Motivation Secret #3: Master your fear
By Craig Weller
If you’re afraid of failure, you’re not alone. Most of us quake when faced with a major challenge. But the only real failure is not to try.
In Part 1 and Part 2, Coach Craig Weller talked about the importance of finding your “deep reason” and how “quitting tomorrow” is the best way to stay engaged today.
In the third part of this series, Coach Craig Weller shows us that humility is the greater part of valor, and the best cure for fear is to dive in.
Swimming was my Achilles heel
During my time in Naval Special Operations selection training, the only thing equal to my intense dislike for swimming was my monumental lack of talent for it.
I was bad. Really bad. In fact, I didn’t even learn to swim until boot camp, and passed the screening test by a mere ten seconds.
After that came the daily Special Programs workouts.
Throughout training, these brutal pre-dawn pool workouts left me panting, exhausted, and humiliated. Time after time, I’d fall to the back of the pack.
Guys passed me in a flurry, kicking my mask off. My nostrils filled with water. My arms ached. My chest heaved.
Sometimes, by the end, I wasn’t even capable of sustained effort. All I could muster was a series of fitful strokes, punctuated by choking and sinking.
Once, halfway down the last lap, I blinked and reopened my eyes to find myself drifting a few feet under the water. Snapping back to consciousness, I kicked to the surface, coughing up acrid chlorine.
I might have died that day. But one week later I was at the pool. Diving in.
I never really freed myself from my loathing and dread of the water. I worked hard and eventually built stamina, but my skills didn’t keep pace. My increased stamina only meant that I could put greater effort into swimming poorly.
So what got me into that pool, despite my fears?
More importantly, what allowed me to graduate, despite my lack of skill, when so many others did not?
The key to my survival
What saved me in the training program were some words of wisdom from a recent graduate.
“The most important thing to know is that it doesn’t matter,” he said.
“The guys who stress themselves out and scream that everything is serious and really important and try to order everyone around usually go away.
“The training evolutions are all scheduled. They start at a set time and end at a set time. You don’t have to be the fastest or the strongest or the best.
“Your only objective is to keep going.”
He was right, I realized.
Fresh, well rested, bright-eyed and bushy-tailed, the workouts would hurt. Sleep-deprived, hung-over, and aching, wearing a two-sizes-too-large wetsuit, the workouts would hurt.
Either way, they’d end. All I needed to do was get through them.
This knowledge brought a new level of freedom. At last, I felt unbeatable. Not because it didn’t hurt anymore or because I suddenly morphed into a Michael Phelps. But I’d hit bottom so many times, I knew I could hit it again, and still survive.
So instead of stressing out about how bad it was, or how bad it might become, I could focus my energy on getting it done.
We fear the unknown
We worry about getting hurt – and our worries become bigger than the threat itself. Our worries prevent us from moving forward.
It comes down to the question of “Can I rely on myself?” Fearing the answer is what keeps most people in the realm of “I was gonna…”
“I was gonna try out for the team, but I didn’t think I could make the practices.”
“I was gonna apply for that job, but I wasn’t sure I had the qualifications.”
“I was gonna ask her out, but I wasn’t sure what to say.”
Think of an obstacle you’re facing, a painful step on the path to achieving a cherished goal.
Overcoming this obstacle won’t be easy. And you know that.
So you’re probably planning to attempt it sometime in the abstract future. Ya know. When conditions are perfect.
Now, what would happen if you stopped lying to yourself?
What would happen if you stopped telling yourself “I’ll start Monday”? Because those Mondays always come and go, along with another set of rationalizations.
What if you just took the step you need to take right now? What if you just dove in?
You might learn that in the middle of the maelstrom, pain is irrelevant. Fear is irrelevant.
There is always a way through – and you can find it.
The only failure is not to try.