Overcoming Fear and Why the Mind Matters Most

I was, in the middle of a swim in a local lake. It was a Sunday morning, and many swimmers were around me, following the course. The warm-up leading up to the swim went well. My coach and teammates were there, giving me confidence and comfort. Then it happened. My chest began to tighten up. I started to feel the panic kick in. I was stuck in the middle of the lake, hyperventilating in the water. I was in trouble.

Rewind to the week before. I had completed a triathlon and placed third in my age group. I’ve been doing triathlons for five years now, and just this past weekend, completed my fourth “Ironman 70.3” distance race. But on this day, I could not swim. Fortunately, my teammates, who were all back at shore by this time, realized something wasn’t right. A mad rush of people swam towards me and got me back to shore.

I couldn’t wrap my head around what had just happened. I sat on the shore with my coach and watched others continue their swim workouts. I was quiet and embarrassed, questioning myself, my abilities, and whether I would be able to do my next race. Others were concerned about me, and what I didn’t realize at the time was that my challenge was making them question their own abilities. Nonetheless, they were encouraging me the whole time.

As my coach sat with me, and allowed me the time to decompress, she explained to me that it wasn’t about my ability to swim. It was in my head. She led me to realize that I had negative self-talk running through my mind that morning. It was distracting me from the task at hand. She gave me mental exercises to keep my mind focused, and provided me with the encouragement to decide get back in the water.

For me, on that day, the mental block and the negative self talk was about my swim. Yet it was also a big realization. What keeps us from accomplishing our goals, or perhaps even stepping onto the road to begin traveling towards them, is between the ears. We fill our minds with obstacles. We let thoughts in that maybe we’re not as capable as we think we are, or allow negative energy to zap the positive.

Yet my experience in the water that day proved to me how quickly those obstacles can be removed. My teammates filled me with positive thoughts and recognition. My coach allowed me the time to be with my feelings, but showed me how to get back on track mentally, and got right back in the water with me for support. I believed in myself again. I could do the thing that had almost destroyed me just a few moments prior.

The reality is that we all face many challenges in life and in business. When do you get stuck, feel defeated, or question your abilities? Recognize that it’s happening, and be with the feeling for a moment, the clear your head. Shift your thoughts and energies towards the positive, and find encouraging supportive people. Doing this will not only save you from drowning, but it will also allow you to focus on, and pursue the tasks that will lead you to achieve your goals.

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