Continued from page 1
Feelings send us off in various directions just like retrorockets. When they fire, we start to travel in a certain direction. When we identify feeling and its source, we have opportunity to counter its effect if we choose. That's why it is so critical that we understand what's occurring. It may be that we don't want to counter effect--that's okay, too. The difference is that now we're pilots who know what's taking place as opposed to pilots with rockets firing at random and no idea where we're headed. A feelings inventory is our control panel. Sometimes our retro-rockets may fire in a direction that's good. It helps to know that, too.
Infants have few fears. During early days of life, we tune in to our confidence voice like a radio picking up a strong signal. We don't even need a vocabulary! The message is perfectly clear: Do it. Touch it. Put it in my mouth. Taste it. Twist it. Throw it on ground. Never again will our confidence voice play such an undiluted role in our actions--fortunately. If we didn't "catch" certain fears from our society, we would likely die young.
Unfortunately, once those fears do come into our lives, we usually take on more than we need. We find we become more adept at hearing our fear voice than tuning in our fainter confidence voice.
I was confronted with my fear voice when I had chance to skydive to North Pole. After three hours in air, Russian jet transport I was aboard had finally arrived over polar cap. Along with my fellow team members, I approached exit ramp. Within two steps of edge, I realized I had a significant gear problem: I had forgotten to tighten my leg straps. If I went into free fall with my leg straps loose, on opening, my harness would shift upward. My chest strap would shift across my face, likely knocking off my goggles.
In that frigid Arctic air, with a single tear and a blink of my eyes, my eyelashes could freeze together. Should that occur in both eyes, I could no longer tell if I was heading for ice or water. I wouldn't be able to tell when I was getting near surface so I could make a safe landing. The worst case would be that my chest strap would shift above my head, no longer holding me in my harness. I would pitch forward and continue in free fall for what would become my final skydive.
I was faced with a very difficult decision and only a few moments in which to make it.
I had to decide between going back into aircraft and giving myself a more thorough gear check or leaving plane with my team. My team was my survival mechanism. Due to speed of aircraft, my only hope of landing with my team would be by exiting with my team.
I tightened my leg straps, knowing there could be as many as half a dozen other important elements of preparation I could have neglected in excitement of moment and bulk of unusual gear.
As I looked out that door and tried to make my decision, I heard from my fear voice and it said, "Jim get back in plane! You're about to kill yourself."
Fortunately, my confidence voice was there, too. It had a deliberate, but quieter, tone: "Jim, you're well trained. You're well prepared and you don't want to miss this opportunity. If you leave aircraft now, you'll have experience of a lifetime!"
I had to listen to those two voices and decide if I was ready to take next step. I did, and rewards have been immeasurable. I found my true calling: as a result of that experience, I've been able to become a full-time professional speaker and help people understand how taking risks stepping outside their comfort zone-can lead to higher performance on job and greater personal satisfaction. Immeasurable rewards await you, too, if you're willing to take some thoughtful and constructive risks!
Jim McCormick is a leading authority on risk and fear. He draws on his experiences as a World Record and North Pole skydiver to help people effectively deal with fear and take the critical risks that lead to improved personal and organizational performance. More information is available at http://www.RiskAndFear.com.