T – 16 days
This time in 16 days I will be stepping into the water to complete what feels like my biggest challenge ever – swimming 2.5 miles across open water from the mainland UK to the Isle of Wight.
I’m nervous as hell about it already.
About three weeks ago I finally took my training into the sea, as the water is now ‘sufficiently’ warm enough.
I still question this on some days, but I don’t think it’s going to become topical before July or ever!
Swapping from the relatively still water of the swimming pool to the ever moving, sloshing sea has required quite an adjustment.
At times it’s felt like I’m back at the very beginning.
But I’ve had to remind myself that back in October when I first signed myself up I could barely front crawl and struggled to complete a whole length without stopping to catch my breath. And I’m certainly not there again.
But taking this tricky next step and swimming in the open water has taught me a few things that could apply to almost anything in life!
So what are these 5 valuable life lessons they?
1. Adapting to the conditions
Sometimes the conditions mean I have to try every which way until I find what’s most comfortable.
In the swimming pool, I’d got used to breathing to my right every fourth stroke. It’s become so natural to me. However in the sea, with the currents and waves, this breathing rate can sometimes mean facing oncoming waves and getting a face full of salty water (not massively pleasant!).
So I have to change it and breath the other side (doesn’t feel so natural). And sometimes with all the chop and how hard I’m having to work I need to take more breathes more often. I never use just one method in a whole swim, I have to mix it up. I have to be adaptable.
2. Fear can really f@&k things up, don’t let it!
A few occasions now I have swum out deeper than I’ve done before where I can no longer see the bottom.
The first time I did this the fear crept in and my imagination went to go into overtime. I didn’t talk it down; I started to panic and then the doubt had me and all of a sudden I was wailing around shouting to James “I can’t do this! I can’t do this” I got myself in such a state that I couldn’t then get any rhythm to my swimming and was snorting in salty water left, right and centre. That was it for that swim. I gave up.
After what felt like a failure, I made a conscious decision that when fear creeps up again I will tackle it head on….. My response to it is……“No f@&king way are you messing it up for me this time!”
3. When you need to look at the sky!
So one of the ways I’m tackling the fear and doubt is if I need to I will turn over and drift on my back or do the backstroke. I will look at the sky, slow down, calm my breathing and my thoughts down. It had such a settling presence. When looking at the sky I know I’m ok and that nothing is going to happen. It also reminds me of how insignificant this really is and in a soothing way that calms me down.
4. The biggest battle is with my mind, not the sea….
Despite the fact I have proven I can swim the distance and now I am regularly getting in the sea and doing OK, my brain is quite instant in telling me that “You’re not an open water swimmer” and “You’re not going to make it across” – hence the “I’m nervous as hell already” bit above.
But I’m tackling it with something I speak to my clients about all the time…… this voice has never done this before either, so how does it know if I can or can’t do it! The only way to discover for real is to give it a go. Bam! Now be quiet voice and let me get on with it!
5. It’s so good to have someone else there backing you too.
James has been such positive support throughout. He 100% believes I can do this and tells me this all the time. His belief in me spurs me on too when the voice is being particularly pesky. Not only do I want to prove it to myself I can do this challenge, I also want to show James to thank him for his investment in me.
Having someone by your side (whether that’s a partner, friend, family member, peer, mentor, coach etc) committed to supporting you and your goals and who you can share your journey with has such a huge impact on your success.
I will be carrying these 5 valuable life lessons…..
- Adapt and be flexible
- Face fear head on
- Slow down and look to the sky
- Reason with the voice who doesn’t know and,
- Be around people who will lift you up.
…..across all areas of my life from now on…..
And until July 27th I will “Just keep swimming, just keep swimming, just keep swimming, swimming, swimming.”
Big salty hugs……
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