I, you, or anyone needs to combat the fear, is the courage to keep trying.

My only goal for that holiday was to learn to ride on a full cable, so when my other half goes to visit his friends at the lake I can also join and have a good time. Well, let me tell you that by day two I had my goal achieved. Each following day during this holiday I achieved something new, something I did not expect and did not know I was capable of: including surviving a really painful whiplash on a fast cable! 6 days passed and I learned to land a jump off an obstacle called a kicker, which then gave me the confidence to ride over another obstacle called the flat box.

I cannot stress enough how scary these obstacles seemed in my mind. I kept saying to myself that I was not ready, not a good enough rider to go over them, not fit enough, not brave enough, not experienced enough, in summary, I was not enough. Now, if it wasn’t for my wakeboarding friends who pushed me out of my zone I can guarantee I would still be just perfecting my riding and depriving myself of the fun and satisfaction I get from trying obstacles. Each time I had fallen I got more comfortable with crashing. When I started, all I wanted to avoid was crashing, now I find the fun in crashing.

On my last day at Hipnotics, I braved it and tried something I feared the most - a sharp corner on a fast cable. I was so proud, but not so much of succeeding, mostly I was proud about braving it. Every time I had a failure, I went back there, and despite being scared I kept trying.

When I think about it now, wakeboarding makes a great metaphor for my life. The only difference is that the decisions, actions and outcomes on the water are fast-paced. There is no time to dwell on decisions, once I commit, I just go for it! Outside of wakeboarding, I have a tendency to dwell on things until…. the momentum is gone: ‘Should I go for it? Should I not? I really want to, but I don’t know if I have the energy, the time, or the mindset(…) Today is not the day - I’ll think about it again tomorrow. (…) ’ Does that sound familiar?

Momentum needs movement!

Wakeboarding helped me to gain confidence in my own abilities as well as regain confidence in my fitness after a knee injury. Being the only beginner in my group and the oldest by age added some extra pressure, only until I met two wakeboarding ladies in their late 50s who started wakeboarding in their 40s. Let me tell you, these women were sending it each time! I could not believe it! Even though I agree that age is only a state of mind, when it comes to the body there is no doubt that the older we get the more there is to compromise especially when doing extreme sports. However, that should not stop us from trying new things.

At any given time I could have easily found an excuse not to ride and relax by the pool with the book, but I knew that if I wanted to improve myself I needed to persevere and keep trying. And I am so glad that I did. Each day I became more comfortable with failing and with that far more eager to keep trying new tricks. Reflecting on this experience now, I feel that getting comfortable with failure was my greatest learning and the reason why I progressed so quickly. After all, what’s the worse that can happen? I can only fail again, but each time maybe I fail better.

Of course, surrounding myself with a group of people who were more experienced helped to stretch my comfort zone even further. But no one performed any action for me. I had to show up and grow the courage to face my fears. It is really only in the presence of fear that courage shows up. Through riding, I am able to witness how they show up because I am in the presence of total awareness. Another thing I learned is that fears never fully go away and they nearly always appear bigger in the imagination than they are in reality.

Support & encouragement is so helpful - everyone in my group was cheering for me and believing in me - thanks to this I was able to start believing in myself more.

In closing, I want to acknowledge that - we are all beginners really, every day gifts us with an opportunity to learn something new, to embrace the unknown, whether it is on the board or whether it is in day-to-day life. My other half, for example, is stretching his comfort zone by making changes to his diet, adding a variety of vegetables and trying new things he never had before. He is braving it just like I am on the water. Ultimately we all have different comfort zones, but we all are capable of changing, the only condition is a willingness to try and keeping an open mind.

If your mind is empty, it is always ready for anything; it is open to everything. In the beginner’s mind, there are many possibilities; in the expert’s mind, there are few. Suzuki (1970)

So my message to you is to open yourself up to life around you - go out there and live it, brave it & send it.

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