Mindfully Fearless: Learning to Accept Fear and Control It
Before you do a something new do you get scared? Do you find yourself with those nervous feelings in your stomach – like butterflies fluttering, or a shakiness that you can’t get rid of, or thoughts of doubt racing through your head? Fear: it can strike all of us and can take over our minds and can limit us from performing at our fullest. As a professional back country snowboarder and athlete, I have spent my whole career learning how to acknowledge fear, harness it and turn it into positive energy when I am trying new things on my snowboard, or in other aspects of my life.
People typically describe me as fearless, confident, daring, and courageous. I am proud to be described in that way, but what people don’t realize is that I am not always fearless. Fear is something I have learned how to manage and recognize. I have learned that mitigating risks, becoming confident with the decisions I make, physical training, staying in the present moment with meditation techniques, and breathing (a lot) are all ways that I can manage my levels of fear. These are tools that everyone can use. Sure, maybe I am wired differently, which allows me to push myself and control my mind more than most, but I still find ways to scare myself. When I am afraid I use the tools above to bring out positive rather than negative emotions.
Dropping into big mountain lines in Alaska this winter, learning new tricks – like a double backflip on a snowboard – and even doing my first Olympic-distance triathlon were all terrifying to think about initially! In order to overcome these feelings of angst, I focused my mind on what I can control like my training, my mind, my fitness, my attitude, and just simply trying to let go of what’s happened in the past or what could happen in the future and focusing on the NOW. Fear cannot exist if you’re living in the moment (or that’s at least what I tell myself). As long as I have prepared my skills for what I want to accomplish – by putting the time and energy into training my body and mind – fear becomes less apparent.
As an example of how I have managed a fear recently, this spring I set a goal to complete my first Olympic-distance triathlon at June Lake in the Eastern Sierra, which took place in the middle of July. To make it more challenging, I wanted to be one of the top three finishers in my age group. This wasn’t a goal I just pulled out of thin air. In 2013, I completed a sprint-distance triathlon and ended up 1st in my age group. I knew I was capable of taking the next step up and completing a longer distance and I wanted to push myself to do well again.
Now I just had to up my distances, shorten my transition times, and… learn how to swim in the open water for a mile straight, GULP! The swim is what scared me in my last triathlon and is what caused me the most anxiety in prepping for the June Lake Triathlon. The water was going to be cold, wetsuits were mandatory and the race was being held at 8000 ft. The doubts ran through my head: all negatives, what ifs and the fear that I would let myself down.
Instead of caving in, I signed up for the race with confidence and I started focusing on my training. I ran, biked and swam for the two months prior to the race in-between my travel schedule. I made time to meditate. I let go of my fears and embraced the challenge of doing this event with a positive attitude. When it came to race day, I was still nervous but I was also excited – my main goal was to have fun! I struggled through the swim as I expected I would, made up some time on my bike, and charged full force on the run. I finished the event with a huge smile and 2nd in my age group!
Fear can limit us from our goals or drive us to achieve greatness. Either way, it is a choice for us to live with. I have found that the more I can push myself out of my comfort zone, the more fine-tuned my mind becomes. By pushing myself to conquer my Olympic-distance triathlon and power through the swim that made me nervous, I am training myself to focus on what I can control, have a present mind, and motivated spirit so I can have the confidence to stand up to my fears on the snow. I’ve learned that trying new things and not being afraid to fail helps shape us into confident and courageous beings. I like to say I am “mindfully fearless” because I know the fear is always going to be there, but over time and with patience I have taught myself how to control it.
Kimmy Fasani is a professional snowboarder and Liv Cycling ambassador. Although she is best known for being the first woman to land a double back flip in the park and on powder, she is also an avid adventurer who you can usually find road riding, mountain biking or climbing in Mammoth, California. Read Kimmy’s full bio HERE. Photography by Peter Morning.