I define Emotional Fitness as when a person can use both sides of the brain properly in a stressful situation. In order to develop emotional fitness, you first have to discover where your weakness lies. The term “choking” gives us the visual image of constriction, getting tight, freezing up, et cetera.
This is when fear has told the left side of the brain to throw the brakes on because there is danger ahead. The irony of this is that throwing the brakes on usually self-fulfills what we are afraid is going to happen
For example: If you were deathly afraid of public speaking for fear of embarrasment, the closer you get to the podium, the greater your fear would become and the harder the brakes would apply. If the fear is not in check, you could have a panic attack or lose the ability to speak. Remember in this situation, your left brain thinks it is doing it’s job – that is, preventing something you perceive as danger.
Now, lets look at the same reaction when it would be appropriate.
Let’s say you are hiking down a trail and you turn the corner and see a bear. Your feet would freeze, but the hikers behind you don’t see it and they push you forward. You would dig in more until they saw the bear. You wouldn’t want your feet to release sending you down the trail and the more you were pushed, the more you would want your brain to tell your feet to dig in. Once the other hikers see the bear and stop pushing you, your brakes would release you so you could reverse directions. Your left brain can not tell when your fear is being appropriate or not, it just acts accordingly.
So to achieve a high level of emotional fitness, you have to understand your fears and how they might throw the brakes on inappropriately. Everyone has fear. I used to get nervous hitting the first ball for a new student because I feared if I didn’t hit it perfectly, I would lose credibility. When I realized how ironic this was, I changed my perspective and the fear went away. My fear was generated by a true desire to help the student by being credible, but that made no difference.
Fear throws the brakes on where no brakes are needed. So, in order to develop emotional fitness, you have to understand your fears and when they might throw you into your left brain, when you actually need to be in your right brain.
Below is a fear test that you might find helpful.
- Are you willing to get hurt at this activity?
- Are you willing to be embarrassed or humiliated at this activity?
- Are you will to lose or lose badly at this activity?
- Are you willing to let a partner or team down at this activity?
- Are you willing to accept a lower level at this activity?
- Are you willing to be vulnerable at this activity?
- Are you willing to trust at this activity?
- Are you willing to digress at this activity to improve?
If you answered no to any of these questions then your fear brake is going to come on to stop you when you face something you are unwilling experience.
If you can achieve what you want with out facing the question or questions you said no to that is fine, but if you can’t then you are going to have to figure out how to change that answer so the brakes don’t come on at the wrong time.
My wife and I own two horses, my wife is an exceptional horse person and commited to all the risk of riding, I on the other hand am unwilling to get hurt learning to ride because there are too many other activies I enjoy so I only play with the horses on the ground. If I were to get up on the horse with out the commitment to face getting hurt I would put myself in more danger because my fear would cause me to be stiff when I needed to be loose. On the other hand I have hurt myself several times skiing and it has never occured to me to give up the sport I love so much.
Emotional fitness and physical fitness have to be balance to create excellence.