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Airborne school at Fort Benning, Georgia is designed to prepare soldiers, sailors, airmen and marines to jump out of airplanes and silently fly through the air and when landing be a viable fighting force. The school is essentially two weeks of learning how to hit the ground hard. Each day feels like late summer two a day football practices.
Imagine falling to the ground hundreds of times each week, learning how to fall so that it does not hurt. Several training evolutions deal with dealing with fear. I remember looking at each challenge and initially being a frightened. My mind would always imagine the pain that I would feel if I did it wrong, or even worse the emotional pain of not being able to do it right. We were trained to deal with our fear.
4 tips for dealing with fear in your daily life
Funny thing is each challenge started out scary but turned out to be a total blast. Once you had done it a couple of times you wanted to keep doing it. Always before you though is week three. Week three is when you will jump out of the airplane in flight. You have been taught all of the things that could go wrong. The night before our first jump it seemed that everyone in the barracks was living deep in your mind, most got religion, and the barracks was silent.
The next morning we arrived at the airfield and that airplane had our full attention. Was that our make shift coffin? While normally there was lots of horseplay and fun conversations before a training evolution, there was none that day. Silence ruled the morning.
Sergeant Airborne (the training instructors all have the same name) gathered a group of us together and asked us if we were afraid. Everyone said, “No.” Knowingly he looked around and told us that were idiots. A smart man would be terrified to jump from 3000 feet in the air and depend on some canvas to save your bacon. We all smiled. He told us that we were stupid to trust in the men who packed the parachute.
“What if they just got dumped by their girlfriend or was otherwise distracted?” Wow he was not helping matters any. But then he told us the most important piece of information that I received during that training. Courage is not the absence of fear. Courage is being afraid and doing it anyway. You don’t need courage in normal every day circumstances when all things go well. But how do you summon that courage?
Men particularly seem reluctant to admit when they are afraid. I know for a fact that they often are terrified. Many have been the times that I have clenched up and braced for the worst. It would be impossible to count the number of times that I hesitated to answer the phone when it was someone I know who could be passing on bad news.
Some strive to rid themselves of all fear. Let’s be honest here. If you are going to be successful at anything and make a real difference you must take risks. Real risks require danger. Danger leads to fear. Embrace the fear. Let it motivate you.
Allow it to make you smarter in your preparation. One of the most common fears is the fears is the fear of failure. This one is mine. I own that I fear failure. Every day the potential to fail is huge. It took on a mission to turn around an organization that may have invited me in too late. I moved my family, left my friends and took on this challenge.
I risked failure and it scares me from my deepest core. Now I could have let that fear prevent me from taking the job. Another possibility is that I could avoid it by cowering in a corner and hoping for the best. But the fear drives me to work harder, to develop new ideas, and to keep experimenting until we find the right direction that will cause us to succeed.
I have embraced that fear. Another fear that I struggle with is the fear of ending my days in a nursing home. Several times have I visited these places. Every time I think, “I don’t ever want to live here.” Again I embrace the fear. I think of that nursing home when I want to eat a piece of cake or that dozen donuts.
When I don’t want to exercise I imagine myself there in the wheelchair staring at a tv with the volume too high sitting next to a guy that is sitting in his own poop. No I will exercise. I will push myself. I will live a healthy life. Embrace fear.
Face the facts
Most of the time the things we fear are pretty unlikely to actually take place. If you watch enough of the news you can get the sense that we are going to be killed by terrorists or the latest plague. It is true that all of the people who died of those things did not expect that to happen.
They most likely believed that it happens to other people. But face the fact. Nothing can stop those things from happening to you if they are going to happen. How is worrying about it going to help? Face the facts. Of the billions of people in the world the number of people killed by terrorists and the latest plague really is miniscule.
If you start to feel afraid take some time to do research. What are the actual odds of this happening to me? The things we fear most really are usually unlikely. Those things that are more likely usually offer some escape. If you fear lung cancer, quit smoking.
If you fear diabetes may quit eating too many donuts. If you fear your spouse leaving you, treat them better than they can even imagine. Face the facts and make changes if needed.
Living in Oklahoma where the Apache chief Geronimo is buried gives me a special affection for this legendary warrior. Just the fact that men who are wanting to summon courage shout his name shows you something of his character and strength.
He is not the only symbol of courage in our world. Do some research. There are tons of books out there about men and women who lived incredibly courageous lives and overcame all those fears to accomplish great things. Study their lives. Hang out with other courageous people.
Having been a soldier I can tell you that courage is contagious. Being near courageous people will enable you to take on your greatest fears. Geronimo!
Handle your fears
It has been said that if you can keep your head while everyone else is losing theirs you will be an incredible success. This has been proven by warriors and sages throughout history. Learn to manage your emotions and handle your fears and suddenly you will be asked to lead.
Consider the glory of your achievements like a seven year old boy about to jump his Big Wheel over his kid sister. Handle your fears by thinking of the triumph. Set aside all of the things that might go wrong. Put your mind on what will happen when you succeed. When you do that you will be able to handle your fears and succeed.
We all made the jump that day, we all lived and the barracks was rowdy that night as always. But that truth has sat with me ever since. I went home from airborne school feeling invincible. I have often been filled with fear but I press on anyway. Courage is not the absence of fear, but rather being afraid going forward anyway.