Last week we looked at a method for safely approaching new challenges. I laid out the three elements you should address before committing to something, which were environment, ability to perform the intended move, and ability to perform the appropriate bailout if the intended move fails. If you haven’t read that article yet, it is important that you do. The concepts in this article could be dangerous without the approach outlined in part two.
– “Now that we are prepared for the challenge, we need to switch off that part of our brain that is making all these analytical assessments.”
Up to this point, I have told you to be ultra analytical when approaching a new challenge. This is especially important if you are new to parkour because you are going to be unfamiliar with common environmental hazards, less coordinated with new movements, and less familiar with falling. You might have to spend large portions of time addressing your weaknesses before you commit to certain challenges. Meanwhile, if you are more advanced, you might be able to spot environmental hazards and know your bailout options in a matter of seconds from years of experiencing similar scenarios. Either way, I am going to assume that you have addressed the components in part two and are ready to commit. All of my recommendations below are going to assume that you have followed that step.
This may be frustrating, but now that we are prepared for the challenge, we need to switch off that part of our brain that is making all these analytical assessments. The analytical mind is great at identifying environmental hazards, determining bailout options, and assessing if our current ability is up for the challenge at hand; but it is terrible for actually moving. If we are still thinking about bailout options, surfaces or whatever else when we are trying to move, it will likely prevent us from committing. Or worse, it could distract us from the movement we are trying to do, causing injury.
In theory, addressing the three components outlined in part two should be enough to convince us to attempt a movement, but our emotions are complicated. Even if we know a movement is well within our reach, there is still that moment of commitment that every one of us has to break through and sometimes it can feel impenetrable. How do we make it past this block and just go? It’s a tough question and everyone seems to have their own unique answer. Is that because everyone overcomes fear in a different way? You might be inclined to think so, but I think there is a common thread below these surface impressions.
How do you “just do it?”
Recommendations vary widely across the board. One person might tell you to focus on your breathing, while someone else might give you a visual cue. Everyone seems to have their own methods. Counting down works for some people, while it completely screws with others, myself included.
So what do I recommend? Breathing a certain way? Counting down? Looking at the object you are going to instead of the drop? The truth is, none of these tricks, or what I like to call “mind hacks,” matter by themselves. They are only helpful if the right mental framework is already established. The reason these methods come up when talking about fear is because people want an easy answer and they naturally want to do as little work as possible to attain a result. That’s why there are so many gimmicky products out there that promise something extraordinary in record breaking time. “Lose 30 pounds in 30 days with this one simple trick.” It’s appealing because people want results and they don’t want to have to work for them. Unfortunately, these hacks never work or when they do, the results don’t last. The same is true of overcoming fear. We don’t want a hack to our fear; we want a permanent, lasting solution.
How do we build confidence and the ability to commit whenever we are adequately prepared to do something?
“The key to success is to make the things that really matter into habits. The equivalent in the context of overcoming fear? Commitment.”
If we stick to losing weight as our analogy, taking a pill or wearing an electric belt that zaps your fat off are obviously not lasting solutions. Losing weight and keeping it off requires an extremely basic set of guidelines: consistently exercising and eating right. There are of course, better and worse ways to follow that advice, but the truth is, doing those two simple things is all anyone really needs to lose weight. In fact, all it takes for some people is doing just one of those things. Ultimately the key to success is to make the things that really matter into habits.
What is the equivalent in the context of overcoming fear? Commitment. We have to make commitment into a habit. It seems like simple advice on the surface and guess what? it is! But how do we go about doing this? Do we find the scariest thing we can and just go for it? Of course not. The fat guy doesn’t start with 100 pushups on the first day at the gym. He is going to hate it and never return. Instead, he goes for a walk the first week, which is an easy commitment, then he starts jogging the next week, and gradually builds up the intensity of his workouts over time. We have to do the same thing with commitment in parkour.
Making Commitment a Habit (Week 1)
Step 1: Find a challenge you have already completed before and do it without hesitation. Don’t pace back and forth to look at the gap, don’t wipe your hands and shoes 12 times in a row, don’t hyperventilate. Just wipe your shoes or hands ONCE, then go.
Step 2: Use this same approach on a variety of different challenges that you have previously accomplished. Repetition is key here and I don’t mean that in the physical sense. We are trying to establish a mental habit of commitment, so we need to commit without hesitation repeatedly in a variety of different scenarios. if you find yourself reverting back to old habits and pacing back and forth or pausing in any way, stop immediately and move on to an easier challenge that is more conducive to committing immediately. Every time we do something other than immediate commitment, we are weakening the habit that we are trying to create. If you do a bunch of shoe wiping and pacing and overanalyzing on smaller challenges, that habit is going to transfer over to harder challenges and prevent us from accomplishing our goals.
This is all I want you to do this week. Perform a variety of different challenges that you have already completed in the past and do them without hesitation. These should be challenges where you already know the bailouts, the environment and your ability to complete the challenge (as outlined in part 2 of this series).
I know this feels like a slow start. I’m sure many of you wish I would just give you all the steps now, so you can go hard as F#$% at your next session, but I would encourage you to approach this gradually, like the guy trying to lose weight. Don’t be the guy that goes to the gym the first day, tries to max out on deadlift and then gives up because it was too hard. Take the time now to establish good mental habits and it will pay off in that end.
I am in the process of writing a book on this topic that will go much deeper. If you are interested in that, subscribe to my newsletter HERE for updates!
MYRM Co-Founder and Athlete