Harnessing fear as fuel

To check out the first part of this post, read here.

For some it might come as a surprise, or even a relief, to know that a certain amount of fear is not only ok, it’s a good thing. The key to utilizing that fear to your advantage is in keeping it within that sweet spot level…. just enough, not too much.
So how do we manage fear and stress in order to use it as fuel to perform?

Step 1: Face the fear

Name the threat, calm the amygdala. Call it mindfulness, call it being an observer, it’s about taking time to observe, recognize, and accept our own emotions without judgement. This simple step, in and of itself, can work to calm the amygdala and keep us in better control our responses, actions and emotions.


Step 2: Engrain the good stuff

One of the many miracles of the human brain is its ability to rewire in response to our life experiences, a concept known as neuroplasticity. Your brain can work like a map, taking your thoughts where you choose them to go. This takes practice though.

By celebrating positive moments in your life, you can make resilience and positive thinking more automatic for your brain. As you reach milestones and achieve small successes in life, take time to celebrate those moments!   


Step 3: Expand your comfort zone

Alex Honnold knows about managing fear. The professional rock climber free-soloed the 3000ft face of El Capitan in Yosemite National Park. No ropes, no protection.

Here’s what Alex had to say about how he trained to expand his mental limits:

“You will always feel fear, but over time you will realize the only way to truly manage your fear is to broaden your comfort zone.”

“My comfort zone is like a little bubble around me, and I’ve pushed it in different directions and made it bigger and bigger until these objectives that seemed totally crazy eventually fall within the realm of the possible. “


Alex committed to a process of thoughtful, intentional preparation. He mitigated risk by practicing the most difficult sections of the climb (with ropes) over and over, memorizing the difficult moves and building confidence. Through that process, he trained his brain to manage. The fear didn’t go away, but rather, Alex learned how to work with that fear in a way that fueled his journey. He methodically pushed, pulled and stretched his comfort zone to fit his goal, rather than letting fear keep hold of the reigns.  

For more on Alex’s process, catch the documentary Free Solo, or hear his TED talk.