08 Nov 7 Ways to Overcome Your Fear and Create a Breakthrough

For most of my life, I’ve consistently worked out five days per week. I’ve been blessed with decent endurance, strength, and flexibility. Recently, however, a major weakness of mine was exposed… jumping rope. Something simple, that I probably should’ve learned how to master in kindergarten.  

On a routine Monday, Jeremy Gunderson, my personal trainer, decided to have me do something not so ordinary. In the middle of our session, he announced, “It’s time to do a rowing and jump roping circuit in the front.” Jump rope circuit? I tried not to show panic and suggested, “How about we go into a private area instead? I don’t jump rope.” Without skipping a beat, Jeremy replied, “Nope. I already have you set up in the front.” Note: The front is a wide open space where everyone in the gym can congregate and watch.

The Obstacle

In the short period of time walking from the back of the gym to the front, I couldn’t believe the number of haunting memories that popped into my head. During a fifth grade basketball practice in 1991, I ran to the bathroom as soon as Coach Pete Hansen brought out the jump rope. I didn’t really have to go.

During a college basketball practice in 2002, when Coach Skip Noon pointed to the jump rope corner, I grabbed my hamstring in pain and went downstairs to see our sports medicine trainer, Mike Ribar. Big surprise, my hamstring didn’t really hurt, but my secret was safe.

During a high intensity group fitness class in 2010, the instructor, Molly Schwab Holsen, had rotational circuits. When I arrived at the dreaded jump roping station, I did jumping jacks instead. Molly kindly inquired, “Are you ok?” I embarrassingly murmured, “Yes. I just hate jumping rope.”

Looking back, I realized that I was the obstacle. Now that over 25 years has passed since my initial fear of jumping rope began, I finally decided that it was time to overcome it. Where in your life do you need to overcome yourself as the biggest obstacle?

7 Ways to Overcome Your Fear

While reflecting upon this humbling experience, I’ve developed the following seven ways to overcome your fear.

#1: Remove your massive ego. During the training session, I regrettably said out loud, “My jump rope is too short.” Immediately, my workout partner and friend, Mike Kinsella, who is seven-feet tall mind you, challenged my lame comment with, “Really Derek?” It didn’t take me long to realize that it wasn’t the rope’s fault. In fact, Mike racked up 150 jumps in the time that it took me to do 30. My ego was whispering, “Make excuses.” Does your ego get in the way? You don’t have to be good at everything.

#2: Crush your limiting self-confidence. Besides telling myself that I’m too old, that jumping rope is too hard, and that I cannot do it, I’ve also had the constant fear of looking like a total clown. In the past, the only thing that I had willingly used a jump rope for was to create a three point line on my childhood basketball court. I guess it’s time to live the motivating words of Vincent Van Gogh, “If you hear a voice within you say, ‘You cannot paint,’ then by all means paint and that voice will be silenced.” When are you self-doubting yourself? I believe in you . . . and I’m sure many others do, too.

#3: Do the thing you habitually put off. Remember the group fitness class that I took with Molly? Immediately after class, she gave me one of her own personal jump ropes so that I could practice. Unfortunately, the jump rope is still under the couch in my basement seven years later. It’s time for me to dust it off and get to work. What fears have you been avoiding for years? Today, scare the pants off yourself and jump all in. It feels awkward at first, but it works.
[Check out my article: What Are You Putting Off That’s Bothering You?]

Click to Tweet: What fears have you been putting off for years? Today, scare the pants off yourself and jump all in. It feels awkward at first, but it works.

#4: Make valuable mistakes. During the previously mentioned 10 minute jump rope session with my trainer, we had to perform five sets of 150 jumps. For the first two sets, I failed every 30 jumps. Jeremy instructed, “Move your wrists faster.” Ouch! I smacked the back of my neck. During the next two sets, I failed every 20 jumps. This time, Jeremy instructed, “Don’t swing your shoulders too much.” Ouch! I slapped my shins. Best for last? Not so much. I failed every 10 jumps. Boxing legend Muhammad Ali, once said, “I hated every minute of training, but I said, ‘Don’t quit. Suffer now and live the rest of your life as a champion.’” When do you need to fail now so that you can triumph later? [Check out my article: You Will Fail, But You’re Not A Failure]

#5: Stay laser-focused. As I started to make more mistakes during our session, I started to hear, “I’m not sure I’ve ever seen slower twitch muscles at work” and “It doesn’t make sense. How can you be such an athlete and not know how to jump rope?” You see, even though my friends and coworkers were simply trying to have fun with me, I started to overthink my instruction and pay attention to the critics. How will you continue to stay focused with eyes on the prize, when people are judging you and your failures?  [Check out my article: My 120-Minute YOUzone]

#6: Be uncommonly patient. During the training session, a gym member who was double my age stopped by to chuckle and comment, “You don’t have to try and dunk a basketball every time you jump over the rope. You only need an inch.” I was so afraid to fail that I jumped 12 inches in the air for every jump. Instead of getting defensive, I took a deep breath, smiled back, and responded, “You’re right. I’ll work on it.” When do you need to take a deep breath and keep trying? Give yourself a chance to get better. Aristotle once said, “Patience is bitter, but its fruit is sweet.”

#7: Create a winning plan. A few hours after our training session, I received the following email from Jeremy: “Jump rope is your nemesis. We all have these. To become better, you must practice. When I learned double unders, I practiced for ten minutes a day and became proficient in three months. Once you learn how to jump rope, you will have this skill in your wheelhouse forever. Before your workouts for the next three months, practice for ten minutes and watch your progression over time.” He’s right. Skills are acquired and mastered with diligent, repeated practice. To ensure success, I’ll put jump roping in my calendar for the next 90 days. What do you need to practice to bring you success?

It’s Time to Create Your Breakthrough

Raise your hand if you have a fear. Now, raise your other hand if you have two fears. Put your leg in if you have three. You might have a fear of success, heights, birds, people, or germs. I don’t know what you fear, because we all have different fears. What do you fear?

During this article, you might have thought, “Jump roping is so easy and not a fear.” For me, it is currently a fear. Just because my single-digit aged daughters are already much better than me doesn’t mean that it will come easy to me. A big fear to me might not be a fear at all to you. On the other hand, a small fear to me may be a big fear to you.

Fear is fear. When I froze on stage as a young professional, I never thought I’d become a professional speaker… much less ever speak  again. When I flunked the reading part of my ACT exam in high school, I would never have imagined that one day I’d write a book… much less graduate from college.

Take 3 Seconds

Fortunately, by taking three seconds to raise my hand and volunteer for a speech at work and taking another three seconds to put my pen to paper and start writing my story, I was able to create a breakthrough necessary to start my speaking business and to publish a book. By doing the things that scared me, I conquered my fears . . . and my fears became a thing of my past.

The real space in between the knowing-doing gap is emotional. We are scared. It’s why we read another book about business instead of starting a business. Getting uncomfortable is just one step away. Right now, get up and do it afraid.

ACTION: Many of us track our money, food, water, physical activity, books, and movies.  There’s something about putting it out there in black and white. That being said, I’ve never heard of anyone tracking their fears. Starting today, create a Do It Afraid Journal. Write down the top 5 fears that you want to overcome. Next to each, jot down how trying them would help you and hurt you. Utilizing the seven ways to overcome your fear and create a breakthrough, take massive action on your top fear in which the help outweighs the hurt.

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