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How fear kills learning

By | David Klaasen | Helping You Create Clarity, Inspire Your People & Drive Performance | Retain your best people | Changing Management Mindsets and Behaviour | Practical Behaviour Analytics

Normally we don’t think about balance, yet the very act of walking is about continuously falling out of balance from one foot to another. Just look at any child learning to walk and you can easily see how tricky it is to get going! And yet everyone is always full of encouragement and excitement for the child. But how much encouragement are you giving your people to learn, especially when they are off balance?

When learning to walk new muscles need to be strengthened and a totally new perspective is required. While it may be more comfortable and safer to crawl, children quickly see the advantages of moving about on their feet and it becomes irresistible. All the tumbles and falls are worth it! And of course all the encouragement and excitement about it helps.

Balancing confidence and competence

Skiing is an interesting sport because it’s very counter intuitive. You need to totally re-learn the concept of balance because your centre of gravity changes dramatically when you are on near vertical slopes, encountering lots of humps and bumps and travelling at a pace far faster than any Olympic cyclist. Your comfort zone can create serious problems because it makes you want to lean back towards the safety of the slope. It feels safer that way but in fact the opposite is true. You have more balance and control if you lean forwards and down-hill. This is when every nerve in your body starts yelling “I can’t do that!” and the persistent encouragement of an instructor is very helpful!

When I first started skiing I was fascinated by the learning process and how some of the people in my class were initially learning well and improving their skills, but by mid-week they had started to seize up with fear, even on the easier slopes. They were no longer able to do basic turns, and some literally burst into tears with panic.  I was curious about it and later they explained that their ‘friends’ who were very experienced skiers had taken them up on some very difficult advanced runs and they had become altogether petrified. It was a very clear demonstration how fear can kill all learning. Even when back on gentle slopes the panic of the previous day was present and they lost all confidence. They even lost their competence.

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