When Felix Baumgartner was preparing to jump from a balloon at the edge of space last weekend, he almost got sidelined by one fear he hadn’t yet overcome: Claustrophobia. How he handled that fear is instructive for managing fear of conflict and confrontation, too. Here’s how to stay calm in conflict, à la Felix Baumgartner.
Baumgartner needed a pressurized space suit to survive the plummet back to earth. The suit restricted his movements in ways he hadn’t experienced before and lead to multiple panic attacks. So Baumgartner’s team brought in sports psychologist Dr. Michael Gervais, who specializes in extreme and high-performance sports. Here’s what happened next, as reported by CNN:
Over the course of three days, Gervais determined Baumgartner didn’t have quite the right tools to manage his mind and emotions in the face of so great a risk. That’s where the suit became an issue: It was a symbol of his not having complete control of the situation. To combat this, Gervais said, Baumgartner had to reconnect with his vision. He’d become too focused on the suit, not the goal he hoped to reach wearing it.
Simply put, he needed to get his eyes back on the prize.
“When we are in a high stakes or intense situation, it’s not uncommon for our minds to jump forward, going to the next moment and worrying about what happens when this moment doesn’t go well,” Gervais said. “What happens is we give 50 percent to something that doesn’t exist yet and 50 to this moment.”
Gervais helped Baumgartner reconnect with his vision, what he most wanted to achieve with the jump: To go somewhere no one has ever been.
That’s top-notch advice for moving beyond the fear of confronting a conflict, too. If you’re sidelining yourself with fear of confrontation, runaway thoughts, or a habit of catastrophizing, you need to find a way to look past the next moment to your greater hope for the situation and/or relationship. That’s where your courage lives and that’s an important way to stay calm.
Be sure to read the full article to see the other masterful ways Gervais helped Baumgartner achieved his record-breaking, jaw-dropping jump record.