I tell my kids, what is the difference between a hero and a coward? What is the differencebetween being yellow and being brave? No difference. Only what you do. They both feel the same. They both fear dying and getting hurt. The man who is yellow refuses to face up to what he’s got to face. The hero is more disciplined and he fights those feelings off and he does what he has to do. But they both feel the same, the hero and the coward. People who watch you judge you on what you do, not how you feel.
– Cus D’Amato
Fear comes in all forms. Fear of failure. Fear of commitment. Fear of embarrassment. Fear of winning. Fear of responsibility. Fear of death.
Everyone has these fears, they are part of our everyday life. These fears are as much a part of us as our skin and bones. They never go away, they are always there.
Fear is a threat. It can cause us to squander precious moments. To give up early. Or not attempt things at all. Fear can be irrational. Fear can also be punishing. Fear manifests itself and can be incredibly overwhelming. If you fear your fear you are just feeding it. Allowing it to control you – feeding your paranoia and anxiety. This can be incredibly limiting and even crippling to some.
Unfortunately fear will never be truly erased. It will always be apart of our very being, but it can be controlled and it can be used. It can build you. It can direct you. It can let you know you are on the right path. Let you know that you are pursuing worthy goals. Let you know that you are being better.
When something frightens you it’s important to identify it. To name it or label it. As soon as you can identify it, you can start to change your relationship with it. And when you change your relationship with it you can begin to learn from it.
People come into our gym afraid, and they are scared of two things: getting hurt and realizing their true potential. The first is a very real fear, and it’s something that I deal with on a daily basis. Injuries happen in the gym. But what most new athletes don’t understand is that there is a difference between hurting and being hurt. And you have to be willing to build a simple relationship with pain to help understand between the two. It’s only when you do this can you really start to realize what you are truly capable of and start realizing the second fear.
When someone has their first training session with us the response is universally the same. They are tired. A little embarrassed. But exhilarated. They just made their bodies do something that they had never done before. They did something that was hard. What started as something that seemed scary, overwhelming and impossible just became work and after a little bit of time it was done.
Then the pain and the realization set in: it’s going to be really hard to improve your physical and mental fitness. You see, what the newer athlete doesn’t realize is that when you make your body do something it’s never done before it’s going to rebel a little bit. It’s going to let you know that this was new and your body doesn’t like it. You are going to be sore. Your neck might be stiff or your hip or knee might be tight. The question is are you injured? Did you hurt yourself doing something that you previously thought was impossible? Or is your body just exacting its price doing the impossible? My business partner likes to say this is the point where your body is telling you how weak it actually is.
This is incredibly valuable information. You now know what you are capable of. You can actually feel your limits. You did something hard and it hurt. It was something gratifying and now you have paid the price for it. You got to learn something about yourself. That information isn’t free and now what do you do with that information? If you are afraid of a little discomfort and a little hard work then you go back to doing what you were doing.
However if you don’t like what your body told you – if you don’t like knowing that your limits are that low then you start to chase your fear and change your relationship with discomfort.
It’s scary to train. It’s scary to realize how much potential you actually have. That you will pick up something heavy, you will run hard. You might throw up. You might have to rush to the bathroom. And if you are improving or trying to improve you will always be doing more. This is what really gets people – down the line you will be doing more. What you think is heavy right now will be your warm up in a year. What you think is fast right now will be an embarrassing crawl in a year. You will still be afraid of the heavy weight, it will still hurt to run fast – everything is just that much heavier and that much faster. And your fear isn’t an anxiety ridden crippling fear. It’s more of a realization that self improvement won’t be easy, it will hurt, but it will also happen as you put in the work.
It’s scary to realize that all you have to do to improve is to work hard. It’s scary to know that except for the experienced athlete, the only thing that limits your improvement is your desire and work ethic. It’s scary to see other successful athletes in the gym and realize that most of them started scared and some still are, and that the only difference between you and them is that they decided to put in the work day after day.
You have to understand that I am in no way saying it’s ok to get injured during a training session, and provided you have a good coach and remotely decent programming this usually isn’t a problem. However if you can just barely get through a training session and the next day you can hardly move while everyone else is fine, it wasn’t the training session. That was you. Your body and your mind haven’t been tempered. They haven’t been trained to deal with some of the simple stress that can improve us. You are nowhere close to your true physical and mental potential.
My work is simple. I provide a body of hard work and give my athletes the tools to get through that work. Over time the work gets harder and the tools get sharper. How much relevance does this have in the outside world is purely dependent on the individual. But hard is hard no matter if it’s in the gym or outside it. Stress is stress. As you intimately come to understand your fears and stress and you will develop mental tools to help you deal with these stresses. Ultimately you will still feel pain, and fear, but hopefully you have developed some tools to help you deal with these emotions and built up a level of resilience to help you move forward when you need to.
Fear comes in many forms and no one is immune to it. But ultimately it’s our ability to identify what we fear and take the power away from us that dictates how successful we will be in anything we do. Fear in itself doesn’t limit us. Instead it’s how we react to that fear that sets our limits. It provides us with our most basic of limits – it tells us in the harshest of terms if this is our ending or if this is just our beginning.