Friday, June 13, 2014

Be Fearless

Cowardly lion2
The DBCB blog is almost a month old now and I've put the mobility project on a temporary hiatus. As we approach our first race of the year, I wanted to take a jab at something that we haven't really touch on before: the mental aspect of dragon boating or competing in general.

In anything in our lives, fear is the most debilitating emotion. Fear can prevent you from doing something. Fear can force you to do something. Fear can stop you dead in your tracks. Unfortunately, fear is used often as a motivational technique: to instill the fear of failure. An athlete can be trained to perform because they don't want to fail, disappoint their coach, or their teammates. This is usually reinforced by concentrating on what the athlete does wrong and reprimand them when they are at fault, further enhanced by pitting them up against targets (e.g. "we need to beat team x" or "you can't let team y get ahead of you"), and making threats for under-performing (e.g. "you're off the team if you don't ...").

I'm here to tell you to be fearless. There is no reason to fear failure. It is not you vs. the world. The weight of the world is not on your shoulders. Remember what I said in the last paragraph? Fear is debilitating. It actually makes you weaker, not stronger. When we are under stress and fear, our muscles physically tense up. When in this state, we are not able to perform at our highest ability and are at higher risk of injury! So why would we ever want to be afraid?

So what do you do about it? Relax. A little pre-race meditation to calm the nerves goes a long way. Ignore any opponents out there, it's your race. Know that you put in the hard work to train, and have the self-confidence that you have the ability to do what you have to. And trust in your teammates that they can do it too. Remember that this is a team sport: you win or lose as a team. If things don't work out, there's no one person to blame, so don't go on a witch hunt. The first question you ask should always be "did I put in all the time training that I could have?" and make the necessary corrections for the next race. And there will be a next race; the world does not end after a race.

Failure is the best learning tool. Don't fear it, embrace it. You would never learn anything if you never fail. I'm going on the record here to say that it's okay to make mistakes. Everyone is human. And understand that it's okay for someone else to make a mistake too. It's important to make the person aware of the mistake, but don't crucify them for it. That will only further grow their fear of failure.

Getting back on track, this weekend we will race. Together. As one. We will succeed or fail as a team. And if we fail, we know what we must work on for the next race. Because there is always a next race.

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