One of the most common reasons why people don't achieve their goals is not because of time or money it's because of fear.
Before I climbed Kilimanjaro I was weighed down by doubt. Although it was weighing me down it was a good thing. It was "the fear" that made me get up in a morning and get to the gym. It made me train harder. It also made me really anxious. I was so worried about not making it to the summit. Every person I had mentioned it to had said, "oh you'll be great, you're really fit". Unfortunately fitness has no effect on altitude sickness and I was frightened. I kept worrying about what would happen to all of the money I had raised for charity if I didn't make it to the top. Would people ask for it back?
The night before I set out to start the trek, I went outside the lodge and called home. I spoke to my boyfriend, Andy, and told him I didn't think I could do it. How I was terrified about failing. I forced back the tears as he told me I would be brilliant and that he knew I could do it. I didn't believe him. I didn't believe in myself.
I went back into the lodge and asked my new tent mate Kelly (who I had only met a couple of hours before) if she was worried. "About what?" she replied. "Not making it to the top", I questioned. "No, not really, I haven't really thought about it. Why wouldn't we?" Right then, in that moment, she silenced my worries and concerns. Her calmness and confidence, quietened the doubts in my head. Kelly was right, why wouldn't we make it to the top? Yes there was a chance that we would get altitude sickness but also a chance that we wouldn't. The months of worries suddenly felt a lot lighter.
I'm not trying to say that I didn't have any worries from this point onwards because I certainly did and at times I really had to dig deep. However, that trip taught me a lot. The first thing being that I needed to learn to silence my inner critic or at least get control of it. I realised that for too long I had been putting things off or not putting myself out there through fear of failure.
The next challenge following Kili was running the London Marathon (2017). I got a place to run with Kind Snacks with about 12 weeks until race day. At first I feared that I didn't have enough time to train and that there was no way I could train with a full-time job. I worked really hard to put the fear and the marathon mind games to one side. I managed to get control of my fears and stop them from stopping me.
Here are the techniques I use:
1. Accept that Fear will be Part of the Ride
One thing that absolutely changed everything for me was accepting that fear will be part of everything I do. Fear is actually a good thing. For me it's a great indicator that what I'm doing means something. It means that I'm pushing myself out of my comfort zone and achieving things that I'm not sure that I can. I'm not sure if that makes sense but take a read of this Open Letter to Fear by Elizabeth Gilbert:
Creativity and I are about to go on a road trip together. I understand you’ll be joining us, because you always do. I acknowledge that you believe you have an important job to do in my life, and that you take your job seriously. Apparently your job is to induce complete panic whenever I’m about to do anything interesting—and, may I say, you are superb at your job. So by all means, keep doing your job, if you feel you must. But I will also be doing my job on this road trip, which is to work hard and stay focused. And Creativity will be doing its job, which is to remain stimulating and inspiring. There’s plenty of room in this vehicle for all of us, so make yourself at home, but understand this: Creativity and I are the only ones who will be making any decisions along the way. I recognize and respect that you are part of this family, and so I will never exclude you from our activities, but still—your suggestions will never be followed. You’re allowed to have a seat, and you’re allowed to have a voice, but you are not allowed to have a vote. You’re not allowed to touch the road maps; you’re not allowed to suggest detours; you’re not allowed to fiddle with the temperature. Dude, you’re not even allowed to touch the radio. But above all else, my dear old familiar friend, you are absolutely forbidden to drive.
2. Get Yourself A Mantra
When taking on a big challenge you need to be your own cheerleader. Having a positive mantra will help you to change the way you think about yourself. Instead of telling yourself that you can't do something you need to tell yourself that you can. My mantra is "I Can and I Am". Every time I'm out for a long run and I think I can't do this. I quickly follow up with, I can do this - I AM DOING THIS! When you are training for something it is hard. It's meant to be hard. We train hard to make sure that we have what it takes on race day. Try to think of it as training both your mind and your body. What's your mantra?
3. Surround Yourself with People in the Same Boat
This is the time when social media really comes into it's own. If you're taking on a big challenge then chatting about it with other people who are also doing it really helps. You can find experts or complete newbies and both are great for offering support. Runners on Twitter are awesome. There are tonnes of runners out there who have had crappy runs, not finished races, got injured - they are all willing to share their advice and tips and most importantly their experience. Hearing how others juggle their training, their tough runs, the ups and the downs, will help you too.
4. Call on Expert Advice
Maybe you're scared because you don't really know what you're doing? Don't panic that's completely normal. Not many people know what they are doing at the start. Read a little, research a bit and start to put the pieces together. One quick way to do this is to find someone has done what you're trying to do and ask them for help. Depending on your challenge or your goals it might be worth investing in a professional for help and guidance but often people are willing to share their experience for free.
The more you do something the quieter that little voice in your head will get. I promise.
I'd love to know how you cope with fear and whether you have a mantra that keeps you going.