JUMP AWAY from your Fears! Lessons from Skydiving
“Thinking will not overcome fear but action will.” – Clement Stone
Around two years ago, my then 16 year old daughter, Hope and I were talking about the fact that she’ll experience several important milestones over the next decade, including graduation, turning 18, going away to college, etc. I remember asking her what she wanted to do when she turned 18, that magical age when one officially becomes an adult and the world opens up to new opportunities, and she said she wanted to go skydiving with me. I thought to myself, “what a cool idea”, immediately followed by “but I hope she forgets about it over the next two years and comes up with another idea!”.
Flash forward two years, Hope is a few weeks away from her 18th birthday and reminds me of our conversation, asking me if we can go. Do you know that queasy feeling you get in the pit of your stomach when you’re nervous and anxious, and how suddenly your heart rate increases and sweat starts forming on your brow? That was me.
You see, I have a fear of heights. Not clinically afraid… I’ve visited high places like the Grand Canyon, the Empire State Building and other high spots, but it’s always a challenging moment when peering over the edge and looking down at the ground, and not very pleasant (especially if there’s no barrier between me and the ground). In fact, I am one of those people who feels compelled to jump sometimes, something called HPP, or high place phenomenon (google it). Weird! When it’s up to me, I prefer to be on the ground and in control of my situation. Yep, if we go somewhere together in the car, I’ll always ask if I can drive.
So, when Hope expressed her desire to skydive with me I had to make a decision. Do I face my fear of heights to jump out of a perfectly good plane to create a special memory with my newly adult daughter who means the world to me, or do I allow my fear to overcome me and miss out on a once in a lifetime opportunity? I chose the former and am so glad that I did!
Facing and conquering one’s fears is a key to personal growth. Fear prevents us from experiencing things in life that are enriching and growth inducing. Psychologically, fear can be useful in terms of protecting us from harm. Unfortunately, too many times it also prevents us from living life to its full potential.
(False Evidence Appearing Real)
I’ll admit to being very nervous the morning of our scheduled tandem jump at SkyDive Marana at Marana Airpark, just 30 minutes outside of downtown Tucson. Hope was a bundle of excitement and joy though…being the fearless, full of life, high energy teenager she is.
The reality of what was about to happen really hit me square in the face when we boarded the small plane, which was designed exclusively on the inside to jump out of. Hope was positioned next to me with our tandem guides (instructors) right behind us (we practically sat on their lap). My guide, Luke, as very professional and calming with a dry sense of humor. I volunteered to jump first as part of my strategy to overcome my fear and face it head on… and to get this things done.
As our plane took off and things on the ground got smaller, the loud wind rushed through the cargo area where we sat. Hope and I pointed to landmarks on the ground in NW Tucson, as we held hands for a bit and gave each other words of encouragement. Our guides took video of our experience with GoPro cameras to capture the memories, which is incredible.
As we crested 8000 ft., our guides secured additional straps on our jump harnesses. Around 10,000 ft was GO time! The anticipation was ridiculous as I felt my heart rate going up and my mouth getting dry. There was no turning back now as the light on the plane went from red to green.
My guide told me to move towards the open door and dangle my legs out of the plane. Dangle my legs out of the plane?? Sounds stupid, but Ok, I can do this. I followed the instructions exactly as he said noticing how counterintuitive it felt, and next thing I knew, we jumped!
From that point, it was a free fall at 120 mph. The sounds of the rushing wind past my ears was deafening as I put my arms out in the freefall flying position. Falling was an exhilarating feeling. Surreal, as the ground raced up towards me. After about 30 seconds or so, my instructor tapped me on the shoulder which was a sign to bring my arms into my chest in preparation for him to deploy the parachute. A sudden violent jolt indicated that the chute opened, which was a huge relief! Everything went silent, and we started to glide down slowly and peacefully ‘under canopy’.
I must admit this was more challenging for me then the actual freefall! The feeling of my feet dangling with the earth several thousand feet below me was super unnerving (remember the control thing, lol). I did my best to take in the sights, keep my eyes on the horizon when needed (a tactic used to refocus), and enjoy the ride down to our landing, which was easy and smooth. Mission accomplished!
Hope, on the other hand, did flips out of the airplane and had this incredible aura of joy and excitement! Check out her face…pure joy! She probably could have done it five more times that day!
What fears do you have that might be holding you back from growing personally? Professionally? And what are some strategies you can use to move beyond your fears and move to the next level?
As a leader, we face our fears every day as self-doubt creeps into our minds. For example, the entrepreneur who takes out a loan to start a new business. Or preparing to give the quarterly business review in front of the Board of Directors. Or the fear of the unknown as you leave one job and transition into another job with high expectations of your performance. We think, “Am I good enough?” and “Can I do this?”.
The thing is not to allow fear to paralyze you but instead use it to motivate you.
Here are a few concepts that I deployed during my skydiving experience that you can use when overcoming your fear to move forward:
1. Have Trust and Faith: Maybe it’s in your higher power. Maybe it’s in the people you have surrounded yourself with to get a job done. Or maybe it’s both. The key is to recognize that many (if not all) things are out of your control, and sometimes you have to give it up to faith. Things will usually work out.
2. Focus on Preparation: In my Skydiving adventure, my preparation was done in researching the experience and knowing in advance the basics of what would happen. I was confident in the credentials of the team at Skydive Marana and the evidence presented in my research that skydiving is safe. I also felt confident in my physical health and ability to endure the stress of the experience.
3. Be Optimistic: Have a positive mindset and practice positive self-talk. When the ‘worst case scenarios’ popped into my head, I doubled down on staying positive and looking at the enriching qualities of the jump and doing this special thing with my daughter. I had a mantra in my head I said over and over again (“I can do this. I can do this.”) and I used visualization techniques to see myself landing safely. It all made a difference and kept me focused and happy.
4. Be Present and Stay in the Moment: Skydiving with your 18 Year old Daughter for her birthday is an amazing experience, and I focused on taking in every moment with gratitude for the opportunity. Being fully present throughout the day allowed me to see her joy, as well as have a great moment flying through the air.
In reflecting back, I’m so glad that I overcame my fear of heights to skydive with my daughter. It enabled me to have an incredible experience and make memories with her while also empowering me to view ‘fear of heights’ from a new lens… one that is not as fearful.
Face your fears head on and don’t let them limit your possibilities!
Troy Jacobson is the CEO of The Jacobson Coaching Group, a top leadership training and executive coaching organization based in Tucson, AZ and serving companies and executives nationwide. He’s also a Chair of high impact CEO and Executive Groups for Vistage Worldwide. Learn more and contact them at www.troyjacobson.com or email firstname.lastname@example.org
And for your own skydiving adventure in Arizona, visit https://skydivemarana.com/wp/