Last week I was on vacation in Williamsburg, Virginia. I spent a full day at Busch Gardens and had a blast. As a lifelong roller coaster enthusiast, I was looking forward to riding the five different coasters.
As my sister and boyfriend and I approached the newest and greatest coaster on our arrival at the park, The Griffon, I noticed them both looking up at it with less than enthusiasm. They insisted that we not sit in the front row and even admitted to being clammy with fear. I believe one of them actually said "I can't feel my legs."
I share this with you not to embarrass them but to have you understand the full extent of their fear. Well, we rode the coaster - I loved it - they were glad it was done. But we spent the rest of the day riding the other coasters in the park. I was glad they were willing to give them all a try.
At the end of the day, I decided that I wanted to ride the Griffon again from the front row. You see, the Griffon is unlike other coasters. It is 3 rows of 10 people and once it climbs its first ascent, it STOPS.
The coaster suspends you 205 ft. in the air for seven heart-stopping seconds before it plunges at a 90 degree angle at 71 mph.
I knew I would regret it if I didn't ride this beast from the front row. You can imagine my surprise when my boyfriend said he would join me. He decided that he shouldn't let his fear of heights hold him back from experiencing it with me.
So here we go again. Up the long climb from the front row and at this point even my heart is racing. When it "drops" us over the edge, I think I screamed something I can write here. I looked at my boyfriend and his eyes were closed. Seven, six, five, four, three, two, one...and the biggest rush you can imagine.
When it was over, I expected him to say "Well, that was great. Let's go." Instead he said, "That wasn't as bad as I anticipated. Let's go again."
So we did. Two more times. Both from the front row. And you know what happened? Both of us experienced our fear dissipate. By the third ride, his eyes were wide open and he was waving to people on the ground.
What happened? He faced his fears so many times, it went away.
It made me think of a quote I heard once in a different context. "Bull riding is like (riding a roller coaster). You're never completely ready - it just becomes your turn."
Sure he could have decided to not go on the coaster. But once he took the action of getting in line, everything else happened automatically. Once you're in - you're in.
How is this applicable with helping us overcome other fears? If we can find a way to commit to something that makes us face our fears, unless we are willing to break a commitment - we have to do what we said.
For example, I have a business associate who is terrified of public speaking. When she was laid off earlier this year, she joined a networking group and volunteered to lead the meetings! Now every Monday morning, she speaks in front of 20 to 50 people. Yes, she's had to deal with the sweating, shaking, and stammering but week by week she has gotten more comfortable.
Now she has even created a workshop for this group. Once her Monday morning speaking became easier, she looked for another commitment she could make to force her to expand her boundaries.
So what are you fearful of doing that you could make a public commitment to that would force you to face your fears? Want to write a book? Commit to a coach that you will turn in one chapter once a week. Afraid to ask for a raise? Schedule a meeting with your boss with compensation as the topic! Fearful of flying? Book a non-refundable trip to a dream destination.
The best tip I can give you is to get an accountability partner for anything you want to accomplish. Unfortunately, commitments we make to ourselves are easy to break. We are more likely to meet a friend at the gym when we've said we be there than if we just decide we're going to the gym after work.
By using this "it just becomes your turn" philosophy, you can successfully face any fear.