G.O. For Change

Changing people, places, and things one blog at a time…

F.E.A.R. (False Evidence Appearing Real)*

with 4 comments

Yesterday, a leadership group that I am a part of set out to tackle a team building compound, that made us work together as a team, think outside the box, and be able to use our leadership skills to achieve our goals. One of the events was a ropes course, which was suspended HIIIIIIIGH in the air in the middle of a forest! It looked impressive and intimidating at the same damn time (bonus points if you said the previous 5 words in your best “Future” voice). While I was ready for the challenge, I had a problem; I AM AFRAID OF HEIGHTS!

As I said earlier, this ropes challenge was intimidating; it was broken into 4 parts, which I call “initial set-up”, “eagle walk”, “heeby jebbies” and “zip”: during the initial set-up, you had to climb a ladder, and attach yourself to the actual lines. I had just assisted my other teammates in completing the challenge and it was my turn. Since I already just watched the team individually go through the course, I was confident approaching the “initial set-up”- which lasted about the 8 steps on the ladder. Getting up to the actual rope line was very difficult for me, and once I started, it would have been great to tell you that I just breezed through the challenge, zip lined through the forest, and  conquered my fear of heights… it did NOT happen that way.

Once I got through the initial set up, I had to walk to the first “checkpoint” which was about 30 feet away. It felt like 3000 feet away! I focused on a tree, and inched my way to the destination. My other teammates were encouraging me (which we all did for each other), but I didn’t want to hear it-fear caused me to not want to receive it. Once I reached the first checkpoint, I then asked for encouragement*. The next checkpoint was the “eagle walk” which used 3 lines, 1 line to walk across, and 2 lines that you used for assistance-similar to using railings as you walk down a flight of stairs. The instructor showed me what to do, and just breezed through the “eagle walk”; me? Not so much. In this situation, I had already seen 2 of my teammates fall*, and while we were attached securely, I was terrified of falling, and it was evident as it took me a while to go across this portion. Checkpoint reached (after about 10-15 minutes). Now, it was “heeby jeebies” time (appropriate name). This section was a walk across; with a distraction- another rope was connected, which you had to step over to get to the checkpoint. This was really difficult for me, because while it was the really the same set up as before, only the line was not as tight, which caused a PROBLEM for me.* I psyched myself up, and took one step, and took one step back, which made me have THIS reaction in my mind. I heard my team giving me support, challenging me, pushing me (even threatening to throw rocks at me).  Hesitantly, I took one step, and another, and another- what seemed to be 45,000 steps later; I was at the last step, “zip”.

“I had already zip lined before, so, leaping off of the platform that was the easiest thing to do.”* I closed my eyes, and just let go- and yelled “PINEAPPLES” as I descended back down to the ground. It felt empowering to be able to do that, and was a great lesson that I learned about myself, and what it takes to be in control.

So, as you noticed throughout the story, there were “*” that popped up. Here is the relevancy of them as it related to this experience:

* “Once I reached the first checkpoint, I then asked for encouragement”: The purpose of a great support system is to encourage WHILE you are going through your “event, “and after. I didn’t want to hear encouragement while I was walking, because I was engulfed in that fear, and hearing encouragement would have (and did) force me to confront that fear. When you are going through something, be willing to receive encouragement. Too many of us use the “I can do it myself without help” speech, to shield us from being confronted about getting out of that comfort zone (i.e. fear). Make sure that you surround yourself with people that can encourage you, even when you aren’t encouraging yourself.

* “I had already seen 2 of my teammates fall*, and while we were attached securely, I was terrified of falling, and it was evident as it took me a while to go across this portion.” Fear will allow you to only see the worst in a situation. Instead of saying to myself “just be careful”, only thing I could think about was what I saw, and how I DIDN’T want that to happen to me. If I would have shifted, and acknowledged my anxiety, created a plan of action, and focused on that, the fear would have subsided.

* “This was really difficult for me, because while it was the really the same set up as before, only the line was not as tight, which caused a PROBLEM for me.”  Often, we are placed in similar situations, but instead of using successful action steps that we took the last time, we allow the fear to resurface, and cloud our judgment. When you are involved in a situation, remember what worked, and if something needs to be tweaked, then by all means tweak!

* “I had already zip lined before, so, leaping off the platform that was the easiest thing to do.” The zip lining part was the EASIEST part! I really appreciated this course, as compared to the one I experienced before, which just involved climbing up a tree, and zip lining. Don’t get me wrong, that was a great experience as well, but the work that went into THIS course really made the last step very easy and rewarding. Once we went through the steps needed to get to the goal, accomplishing the goal (in this case, zip lining), was easy. Remember that when you are faced with difficulties when accomplishing a goal.

*F.E.A.R. (False Evidence Appearing Real): While I was up there frozen from moving, one of my teammates asked:” What are you afraid of?” At the time, I was only scared about falling- I didn’t want the embarrassment of falling, even though I stated earlier that we were securely harnessed (which, unless you would have weighed 4,500 pounds would have been a problem). When my teammates fell, it wasn’t a big deal-they just picked themselves up, and kept going. I also felt as though the ropes were in control, not me. So when  I realized that I wasn’t going to fall to my death, or have my support group heckle me, and I realized that I WAS in control, and that those lines were to HELP me, it was easier to accomplish my goal. Too often we talk ourselves out of being successful; “I’ll never be in love”, “I’ll never be happy”, I’ll never be___________. If we took a moment to have courage, envision the positive, increase positive self-talk, having a great support system, and reduce negative talk, anything is possible. Ask that entire forest, my peeps and I walked across yesterday.

As always, I thank you for reading.


Ps.  F.E.A.R now stands for “Feeling Excited and Ready!

P.p.s Apparently, a Batman or Catwoman costume is NOT appropriate zip lining apparel. Just an FYI.

Written by Garry O'Neal Jr.

June 23, 2012 at 6:09 pm

4 Responses

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  1. I know some people who can really benefit from this story.


    June 23, 2012 at 7:13 pm

  2. Love it. Your words made me feel like i was on them ropes. Yes positive self talk will take you to new Heights!!!!!


    June 24, 2012 at 1:44 am

  3. […] people, we all need a great support system. I recently wrote about my adventure zip lining. I needed my support system to get me to my goal-even when I told them to “shut up”, they still […]

  4. Amazing Brother Gary! and you came and conquered!!! You rock.

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