Move Closer, Stay Longer

I recently read a book by Dr. Stephanie Burns called Move Closer, Stay Longer. According to her biography, Stephanie Burns has devoted her life to understanding the adult learning process and helping people reach their goals. In her book Move Closer, Stay Longer she writes on the subject of fear – specifically the fear of riding (are you sensing a theme here, lately?) – and how to overcome it.

The first thing I appreciated about this book is that it breaks fear down into an understandable emotion. There are things I’m afraid to do with Asterion that I simply shouldn’t be doing right now. Riding near traffic, for instance. It would be the height of stupidity for me to jump on him tomorrow and ride down our very busy road, hoping for the best. In that sense, fear is doing its job: working to keep me from injury. I’m beginning to believe that fear itself is not a problem (it’s just a feeling, remember?) The problem comes in when we decide to camp out around fear and never take the steps necessary to overcome it, especially in regards to those things that are important to us. Which leads me to the second thing I appreciated about this book: Burns gives a systematic approach for how to overcome fear in a way that’s logical and simple to achieve (“simple,” but not necessarily easy.)

Have you ever heard of the “learning circle?” It looks like this:

The basic principle of the learning circle is that there are three learning zones and as we develop new skills things move from one zone to another. Things we already know how to do and don’t need to think about are located in the “comfort zone.” In the “learning zone” we’ll find the things we don’t yet know that stretch our capabilities but are possible with hard work and practice. The outer circle, the “panic zone,” is the area in which things move our capabilities past stretching and into panic. These are things that are not (yet) possible for us to learn. For the high schooler, simple addition is located in the comfort zone, geometry might be located in the learning zone, and topology would be firmly in the “panic” zone. You could also apply this to exercise. Taking a walk might be in the comfort zone and going for a jog might be in the learning zone, but running the Boston Marathon is situated firmly inside the “panic” zone. It’s just not possible. Yet.

Because the great thing about the learning circle is that the things we do can cross categories.  As addition moves further into the comfort zone with continued education, multiplication moves further into the learning zone. The trick is taking the steps necessary (and figuring out what those are) to move things from one zone into another.

Dr. Burns says that fear works the same way. Rather than circles, she encourages people to make three lists: Things we can do without fear, things we can do with SOME fear, and things we can’t do because we’re too afraid. Then, we start working to move things from one column to another by moving closer to the things we’re afraid of, and staying there longer.  Allow me to explain:

In regards to riding, here’s what my list looked like:

Right away, I saw that there were things I could easily move from the “some fear” to “no fear” column with practice, like trotting and riding without a saddle. Maybe I can’t yet trot Asterion all over the field, but I can certainly trot him for a few seconds today and a few more tomorrow, each time moving to that point when fear screams “STOP!,” and then staying with it for just a FEW more seconds.  The next day, the point of fear ought to move just a bit further away (ie. today perhaps I can only trot for five seconds before panic sets in, but if I push past that point by just a few seconds then tomorrow I’ll be able to trot for EIGHT seconds before panic sets in, and on and on.)  In that way, as I “move closer” to my goal and “stay longer,” the point of fear stretches until it simply no longer exists.

But what about the others? Many of the things on that list are there for a very good reason. For instance, Asterion gets very antsy and skittish when it’s raining or windy and the last time we tried crossing the creek he panicked and I ended up on the ground.  He also won’t allow me to touch his sheath (can you really blame him?) and given that he weighs a good 1,000 pounds more than I do, he wins.  So how do I move things from one column to another if the problem can’t be solved without the cooperation of a 1200 pound flight animal? Again, the principle of “move closer, stay longer” comes in. Can I clean Asterion’s sheath tomorrow? Absolutely not. But what I can do is start getting him used to being touched near there and continue this each day until he no longer shows irritation. At that point, I can move closer and repeat the process. It strikes me as interesting that the way I would help my horse overcome his fear is the same way Burns recommends teaching myself to overcome my fear:

Move closer to the thing I’m afraid of, and stay there longer.


Related Article:

Feeling Fear

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4 Responses to Move Closer, Stay Longer

  1. Pingback: Getting Close | Rina Marie

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  3. Brenda Atwood says:

    I am speechless!!! I’m Brenda that communicated with you on the biker Facebook page!!

    I have no words to express how happy I am to have been led to you❣️❣️❣️

    Your words are EXACTLY what I have been seeking.

    Last night after being exhausted from hearing the voices in my head over and over and over about fear and why I shouldn’t go practice on my motorcycle and all the things that have been racing through my brain for the last 2 months since I got my motorcycle license and preventing me from practicing….I finally remembered…”Ask and you shall receive”…I asked Spirit to start sending me people and information I need to overcome the fear of riding. And although I saved screenshots of your original article on one of the biker pages about how awful you were in the beginning and how you overcame your fear and how good you are now at riding your motorcycle…you gave me MORE information On the book move closer, stay longer I went to order that book immediately it’ll be here Tuesday. Then you asked me to read your blog I read the blog and I could not believe it it was the exact words I needed to hear I’ve been looking for something that could get into my mind and you did❣️❣️❣️❣️❣️❣️THANK YOU💞💞💞

    That led to reading another one of your blogs the whole time I’m reading I’m thinking who is this lady some kind of professional writer she’s amazing I’m so excited to know you🙌🏼

    You are my new inspiration and when I’m fighting my fears of practicing on my Softail you will always be in the forefront of my mind💓

    I wish you lived in California🙌🏼

    Brenda Atwood

    • Rina says:

      Hi, Brenda! What nice things to say, I am SO GLAD this article helped! Wait till you get the book, it’s amazing! I’m trying to find you on facebook but haven’t been able to, yet, and I don’t even know if you will get this comment because I’m not sure exactly how it works and just now saw that you’d left a comment in the first place! But I hope we’ll talk again soon, and please keep me posted on your progress!