Fighting Fear

Fear. 

We have all experienced it. 

It takes many different forms and can effect everyone differently. 

For some it may hold you back, holding your body and mind at a stand still as it grasps every inch of your being. 

For others it may push you forward, it's presence, like a challenge, calls out to you. 

No matter who you are though, we all have that one thing that summons a fear within us that we would rather not deal with. 

Through years of military training and operations I have 3 tools I use to conquer fear. 

TOOL #1 - FLICK THE SWITCH 

I recently posted about this on the Warfighter Athletic Instagram page. Flicking the switch is a routine, it is a ritual we embrace before entering into the arena where we will face fear head on. 

Here is what I wrote about flicking the switch. 

Leading up to the event itself it can be an emotional roller coaster, in this zone, we should work to push the fear we feel closer to the event. Breathe.

Ultimately though, there comes a time and a place, where the only thing left to do is to step into that fear, to face it head on. .

This is when we flick the switch. Flicking the switch is a conscious decision, it is deliberate. 

During my SOF career there were many training evolutions that involved fear, they could take the form of rappelling off a high rise building, jumping from a plane, or thrashing about the ocean in the middle of a storm, as you run in on a vessel that you’re soon to board underway. 

For me it was when I was gearing up. When the body armor, face mask, and helmet were going on, it was time to flick the switch, to become the operator.

Once the switch is flicked, mentally I would be a little colder, a little more violent, in my mind I was the worse nightmare my enemies could face, I was the savage, I was the hunter. 

To some this may sound stupid, but for me it worked.

I remember standing on the ramp of a C-130 as we waited for a weather window to jump, as it was my first time jumping, the Air Force jump master asked if I was nervous, I wasn’t, my heart rate was steady, my mind was calm, I had already flicked the switch and this is what operators do.

Now, once I got strapped to the brother who was my taxi service to the ground and we were launched off the tail gate into a free fall, naturally, I shat myself, but up until that moment, I was cool as a cucumber.

If you have trouble with fear, practice flicking the switch. Pick a moment in time where the switch will be flicked and what mental state you need to be in. Make it an act, make it a ritual.

TOOL #2 - Mission Focused

When fear strikes it is easy to lose focus on the task at hand, to become focused on the threats, dangers and outcomes of the situation you're in. 

When I was deployed to Afghanistan our biggest threat wasn't small arms fire, it was IED's (improvised explosive devices), every day we were on the lookout for combat indicators of an IED attack. 

I remember my brother asking, "what if you get blown up" to which I would always reply "I won't know". 

You can safely guess he was never impressed by this answer, but in my opinion I was better to have this mindset than one of fear. 

If I focused on the threats, dangers and outcomes, creating fictional scenarios in my mind of what "could" happen, I won't be focused on what I actually need to be focused on, the result being I get so caught up in my own fears, that I miss something, and someone from my team pays the ultimate price for it. 

Instead I focused on the mission, where we were going, what we were doing, and all of the skills and drills required to identify and locate combat indicators of an IED attack. 

When you're mission focused, when you're putting your energy and focus into the skills and drills you should be conducting, you don't think about the fear. This frees you up to see the dangers and rationally mitigate them.

If you find yourself confronting fear during a task or in your daily life, take a deep breath and begin to shift your focus to the tasks, skills and drills you should be conducting instead of the fear itself. Be mission focused and you will get through it having conquered your fears. 

TOOL #3 - Extend Your Zone

We all have a comfort zone, once we venture beyond it, we enter into a territory of discomfort and more often than not, a zone of fear. 

What I have found is that the more we seek out our fear zone, the larger our comfort zone becomes. What once was outside of our comfort zone, is now firmly inside it. 

Again, during my time within Special Operations my comfort zone was always pushed further and further out. 

I remember when I first started swarming out of helicopters (sliding down a rope) to the ground, as we would run into the swarm location, we would release our seat belts and move to the skids where we would wait for the green light to go (figurative green light, it is actually a verbal command). 

In the early stages I would consciously be leaning slightly back into the chopper with a firm grip on the seat belt and strong sense of discomfort. After months of training, I remember clearly the moment I knew my zone had shifted drastically. 

As we ran into the kill house we were given the command to move to the skids, as we got the call I was filled with excitement, instead of fear, there was an intense keenness. Instead of leaning into the air frame I was now leaning out, eyeing the target, one hand having a relaxed grip on the seat belt, the other on the rope. 

My mind was intensely focused but I felt an aura of calmness, my comfort zone now permanently shifted, what was once on the very edge of my comfort zone was now well and truly in it. 

Take this as a challenge, seek out your fear zone, enter into it willingly so that you may grow and extend your comfort zone, pulling all of your fears inside it. 

THE SUMMARY

The truth is, we all face fear, some are just better at fighting it than others. 

If you want to conquer fear, if you want to be free of its grip, put the tools above into practice and watch as you conquer fear and extend your zone. 

Like all things, it takes time and conscious effort. 

Put in the work and you will conquer your fears, freeing you up to live a life that is worth living. 

As always, if you need help with conquering fear reach out to our team and we will be here to help. 

PURSUE EXCELLENCE. LIVE READY. 

 


3 comments


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  • robert ley

    Excellent article!


  • Brian Saling

    Awesome points. Always need to push the comfort zone, but flicking the switch is the best one IMHO. The ritual of a point in time to say “That’s it time to go”.


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