Scared to make a skydive? Ya, mon! (So is everybody else!)
Since skydiving is such a scary challenge but the rewards are so great, it’s in your best interest to figure out a way to elbow past the fear and get it done. To do that, you’re going to have to roll up your sleeves and do some hands-on neuroscience. Ready to get rewired for freefall? We’re here to help!
Modern science knows that yes, you can teach an old dog new tricks. The idea that learning tapers off after childhood is total blarney! The amazing adaptive quality of your brain is known as neuroplasticity–and it’s incredibly powerful stuff. The more often you perform an action or behave a certain way, the more it gets physically wired into your brain.
The brain actually changes its physical structure and function based on the constant, ever-changing input from your experiences, behaviors, emotions, and even thoughts. The brain constantly builds and reinforces (through a process called myelination) neural connections, responding to the ideas you have about the world, the actions you practice and the habits you ingrain.
Here’s how it works: Every time you repeat a thought or action, that stimulates a specific neuronal pattern. Since “neurons that fire together wire together,” the brain actively manufactures material to strengthen that pathway according to how often it’s used. That way, the signal will literally enjoy the path of least resistance each time you ask your brain to create the same action or think the same thought. Cool, huh?
The brain’s remarkable morphogenic capacity makes your brain super-resilient, sure – but there’s a flip side, as well.
As you may have intuited by now, neuroplasticity goes both ways. It can work both for and against your best interests. It’s up to you as the owner, driver and lead mechanic of your brain to build good neural connections and demolish bad ones – even (especially?) the subconscious influences that aim to keep you from being the very best version of you that you can be.
Worrying is a classic “bad apple” in the neuroplasticity basket. When we worry, we ruminate thoughts that are unhelpful to us – often, thoughts that prevent us from achieving our full potential. Worry, after all, doesn’t describe a thought that occurs to you once and disappears. It describes a circular path you tread and retread in your head. And that – as you know from the paragraphs above – is the kind of thing that reinforces, paves and installs guardrails around a pathway you’d rather not have in your brain.
And that’s why we’re here to tell you that skydiving is a really smart workshop to optimize your brain.
It’s easy to worry about skydiving. After all, the worries and fears that surround skydiving are the worries and fears that most people struggle with every day: fear of loss; worries about the future; helplessness. Since skydiving is actually, statistically speaking, safer than commuting to work, you can feel confident that the time you spend learning to skydive will be full-on construction season for your neuroplastic noggin. You’ll be breaking up the old worry-walkways in your brain, opening up lots of real estate to fabricate freedom, confidence, faith and friendship.
Most every skydiving student starts out in the same place: Challenge. To build neuronal connections to create and reinforce a new behavior, you have start by enlisting your prefrontal cortex – the thinking, conscious brain – and apply consistent conscious effort, intention and mental processing towards the goal of learning each thought and action. (That’s your AFF and your early skydiving career, right there!) When the routine has become – well, routine – it’ll require significantly less effort. It’ll be the default pattern.
That’s when the old stuff – the door anxiety; the fear of skydiving; the insecurity – will fall away.
The old adage that it takes about three weeks to form a new habit is, unfortunately, false. It takes longer than that. Even though it can take months to really myelinate a pathway (like an anti-skydiving-fear pathway, for example), there’s good news: It gets easier! The climb to neural bliss is steep in the beginning, but you can expect the effort to level out as the neural pathway gets closer and closer to optimal reinforcement.
Once you get introduced to the sport, get to know the equipment, then do it some more, your mind will learn that it’s not just possible to get out of a “perfectly good airplane,” but it’s downright good for you! Once you’re past your fear of skydiving, the world will open up. You can learn so many different disciplines–compete on the world stage–really take it to a whole new level. Let us show you how!