3 Mental Tricks to Overcome Fear


99% of action sport athletes don’t know when to listen to their fear or work through it. In this article you’ll learn the how to take advantage of the 3 dimensions of the Performance Triad. We will identify the 7 debilitating mental obstacles that block progression as well as when to listen to your fear and when not to. The three MG180X methods discussed will provide you with the tools you need to overcome fear.

– Guest post by pro snowboarder Jussi Tarvainen



The 3 dimensions of The Performance Triad:


There are 3 dimensions to consistently progressing, performing at your full potential and overcoming the fears and mental blocks that hold you back from becoming the best athlete you can be.


#1 Technical Sport Skills

The moves, manoeuvres and tricks you can do in your chosen action sport. The spatial awareness that comes with understanding where you body is in the air at any one time and the mastery of your equipment e.g. surfboard or skis.

The problems you can face here are learning the right steps to successfully execute the trick. Watching tutorials online, training or working with a coach can speed up this process.


#2 Physical Fitness

The better your physical fitness, the longer you can train and perform at peak level. Physical strength, stamina, explosiveness, flexibility and other aspects can help you land more tricks as well as protect you from injuries and increase recovery time.

Having a personal trainer or going through a sport specific progressive training program will make it easier to stay fit and improve your physique and health faster and safer. Nutrition also plays a supporting role in physical fitness as well as your headspace and ability to focus.


Related article: Pro snowboarder Helen Schettini dicusses the link between diet & injury


#3 Headspace / Mental Game

Mental game and headspace is the one area most neglected by action sport athletes. It is the hardest to identify as we can’t physically see results. It is also the least talked about.


Just like you use certain snowboard or surf tricks to overcome physical obstacles with style, same goes to your mental game. There are a few methods like “reanimation” to learn new tricks faster, “Looper” to control nervousness and “Switch It” to get rid of mental obstacles like fear of fear of getting injured. These all fall within the MG180X mental game tricks.


Accelerate your improvement: The area you have spent the least amount of time practicing is the one that will most likely bring the easiest and biggest leaps in your progression.


Related article: 5 Reasons injury can be the best thing to happen



7 Performance Debilitating Mental Progression Blocks:


Here are the 7 most common performance debilitating progression blocks that cause you to get stuck on plateaus and stop you from improving and making consistent progress:


#1 Second guessing, overthinking, not committing. The “what if” worst case scenario thoughts.

#2 Freezing, paralysing and choking up.

#3 Fear of falling and getting injured (or fear of drowning for example in surfing).

#4 Fear of big waves, fear of heights, fear of big gaps, drops or handrails for example.

#5 Nervousness, anxiety and fear of underperformance in contests and when you are training or filming in front of people.

#6 Fear of making mistakes and failing.

#7 Fear of what other people think of you and getting embarrassed and laughed at in public.


These mental blocks hold you back from consistently performing at your best, learning new tricks, moves or manoeuvres faster, and ultimately becoming the best you can be. Luckily there are mental exercises to solve each one of these headspace barriers. You’ll learn three of them in this article.


But before that it’s important that you understand when to listen to your fear and when not to.



When To Listen To Fear And When Not To:


In order for you to keep improving and consistently perform at your best, you need to understand when to listen to fear and when to disregard it. Most athletes think fear as the red stop light at traffic lights, but there’s more to it.



Fight, Flight, Freeze Response


Fear is often referred as the “fight, (freeze) or flight” response. It developed as an internal protection mechanism over thousands of years when we were still hunter-gatherers on the savannah trying to survive in the wild. That’s when you needed to immediately recognise food from potential danger and decide whether to fight, freeze and play dead, or flight as in run away.


Fear is your internal alert system. Its job is to keep you safe. It is there to get you focused on what’s important and to make sure you “check yourself so you don’t wreck yourself.”


Let’s look at this psychological “fight, freeze, flight response” in terms of traffic lights.


#1 Freeze = Yellow light

As an athlete you’ve probably experienced choking up and getting paralysed, unable to make yourself commit to do a trick move or a manoeuvre. At this stage you have an important choice to make: to back down or to push through your fear.


#2 Flight = Red Light

Always be aware of your skill level when you are performing at the edge of your abilities. If the trick or stunt you are thinking of doing is way beyond your skill level, proudly turn it down and take flight. You just probably saved your life or likely avoided getting injured.

Come back to that tick when your skills are up to par.


#3 Fight = Green light

In action sports, this means facing your fear and committing to do the trick, move or manoeuvre that tried to scare you away. Just make sure the trick sits within your current skill level.



Three Mg180x Methods To Overcome Fear:

I was fortunate enough to learn and develop these MG180X techniques in the past 15 years during my career as a pro snowboarder and mental game coach for US Open Champions, Olympic Medalists and X-Games winners.


Whether you surf, snowboard or do any other sports, these techniques have been tried and tested to work but only when used them consistently.


#1 MG180X: Risk Reversal

Contrary to common belief, pros don’t take big leaps of faith. They don’t learn how to fly on the way down! Instead they take minuscule steps to progress consistently. They don’t try to improve 50% in one day, just 1%. The compound effect of tiny daily improvements over time is staggering. Don’t try to surf waves that are way out of your league or hit rails or jumps on your snowboard that are much bigger than what you’ve done previously. Instead, gradually but consistently make your way to bigger obstacles. If you skip steps and try to take big leaps, fear will come up, slap you in the face and stop you in your tracks.


When you take small progressive steps, you don’t give fear the chance to freeze you.  You also gradually and organically increase your confidence, building evidence for your case. You’re getting the proof needed to show yourself that you can succeed when you take small progressive steps.


Whenever you feel fear rearing its head, ask yourself: “Have I done something similar to this before? Is this what I am capable of doing right now or should I find a smaller progression step towards this obstacle?”


#2 MG180X: PlanB

Always have a Plan B. Accidents happen and if things don’t go as planned, how are you going to safely bail out? Plan for the best, prepare for the worst. What’s your “fire exit” strategy?


If three heavy waves hit you on the head, do you know the mental techniques to stay calm? Have you practiced breathing and conditioning prior to requiring that lung capacity? If you land short or overshoot a jump, do you know how to absorb or disperse and transfer the kinetic energy so you can avoid getting injured?


#3 MG180X: Reversed-Focus

There is a saying “where attention goes, energy grows and results show.” If you panic underwater, get nervous before dropping into a big wave, second guess yourself when snowboarding in front of people or overthink when getting ready to hit a big jump – all that energy gets focused in the wrong direction. The “What if” hesitation is the fuel to fear’s fire.


Your imagination gives the instructions that your body blatantly executes.  If you focus on all the ways you might fail, you are giving that as a command for your body to follow. Instead what you need to do is reverse your focus. Prime your body to succeed by imagining all the ways HOW you will successfully pull of that heavy barrel or big jump.


But remember to only do it when you have the skills. Accidents can still happen and you are the only one responsible for your actions and the potential positive or negative consequences. Fill your mind with the perfect performance so there is no room in your head for thoughts of failure.



What’s Next For You?


I hope you put the mental tricks learned from these three articles into practice and have seen results in overcoming fear and recovering faster with greater confidence.


If you want to learn more ways to overcome fears or other mental obstacles, recover with extra confidence and speed or improve and learn new tricks faster, click the links below to get your free resources:


Who Is Jussi Tarvainen?


Jussi Tarvainen is a pro snowboarder turned to author & a pioneer in mental game fear removal & progression acceleration techniques for action sport athletes from Olympic medalists, X-Games winners and US Open Champions to beginners and up and comers.


He trains wildly successful surfers, snowboarders, freerunners, parkour and other action sport athletes from beginners to pro’s – how you can overcome progression barriers like fear of getting injured, quickly gain more confidence and learn new tricks, moves & manoeuvres 3X faster.


For more information of Jussi Tarvainen check out his website Form Supreme – there are many amazing articles on the same topic as this. Thanks Jussi!


About the author


Hiya, I'm Alexa. Always on some sort of adventure! I'm excited to share my stories & introduce you to other rad women, also living the dream.
I'm here to inspire you to do the same :-)