In a recent article published in the Journal of Health Psychology “Extreme sports are good for your health: A phenomenological understanding of fear and anxiety in extreme sport” I presented research findings from extreme sports that showed how approaching fear might be beneficial for human health and wellbeing. Essentially, different to the typical assumption that extreme sport participants do not experience fear we found that fear is an important part of the experience. Fear is felt, in fact for many athletes fear is seen as essential. Fear is important information that participants take very seriously as it indicates that the event is worth taking seriously and managing effectively. undertaking an extremes port without feeling fear might lead to athletes paying only superficial attention to managing the event. Participants realise that they need to know a great deal about themselves, the task and the environment if they want to participate effectively and live to realise the benefits. But fear is not a reason to not do something. Fear is information that should be taken seriously. Management of an event that triggers fear includes 1) an honest evaluation of personal skills. capabilities and attributes to determine if success is realistic .. do I really have the skills and attributes to succeed rather than this is scary I better not do it; 2) a realistic evaluation of your task related skills and the task related “rules” to determine if you understand what is required and that you are able to achieve success; and 3) a solid evaluation of the environment (physical and social). It may be that the environment is not right at this moment .. so walk away, reflect, learn and go for it another day.
The benefits of participating when all three elements are aligned and coupled is that fear can instigate self-transformation and powerful feelings of wellbeing. It can change your life for ever.
Extreme sport participants talk about intense fears which are integrated and experienced as meaningful, constructive events that add to their life experiences. Fear has the potential to transform life. It is not just about doing it anyway but what comes in between. Don’t see fear as a barrier but an opportunity to learn and succeed, to live life at it fullest.