Advertising
Advertising

Last Updated on February 28, 2018

How to Fight Back the Human Instinct to Flee When You Panic

How to Fight Back the Human Instinct to Flee When You Panic

In 2003, Aron Ralston went hiking alone in southeastern Utah. An experienced outdoorsman, the trail didn’t seem to present any danger for him. Things were going well until he slipped, dislodged an 800-lb. boulder, and was pinned to the canyon wall by it. With limited supplies and no way to call for help, he realized that the only way he’d leave the canyon alive was if he amputated his arm. Using a dull multi-tool and leverage, he managed to free himself after five days.[1]

    Aron could have lost his wits and died in the canyon. He had to be willing to fight for his life.

    We’d all like to stay calm under pressure, but the reality is that some of us panic, while others among us have the drive to fight for what they want.

    “Fight or Flight” Keeps Us Alive

    When faced with challenges, people tend to panic. Our brains do everything they can to keep us alive. When we’re afraid, it sends us the signal to either fight or flee.

    When you are afraid, your amygdala sets off a chain reaction in your brain.[2] Your amygdala is responsible for making you fight or flee, and it can even play a part in self-defeating behaviors and resistance.[3]

    Advertising

    When your amygdala perceives that you’re in danger, it sends a distress message to your hypothalamus. The hypothalamus overrides the normal way your brain handles incoming information. It activates the sympathetic nervous system, which triggers what you feel when you are afraid.[4]

      We usually respond to a distress signal by fighting or fleeing. When your survival is at stake, you react without thinking. Your brain either tells you to stay on the path and fight through it, or give up.

      The Pitfall of Flight

      When you are in physical danger, your flight response can save your life. It’s not that flight is bad, but sometimes our brains tell us to flee in situations that aren’t life-threatening.

      You may feel the urge to flee when you face something that seems overwhelming. You might tell yourself a negative story about how you won’t succeed if you continue on your current path. With that mindset, failure is almost guaranteed. You don’t believe that you can make it, so you won’t. Flight can keep us from reaching our potential.

      Advertising

        People who always choose flight give up quickly. At the first sign of a challenge, they jump to another task. This is the person who runs away from difficulties in their personal and professional lives because they don’t think they can deal with them.

          Make Fighting the Only Option

          You may have the impulse to run away, but you can re-frame your thinking. Next time you panic over some challenge at work, choose to fight by telling yourself a positive story. Replace your negative self-talk with hopeful internal dialogue.

          Even if your positive story doesn’t end up being true, it can be enough to keep you going. People who beat the odds often do so by visualizing an excellent outcome. When you know that your intention is to keep going, it makes you more persistent and keeps you motivated. Hope carries people through the toughest times.

            Advertising

              Fight Like You’re in a Video Game

              If you take a moment to reflect on your situation, you can imagine a positive message that will override the negative story you’re telling yourself. Any time self-doubt creeps into your head, play your positive story.

              Make overriding your fear a game. Games are fun, and they break challenges into more bearable parts. Playing games that are too easy is boring, which makes challenges the perfect thing to turn into a game. Challenging games are more difficult, but they’re more fun and engaging.

              The best games have multiple levels, enemies that increase in difficulty as you become a better player, and achievements along the way. When you get an achievement, it motivates you to strive for the next level.

              As you play, you can look back and see your progress. You either fail and have to try again, or you succeed and get something good for all your effort. This process is addictive to players.

              One of the best ways to turn challenges into games is to break your big goal into smaller steps. Milestones help you check your progress and stay motivated. Achieving a milestone is like entering a new level of the game. Give yourself rewards and punishments so that you have extra motivation to move forward.

              Ralston’s brush with death wasn’t a fun game by any stretch of the imagination, but he did have certain milestones that he reached in order to decide what to do next. At first he tried to survive with the limited supplies he had. He hoped someone would find him.

              Advertising

              When his supplies ran out, and it became clear that nobody would find him, had to take more serious action. After he discovered that his hand was dying from being trapped under the weight of the boulder, he realized he would lose part of his arm anyway. This knowledge combined with his ultimate goal of survival led him to do what he had to do.

              Even though his work was gruesome, he described grinning when he realized he was going to make it out of the canyon. When he freed himself, he got over the largest hurdle in his ordeal.

              Keep on Playing

              If Aron Ralston decided not to fight, he would have died. For him, there was nowhere to run, but if he fought he stood a chance at making it.

              People who reach their fullest potential don’t give up easily. They don’t run away at the first sign of trouble. They take the hits and keep going.

              However, there are some times when you do have to quit in order to win. Be on the lookout for my next article on when you should quit in order to get ahead.

              Reference

              More by this author

              Leon Ho

              Founder & CEO of Lifehack

              How Setting Personal Goals Makes You a Greater Achiever What Is Procrastination (And the Complete Guide to Stop Procrastinating) Secrets to Organizing Thoughts and Ideas (So You’ll Never Lose Ideas!) How to Achieve Goals and Increase Your Chance of Success Why Do I Procrastinate? 5 Evil Root Causes And How To Tackle Them

              Trending in Mental Strength

              117 Ted Talks for Kids to Inspire Little Minds to Do Big Things 2Being Self Aware Is the Key to Success: How to Boost Self Awareness 3How to Find Motivation When You’re Totally Burnt Out 4How to Jump on the Road To Success Today and Change Your Life 5Most Overlooked Signs of Autism in Children (And What Parents Can Do)

              Read Next

              Advertising
              Advertising

              Last Updated on July 12, 2018

              17 Ted Talks for Kids to Inspire Little Minds to Do Big Things

              17 Ted Talks for Kids to Inspire Little Minds to Do Big Things

              A few years ago, I watched Brene Brown’s TED Talk on Vulnerability. Her story, her research, her authenticity, and yes, her vulnerability resonated with me deeply. One of the concepts that stood out the most was that in order to live wholeheartedly, we must feel the full range of emotions. The positive: joy, gratitude, happiness. And the not so positive: grief, fear, shame, sadness, disappointment.

              This talk moved me, changed me and challenged me to think differently. And that is what TED talks have the power to do. They can make the hairs on the back of our neck stand up, bring us to tears, and most importantly, motivate, inspire and challenge our thinking.

              Which is why I’m so excited to share these TED Talks for kids. I’ve always had a passion for working with children; I have three daughters of my own, co-lead two local Girl Scout Troops, spent time in my career working in education and am a member of the Galileo community advisory board (an innovation camp for kids).

              I’m involved in all of these because I feel deeply how important it is to help our kids build their confidence, self-esteem, innovation and creativity. I want every kid to realize they are awesome just as they are. That they have the ability to make anything happen if they dream big and work hard. Imagine what that would do for our youth.

              If you Google or scour lists of top TED talks, you tend to get similar ones popping up. That’s because they’re awesome. But they’re not all appropriate for kids.

              How I shortlisted these TED Talks

              I’ve done the hard work for you. Along with my family, kids, their friends and a few others, we vetted over 100 TED Talks and picked out the 17 that I believe send powerful and inspiring messages our kids desperately need.

              So, whether your kid is 6 or 16, I hope you find something that inspires, moves, motivates and challenges them.

              • They’re short enough for young brains to stay engaged. While there is an 18 minute “rule” for TED talks, many of the most popular talks are 20+ minutes. Recently, as I toured middle schools for my daughters, one of the principals shared that a kid’s attention span is the kids age minus one. So, if you have an 11 year old, then 10 minutes is his/her attention span. You can’t expect him/her to listen to 18 minutes and stay focused the whole time. All of the talks highlighted below are under 15 minutes. Some are as short as three.
              • They all include life lessons I believe are important for today’s youth. For me, this meant searching for talks that would build confidence and self-esteem; help kids be true to themselves. Understand what makes a happy and successful life. How to dream big. To communicate, interact and treat others. Above all, these talks will help kids see that they are awesome and that anything is possible when they dream big and work hard.
              • They’re kid-friendly. You might think this is obvious, but I found many speakers share political views, curse, or share content or concepts that that could be scary or confusing for young minds. If you ask those around me, I’m probably a little overcautious about what I expose my kids too. I’m ok with that. They have plenty of time to see the darker side of the world as they age. I would be comfortable with my seven-year-old watching all of these.
              • They’re interesting. Kids need to be engaged, interested and motivated to even sit through a video. While this isn’t always easy to do, I’ve tried to find videos with likeable speakers, compelling topics and inspiring stories. And don’t worry, they’re not just for kids – these are awesome talks for adults as well.

              Top 17 Ted Talks for kids

              1. A Life Lesson From A Volunteer Firefighter (4:01)

              I started with this one because all of my kids absolutely loved it. It’s an easy entry point for kids – short and sweet with a powerful message. (And what kid doesn’t like a firefighter?!)

              Volunteer Firefighter and Activist Mark Bezos shares his story about how small things can make a big difference.

              My 11-year-old’s key takeway? “It shows we don’t have to do something big to make a difference”.

              Here’s a key piece of his message:

              “In both my vocation at Robin Hood and my avocation as a volunteer firefighter, I am witness to acts of generosity and kindness on a monumental scale, but I’m also witness to acts of grace and courage on an individual basis. And you know what I’ve learned? They all matter.”

              2. What Adults Can Learn From Kids (8:06)

              One of my 11-year-olds was riveted by this one. In fact, at one point, I tried to increase the volume on the iPad while she kept pushing me out of the way so she didn’t miss anything.

              Twelve-year-old Adora Svitak is incredible. This talk is inspiring not only because of what she says, but because of how incredible and confident this young girl is as she presents.

              Here are some of my favorite excerpts from her talk:

              “Kids don’t think about limitations…they just think about good ideas.”
              “Learning between grown-ups and kids should be reciprocal.”
              “When expectations are low, trust me, we (kids) will sink to them.”

              3. Teach Girls Bravery, Not Perfection (8:50)

              Recommended by several people when I was asking around, I found myself choking up in the first two minutes as Reshma shares her personal story about bravery in the face of failure.

              “This is not a story about failure or resilience…it’s about bravery.”

              She talks about our “bravery deficit”.

              “When we teach girls to be brave, and we have a supportive network cheering them on, they will build incredible things.”

              She shares one of my favorite philosophies: Progress, not perfection.

              This is a great one for those who need a little more confidence to raise their hand, try out for that team, or face an upcoming challenge.

              Advertising

              4. 10 Ways To Have a Better Conversation (11:30)

              This is one of my all-time favorites. I’m becoming increasingly concerned about our kids’ ability to have a face-to-face conversation. Just look around at a restaurant and see how many kids have their faces in phones. One recent survey of managers said 46% of recent grads need to hone their communication skills.

              As someone who spent many years earning a living helping people communicate better, I think this is necessary for every kid. It’s a lost art. A skill that is becoming extinct with the world of technology.

              Radio Host Celeste Headlee provides great tips for how to have a better conversation, and, more importantly, how to listen.

              At one point, she shares this thought written in the Atlantic by a high school teacher named Paul Barnewell.

              “I came to realize that conversational competence might be the single most overlooked skill we fail to teach. Kids spend hours each day engaging with ideas and each other through screens, but rarely do they have an opportunity to hone their interpersonal communications skills. It might sound like a funny question, but we have to ask ourselves: Is there any 21st Century skill more important than being able to sustain coherent, confident conversation?”

              My older daughters both really enjoyed this talk. They learned “how important it is to listen and to think about other people, not just yourself”.

              My favorite line of all time: “There’s no reason to show you’re paying attention, if in fact, you are actually paying attention.”

              This is a great one to share with your teenagers – even if you need to text them the link?

              5. A Promising Test for Pancreatic Cancer… From A Teenager (10:46)

              I just love this one. Jack shares his story, how as a teenager he searched for and found a promising cure for pancreatic cancer. Motivated by the death of a close family friend, Jack shows some of my favorite attributes: thinking, process, initiative, perseverance, determination, courage…and humor. He’s a fantastic speaker and will keep your kids interested and engaged.

              One of my favorite quotes:

              “You don’t have to be a professor with multiple degrees to have your ideas valued…Just imagine what you could do.”

              “He did that all by himself?” One of my daughters asked at the end. Yep, he did. And you can, too.

              6. Grit: The Power of Passion and Perseverance (6:09)

              With three kids, I’m always driving a car full of kids somewhere. As I was researching for this article, during each of my rides, I took the opportunity to ask whoever was in the car about their recommendations. This talk was recommended by a 16-year-old high school student. (Thank you, Bella!) I had seen it before and was so glad she liked it as much as I did.

              Angela Lee Duckworth left her consulting career and became a 7th grade math teacher in the New York public school system. She was fascinated by what helped students succeed. This talk is the story of what she found.

              Here’s a quick preview:

              “Grit is passion and perseverance for very long-term goals. Grit is having stamina. Grit is sticking with your future, day in, day out, not just for the week, not just for the month, but for years, and working really hard to make that future a reality. Grit is living life like it’s a marathon, not a sprint. “

              Need another reason to share this with your kid? Angela highlights that kids with grit are more likely to graduate…and be successful in their chosen careers.

              We all know how important grit and perseverance are; let’s help our children see that.

              7. Dare To Dream Big (8:49)

              With just over 22,000 views, this video hasn’t hit “mainstream” TED world yet, but Isabella Rose Taylor, a freshman in college and a working fashion designer, tells a fantastic story.

              “Today I want to talk to you about dreams and stories.”

              She shares one of my favorite stories about the 4-minute mile and how belief is such an important part of success.

              “They didn’t all the sudden get faster or stronger, they just believed it was possible.”

              The rest of her talk is filled with lessons on dreaming big, believing in yourself, courage, authenticity, and the importance of relationships.

              “We should aim as high as possible and dream big.”

              Yes. We. Should.

              8. Yup, I built a nuclear fusion reactor (3:26)

              Even the title shows the confidence that 17-year-old Nuclear Physicist Taylor Wilson has. As he says…and proves,

              “Kids can really change the world.”

              I love his passion and confidence. He started out with a dream and ended up meeting the President.

              9. Underwater Astonishments (5:18)

              While this may not have any explicit life lessons, it’s incredibly interesting and fun to watch with kids. Approved by my 7-year-old, who said, “It was very interesting and I liked the pictures. I didn’t know an octopus could do that.”

              The underlying lesson? For me, it shows how everything is incredible. When we look for beauty and awe, we will find it.

              I also think it’s fascinating as Geologist David Gallow shares:

              “And in a place where we thought no life at all, we find more life…there’s still 97 percent, and either that 97 percent is empty or just full of surprises.”

              This teaches kids that there is so much in life and in their world to discover.

              10. What Makes A Good Life? Lessons From the Longest Study on Happiness (12:40)

              I’d say this talk is better for older kids. Robert Waldinger shares what makes a good life, from the longest study in history on happiness.

              If your kids are having a hard time getting into it, head to 5:51 for the highlights:

              “So what have we learned? What are the lessons that come from the tens of thousands of pages of information that we’ve generated on these lives? Well, the lessons aren’t about wealth or fame or working harder and harder. The clearest message that we get from this 75-year study is this: Good relationships keep us happier and healthier. Period.”

              I love the focus on the importance of relationships and friendships.

              11. The Happy Secret To Better Work (12:14)

              Positive Psychologist Shawn Achor is funny, fast and witty. He begins his talk with an incredibly funny story about his sister and him when they were little.

              He shares that:

              “90 percent of your long-term happiness is predicted not by the external world, but by the way your brain processes the world. And if we change it, if we change our formula for happiness and success, we can change the way that we can then affect reality.”

              If you want to get to the essence, head to 9:09 for his suggestions.

              This is another one that’s probably best for older kids and teenagers.

              12. Weird, or Just Different? (2:35)

              The shortest talk on this list, Derek Sivers talks about the power of perspective. It teaches kids that we all have a different lens through which we see the world and we need to be aware of our assumptions and bias.

              One of Derek’s thoughts:

              Advertising

              There’s a saying that whatever true thing you can say about India, the opposite is also true. So, let’s never forget…that whatever brilliant ideas you have or hear, that the opposite may also be true.

              My daughter’s thoughts: “It shows we can both be right.” YES.

              13. Living Beyond Limits (9:44)

              When I said earlier that I would let my 7-year-old watch all of these talks, this might be my one exception. Amy Purdy’s message is incredible but with an illness and near-death experience, it could be scary for little ones.

              When she was just 19, Amy got bacterial meningitis and after a long fight for her life, she survived, but lost both legs below the knee. Now, a pro-snowboarder, she shows how “It’s believing in those dreams and facing our fears head-on that allows us to live our lives beyond our limits.”

              Her message:

              “If your life was a book, and you were the author, how would you want your story to go?”

              As my daughter and her friend watched this video, they loved Amy, were completely engaged by her story and got this lesson – “Don’t give up on our dreams just because something bad happens.”

              14. 8 Secrets of Success (3:26)

              In this short video, Analyst Richard St. John condenses a decade of research on success into three minutes. It’s a two-hour presentation he gives to high school students on what’s needed to be successful. Quick. Fast. Interesting with lots of great life lessons including serving, persisting, hard work and passion.

              15. Nature. Beauty. Gratitude. (9:47)

              The title says it all.

              Filmmaker Louie Schwartzberg’s beautiful cinematic time lapse imagery is paired with words of perspective from a little girl and an elderly man about what makes life so beautiful.

              It may feel slow for some kids, but contains a compelling and valuable message.

              I loved when the little girl shared her perspective about why we should be exploring nature and not watching TV and when the elderly gentlemen shared these thoughts:

              “You think this is just another day in your life? It’s not just another day. It’s the one day that is given to you today. It’s given to you. It’s a gift. It’s the only gift that you have right now, and the only appropriate response is gratefulness.”

              Kids might also find it interesting why we say OMG. I did.

              16. Why Some Of Us Don’t Have One True Calling (12:26)

              This is a great talk, especially for high school students who are trying to figure out what to do with their life! In my coaching practice, this question still evokes a sense of stress, whether someone is going into high school, graduating from college, or in a mid-life career change.

              Emilie’s powerful message:

              If you have multiple dreams, goals and interests, “There’s nothing wrong with you. What you are, is a multipotentialite. Someone with many interests and creative pursuits.”

              The statistics back up this concept. Studies have shown that only 27 percent of college grads have a job related to their major; the average person changes jobs 10-15 times during his or her career; and people change careers anywhere from 3-7 times over the course of their lifetime.

              Emilie then goes on to share the skills and benefits of being a multipotentialite, complete with examples of successful individuals who have created a life that works for them.

              My absolute favorite message from this talk is one that I’m deeply aligned with in my coaching practice:

              “We should all be designing lives and careers that are aligned with how we’re wired… Embracing our inner wiring leads to a happier, more authentic life.”

              Amen.

              Advertising

              17. How I Harnessed the Wind (5:52)

              Incredible and inspiring. At the age of 14, William Kamkwamba, with very little education or resources, motivated by poverty and famine, created a windmill to power his family’s home. As he looked at his life, he felt that what he was living was a fate he couldn’t accept. So rather than live the life he was “destined” to live, he decided to change it.

              Not only is this story about courage, drive and innovation, it will also help kids gain perspective about what others in the world are facing on a daily basis.

              He closes with these words of wisdom:

              “I would like to say something to all the people out there like me, to the Africans, and the poor who are struggling with your dreams. God bless. Maybe one day you will watch this on the Internet. I say to you, trust yourself and believe. Whatever happens, don’t give up.”

              BONUS: I Think We All Need a Pep Talk (3:28)

              Ok, so it’s not officially a TED Talk, but it was on their site[1] and I just had to include it! Many of you have probably seen this Soul Pancake video before. I don’t need to say much. Just watch it.

              Here are three of my favorite lines from 9-year old “Kid President”:

              “We’re all on the same team.”
              “We were made to be awesome.”
              “Give the world a reason to dance, so get to it.”

              Now What? Watch these with your kids!

              Now that you’ve read through these options, it’s time to pick a few and watch them with your kid(s). I recommend you choose three that are relevant to your family, a situation your kid is in, a life lesson you feel is important for them to learn, or something that you’re just excited to share.

              That’s the easy part. Now you have to get them to watch it!

              Here are a few recommendations for sharing these with your kids:

              1. Share your thoughts and a few W’s

              Who is this talk about, why you think it’s important for them to watch and what you think they’ll find interesting. Get them hooked before they watch it. Giving them high-level context will not only get them interested, but get their minds primed for learning.

              2. After you watch the video, have a discussion.

              Not sure what to ask? Here are some ideas:

              • What did you think of the video?
              • What did you enjoy?
              • What do you think motivated this speaker to speak on this topic?
              • What did you learn?
              • What do you think you’ll do differently as a result of watching this?

              3. Ask them to stick with it and be patient.

              When I started testing these with my daughters, I could see in the first minute they were wondering if they really wanted to do this. I asked them to be patient, keep an open mind and stick with it. Once they got through the initial, “Ugh, Mom!”…. they enjoyed watching.

              Lucky for you, the ones they couldn’t get through didn’t make this cut! Watch one (maybe two) at time. Stick with the age minus one rule.

              I loved researching these talks, watching them with my kids and their friends, and hearing their thoughts and reactions. I hope they provide a great discussion for you and your family, some inspiration for your kids and something that moves, motivates and challenges you both.

              I’d love to hear which of these resonated with you and your kids – and if you have other favorite TED talks you think would be great for kids, please let me know!

              Featured photo credit: Pexels via pexels.com

              Reference

              Read Next