Fear. It has the ability to cripple, both in sport and in life. I’ve peered over the edge at Teahupo’o and it’s terrifying. With so much water draining off the reef it feels like you’re standing on top of a stationary wave. You wish the water wasn’t so clear. That might save you from having to look down and see the coral heads lurking beneath like a blade wielding thug in a dark alley.
You have a split second to make the call. Hurl yourself over the ledge, or sit up with your legs clamped on your rails and drop anchor. It’s a classic case of fight or flight and most certainly, he who hesitates is most vulnerable.
It’s a funny thing, fear. It has the ability to creep into your head as one fleeting thought. But if given enough airtime, can spread through your head like an aggressive cancer, bringing you almost to a place of paralysis. They say that darkness is just the absence of light. And fear often festers in those dark thought places.
All of us are faced with fear at some point in our lives. Whether it’s in sports, relationships or business, generally it will have the same effect. The fight or flight mechanism we all possess is the body’s way of dealing with the increased adrenalin and endorphins that flood our system when put in those situations. The struggle is real. We have a decision to make, and little time to make it.
It could be argued when taking on the beast that is Teahupoo – one has to choose to “fight” every time. If Teahupo’o is the bull, then you’re the bullfighter. And once you are standing in the middle of an arena there’s no use running from the bull. It will smell the fear on you and it will run you down and gore you with its horns, leaving you scarred and mentally frail. It’s a long way back from there, and a daunting task to go looking for your confidence shattered among the coral heads.
Just like the bull, Teahupo’o needs to be respected. While it has killed and maimed, it’s also majestic and awe-inspiring. She’s a marvel of creation and most certainly one of surfing’s great wonders.
So how do we take on the bull? Whether it’s the world’s heaviest wave or pushing your own limits in the ocean, here are three areas to get comfortable with being so uncomfortable.
Manage Your Thoughts
If you’re not entering the ring with confidence, don’t enter the ring at all. Confidence comes from not allowing the fearful thoughts to dominate. Fear can be healthy if you use it as motivation in the fight or flight decision process. Identify the feeling, but do not let it grow. One feeling of fear that is managed is healthy. Dwelling on it and allowing it to grow will turn it into an unbeatable monster. Managing and using your thoughts of fear for motivation will grow your confidence.
This is an old sports psychology technique, but still relevant when fighting bulls. Imagine yourself going over the edge, drawing the perfect line and exiting safely into the channel. Then do it over and over again. Even more import, visualize yourself falling, tripping over in front of that bull. See yourself standing back up unscathed, looking the beast dead in the eye, and instantly being ready to go again. This too will build your confidence and help kick in the decision to fight.
Broken down, faith is believing in something you have not yet seen. It’s a deep belief that it’s going to be ok. Sometimes, when all else fails, all we can do is step out in faith. Faith brings hope, and sometimes in those situations of life and death a little hope and a quick prayer is all you need.