• Susan Fletcher, Ph.D.

How Fear Factor Puts You in the Smart Zone

I recently posted on my Facebook page that I was watching Fear Factor with my three boys. I commented: "Talk about will power and talking yourself into doing something you don't want to do." One of my Facebook followers questioned me by posting:

"Talk to us about 'how come' YOU are watching this. And, then, please address why the heck you are allowing your kiddos to view this. Please and thank you."

Well, if you say "please and thank you" then I'm on it. Thanks for the invitation because when I'm watching something like Fear Factor with my kids, I'm deliberate about what I want them to learn. I can see almost anything as an opportunity to keep you in the Smart Zone.

The Smart Zone is where you work to the best of your ability emotionally, behaviorally, and intellectually. It is where we produce our best and feel the most satisfaction in what we do.

While the stunts on Fear Factor are gross and sensational, it's the contestants that teach us the most. As you watch the process they go through to talk themselves into doing what they set out to do, you see the same strategies CEOs go through when they do the hard stuff. You also see what people go through when they make difficult decisions in their relationships, their careers, and other life events.

To be in the Smart Zone in a Fear Factor sort of way, be deliberate about doing the following:

  • Keep walking through the fear: In my clinical practice, I find myself pointing out how often someone says they are afraid. Fear can paralyze you and keep you from moving forward. The goal isn't to eliminate fear but to feel it and keep going.

  • Pay attention to your internal dialogue: We can talk ourselves into things and out of things. Sometimes people say what they are thinking out loud and they don't even realize it. It is important to have an awareness of what you are thinking so you can be deliberate to change it if it is holding you back. I love it when someone says, "I can't do that" and then decides "Yes I can". Sometimes all it takes is deciding that you "can" do something to make it happen.

  • Do what makes you uncomfortable: We grow in discomfort. When I was 24 I participated in a 14 day Outward Bound experience. I thought it was going to be a physical test but learned very quickly that it was more of a cognitive challenge. This experience is a frame of reference that I use frequently to remind myself that I can do more than I think. If I can fast for 3 days and 2 nights in the wilderness during a solo camp then I can have the difficult conversations required in my job as a psychologist, consultant, expert witness, and media expert.

  • Seek your own satisfaction, even if it is unattractive to others: I knew a guy when I first moved to Texas who worked in a mortuary. On the surface, it seemed so weird to me that he chose that career. I thought it was kind of sad and creepy. Once he talked about the reasons he chose the profession and how he viewed his role, I gained a great respect for him and for the profession. He paid attention to his own occupational desires despite the discouragement of his friends and family. He was loyal to himself, despite the discomfort of others.

  • Sometimes it's not about winning - it's about being proud of yourself: It's about effort and working towards your own personal best. To me, that is winning in the Smart Zone.

So why do I watch at TV show like Fear Factor with my kids? Because it is a great way to talk about the power we all have to dig deep and do the hard stuff. The beauty of watching with my kids is that I can slip in the lessons I think are important for them to learn. I want them to know that they don't have to eat bugs or dive into a vat of raw meat to prove anything to themselves. But they can learn from watching others do what it takes. After all, successful people do what others are unwilling to do...even when it's on Fear Factor.