How Danica Patrick Moved Beyond Fear in NASCAR

posted by Loren Fogelman, a Women Talk Sports blogger
Friday, March 2, 2012 at 1:26pm EST

About Loren Fogelman:

Hello Friend! I'm passionate about connecting with athletes as they tap into their true potential. My purpose is to create a paradigm shift. Adding more knowledge is useful, but reducing the distra...more

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All sports have inherent danger, some more than others. And then you have extreme sports which are attractive due to the inherent risk factors. There is something for everyone.

Regardless of the sport at some point you will face fear.  The question is not about when you will face fear but how to respond to fear once you are faced with it.

Danica Patrick, a former Indy car driver, has moved over to NASCAR in a big way. After a horrific crash which totaled her car during a qualifying race for the Indy 500, she walked away with minor injuries.

As you know, fear is an individual thing. The secret to how fear is created has to do with your emotions. Your response to an event determines whether, or not, you experience fear.

Watching video of Danica’s crash is telling. She was probably driving 200mph when her car slammed into a safe barrier wall. The cam view inside her car revealed a matter-of-fact trained response. Crashing at high speeds happens. From previous experience she knew exactly what to do in this circumstance.

Now that you know you will face fear, the next part is to explore how you respond once you are in that situation.

Danica was back behind the wheel the following day ready to rumble. And rumble she did! She won the pole, qualifying as the lead car in the Daytona 500.

After working with thousands of individuals concerning their fears, limiting beliefs and feeling stuck I developed The Brick Wall Theory. 

Basically, at some point you are going to be confronted with fear. It is like hitting a brick wall.  Progress comes to a standstill.

Once an athlete hits the brick wall, she will respond in one of three ways.

1. Retreator. You are faced with fear and instead of stepping out of your comfort zone you retreat. Often an athlete will walk away from their sport, or remain in her comfort zone. It is much easier to deal with the status quo than to push forward beyond the fear. Excuses usually follow to justify this decision.

2. Marinator. When you hit the brick wall you retreat for awhile until you figure out the next steps in the game plan. These athletes like feeling in control and knowing how it will all come together ahead of time, minimizing the risk factor. Once she knows the next step then she will begin to progress once more. While she is trying to figure things out valuable time and opportunities are risked.

3. Implementor. Once this athlete hits the brick wall, she is looking for any opportunity necessary to continue moving forward toward her goal, keeping her vision in sight. Consistent steady action is part of her game plan. She is not afraid of making mistakes and realizes she can learn from her failures along with her opportunities.

Implementor’s are the top 1% of all athletes in any given sport. They are constantly evaluating, modifying and taking action to do what is necessary for reaching their highest potential. The desire to reach her goal is greater than her fear.

Danica understood the risks involved in NASCAR when she signed on as a race car driver. Her desire to push her limits, including her transition from Indy to NASCAR, meant she had to step up her game. The challenge of pursuit pushes her to stretch herself to do more and to be better.

How willing are you to step out of your comfort zone and become comfortable with being uncomfortable?  This one trait is common among high performing athletes. If you view yourself as a Retreator or a Marinator, realize those fears are interfering with your performance, change is possible. 

You can learn to become an Implementor. Here’s 3 steps to get you going:

1. Make a firm decision. Once you admit the fear and decide to step out of your comfort zone some of the obstacles begin to disappear.

2. Trust. Often the underlying reasons for your fears are related to some type of concerns about trust. Do you know what they are?

3. Options. Looking at the challenge from one perspective is limiting. Explore alternative options to help you develop a new, fresh perspective. It’s like putting on a new set of lenses.

If you want more wins, to be a high performer and reach your full potential, take a “no-excuses” approach to move beyond your fear.

Yes, the inherent danger in your sport continues to exist. There are real and perceived dangers. Moving beyond the limiting beliefs around your fears will bring a new perspective, a new freedom, setting you up for the next level of success.  

Activity: Recognize your fear, make a decision to be uncomfortable and take action. Go easy, beginning with small, consistent manageable steps. Keep your goal in mind. Consistent action sets you up for success.

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