Exercise your fear. That’s what Fearless Felix Baumgartner did. You know, the guy who jumped from the stratosphere this past weekend? The first and only person to break Mach 1 with their body?
Fearless Felix wasn’t afraid of jumping from near outerspace. He’s jumped from freakish heights that would make a lesser man’s heart explode over 2,500 times. He’s jumped off of the Christ the Redeemer statue in Rio de Janiero, and the Taipei 101 tower in Taiwan. He’s already jump from an altitude of 96,640 feet. This guy has a spine out of titanium diamonds. Legend has it that when he was born he received a heart transplant. From Doctor Who. I swear this man eats Unicorn bacon he’s so bad.
Fearless Felix Almost Grounded
Of all the things that could have grounded Fearless Felix Baumgartner’s record-breaking leap from 23 miles up, the one that almost murdered his dream of breaking the sound barrier with his body was…
Baumgartner’s fear was his biggest mental and emotional obstacle to taking the upper-stratosphere leap of 120,000 ft. “Fearless Felix” got more than a little freaked out by his pressurized space suit that he’d wear during his 2 hour ascension and 9 minute fall back to Earth.
Fearless Felix was supremely confident and often relaxed during most of his 2,500 jumps. “Fear has become a friend of mine,” he said in a statement. “It’s what prevents me from stepping too far over the line.”
Yet he was almost paralyzed by claustrophia. In most of his jumps he had complete control. But being in a pressurized suit with limited visibility and mobility made him more than nervous about controlling the reins. Red Bull, the chief sponsor behind this record-breaking mission, paid to bring in sports psychologist Dr. Michael Gervais. He’s someone who specializes in extreme sports, such as taking the unknown risk of breaking the sound barrier with your own body.
Preparing to make the jump exposed a new fear for Fearless Felix. It wasn’t the fear of the fall from 128,000 ft, it was the fear of suiting up for it.
Needing to feel in control
The feeling of being inside a pressurized suit brought on panic attacks for Baumgartner, threatening to bring the mission to a screeching halt. That’s where Dr. Gervais entered.
Over the course of three days, Gervais concluded that Fearless Felix didn’t quite have the necessary mental and emotional tools to conquer his fear in the face of this extreme risk.
The issue wasn’t this very high jump. He’d done insane ones before. But it was the feeling of control lost in the face of such risk. The suit had become the issue: it was a symbol of not having complete control.
How to overcome fear: Reconnect with your vision
To fight this influx of fear, Felix Baumgartner had to get his eyes back on the prize. He needed to reconnect with his vision, why he was even doing this crazy thing. Fearless Felix became fixated on the suit, not on the mission he hoped it would aid him in accomplishing.
“When we are in a high stakes or intense situation, it’s not uncommon for our minds to jump forward, going to the next moment and worrying about what happens when this moment doesn’t go well,” Gervais said. “What happens is we give 50 percent to something that doesn’t exist yet and 50 to this moment.”
Instead, what must happen for us to overcome our fear is for us to commit to the moment, and not continue to stray on the fears. That’s not to say we don’t listen to fear’s warning of imminent danger. But when you have a well-thought plan and you decide to never give up, you can focus on your vision and drive forward.
Fearless Felix Baumgartner almost saw his mission grounded by fear. Instead, he reconnected with his vision, not the feeling of losing control. Once he jumped that fear, and that hurdle, he could accomplish his plan. What in vision in life are you aiming for, but are being held back because you don’t feel in control?