You cannot swim for new horizons until you have the courage to lose sight of the shore.
I remember when my parents took me to the YMCA for swimming lessons when I was very small. I’m sure this is a blurred memory, but I am positive I got thrown into the deep end before I could swim and I almost drowned. I don’t think drowned is an accurate word because obviously somebody was watching and they pulled me right out, but it was the wrong first approach, and initially, I hated swimming.
It took a while before I would attempt it again and this time I believe the lesson started in the shallow end. Within a short period of time, I was swimming with everything I had. Eventually swimming became one of my most favorite things and I spent most of my youth in the ocean from February to November battling waves over 12 feet tall and learning to scuba dive down to 150 feet below.
Anything in life that we are interested in taking on requires our own agency in making the decision. I am sure that my parents did not anticipate that the first approach that the swim instructor took was going to terrify me, but it did. Similarly, I tried taking judo lessons a few years later and the prospect of running and tucking my head so that I could do a judo roll was equally terrifying because I was certain I was going to break my neck by not tucking my head properly. My parents had enrolled me in this class because I was having a problem with a neighborhood bully, and once again I was not ready and so I quit. Decades later I would find my way into karate on my own volition and did not stop until I had achieved my second-degree black belt.
In both illustrations, I was being asked to do something at the outset that I was not comfortable doing. I think when we are expected to let go of the shore, and we are not ready, the prospect of swimming into new horizons is terrifying.
But when we have self determined our own choice in the equation, it is no longer terrifying. It is the appropriate journey that we are setting ourselves to take.
In all journeys in life, the prospect of letting go of the safety net and going full speed into the unknown is scary and offers little comfort to give us security that this is a proper choice. At some point, we become far more intrigued by what could potentially lay across the threshold we are about to cross and we dive in headfirst and start to swim with gusto.
In the course of that metaphorical swim, there are inevitably more causes of fear and anxiety than we might have ever expected. At a certain point, it is clear that the shore we left behind is far too distant to return to, and we are out in the deep blue sea. That is the moment of clarity. The galvanization of spirit that makes or breaks us.
You want desperately to return to the shore. You are exhausted from swimming. Terrified you are going to fail. Convinced that you have made a giant mistake and all you want is for it to just stop! All of us have these moments. Some are more pronounced, and become some of the defining moments in our lives. And this is clearly your moment to learn what you are truly made of. Your moment to recognize that you made a choice, it was most certainly bold, and in that choice, you could unquestionably self destruct. So that is the moment to take a quick inventory of your strengths, resilience and determination and discover what you already knew about yourself. You find the four magic words deep inside. I CAN DO IT. And with this simple, but most powerful sentence comes your salvation that drives you to keep swimming. No matter what.
I discovered forty years ago that I am completely addicted to committing to do things I have never done before. I contractually commit to them, not really knowing how it will actually be accomplished. I get a total surge of energy from knowing that this is a do or die experience and that with the wrong choice, all could be lost. Then I get the proverbial lump in my throat, the massive anxiety of WTF have I just done???!
And then….. I take a right or a left step. You only have two legs, so one of them is the first step, so make it. And most probably, it is the wrong one, so you stumble, get back up and take another one. It is the second step where you let go of the shore. It is the step that says, I’ve got this! And you venture out into the deep blue and stop looking backwards….forever.
Life is scary on so many levels, so the prospect of making it scarier is in many cases counter intuitive. That said, my philosophy is that I would live a life of perpetual fear over a life of perpetual boredom of comfort any day. The fear propels me to the black belt. The fear takes me 150 feet below the water that terrified me. The fear is what takes me and my team into uncharted waters that others say regularly cannot be accomplished.
But…. Once you are ready to lose sight of the shore forever… you are indomitable. You are far stronger than you ever imagined. Just dig deep within and go for it with everything you’ve got…. Because a life lived in fear, is a life wasted.
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