As a recovering perfectionist, I haven’t been one to look back at my previous accomplishments to see how far I’ve come and celebrate those wins. Oh no. My modus operandi up until a few years ago had been to keep looking forward to all that I hadn’t yet accomplished and get down on myself for not being good enough. It makes for a very different perspective when we step back, reflect our past success and really own the journey.
So, the other day I decided to stroll down memory lane and take a look-see in my storage unit and I found my box of badges. In my formative years I was an athlete and I accumulated many colourful ribbons, badges, honours, and newspaper clippings representing my accomplishments.
From the corner of my eye I caught sight of my Canadian Red Cross water safety level swimming badges. Declared to be retro swim badges as evidenced by a 2013 blog on the Red Cross website. Wow. Evidently I am retro!
From yellow, the colour badges progressed to orange, red, maroon, blue, green, grey and then to white. At the highest level, students learned about water sport safety and rescue breathing, the sidestroke and were able to complete an endurance swim of 500 metres.
As I marveled at these retro badges, a terrible memory flashed before my eyes. It was 1984 and I had unwillingly been enrolled in swimming lessons. The problem is that I was in a similar situation several years prior and I bailed out of swimming lessons after the first few times because I was petrified of the water. I was the type of toddler that was convinced that a shark was going to come up from the bottom of the bathtub and take me to my death. The pool was no different.
So there I was, facing my fears and doing it anyway. The first level was yellow. Every day I stepped into that aquatic centre for my class and I was terrified. I clung to the edge of the pool in the shallow end until my knuckles were white. We were taught some basics and were tested on skills. Ugh. Skill testing. Where you actually have to perform the skill and are evaluated on how well you do. (Did I mention that I also had performance anxiety?)
Getting your face wet was the most basic skill required to pass, and I didn’t want to do it because I was afraid. I didn’t want to dunk my face in the water for fear of drowning. Well, needless to say I failed yellow. No badge for me.
This story got me thinking about the life of an Entrepreneur. Being a business owner is not like swimming the 50-meter freestyle in a pool. It’s more like swimming around the world in the open Ocean.
Have you ever been in a situation running your business where you’ve been afraid or at the very least tentative about doing some business activity that you know you need to do? Maybe you have an aversion to networking, or have some fear around the sales conversation. Perhaps you’re not aligned to your marketing message and you dread the elevator pitch. Or maybe you’re running ragged being the chief of everything in your business and you fear hiring out because nobody can do it as good as you, and you want to be in control?
“Even the clearest water seems opaque at great depth.” – Joel Agee
My teacher and poet Mark Nepo recounts in one of his poems that each of us is like a great, untamed sea, obedient to deeper currents that are seldom visible. Knowing this gives us three insights worth keeping in our awareness:
- We must consider that the deepest patch of ocean is as clear as its surface wave, though it remains unseeable to the human eye that bobs above it.
- How far we can see into the deep depends on the calmness or turbulence of the surface.
- Just as the depth and surface of the sea are inseparable, so too are the spirit and psychology of each human being.
Fear of living often comes when we place all our energy into the moment of the wave, into the turbulent moment of our psychology.
In the end, with my perseverance to succeed in the face of fear, I did repeat level yellow and passed. I learned that confidence is not a requirement for action, but rather it is born from taking action. With my newfound confidence, I made it all the way to level blue, at which point I stopped because I was too young to take the final levels. I’ve come a long way since sharks in the bathtub and monsters in the pool. Through continuing to take action in spite of my fears, many years later I tackled my biggest water-related feat of all – scuba diving. Remember the fear of not wanting to get my face wet for fear of drowning and scary creatures taking me to my death? Well, despite what those swim badges might represent; I was still scared of the water. (Fear never goes away, by the way.) The day I took my underwater skills test 30 feet below the surface wearing a wet suit in the freezing Pacific Ocean, I remember taking off my mask and my regulator to feel the salt-water sting of the deepest patch of the Ocean on my face and I got the unequivocal nod and handshake from my instructor indicating I had passed.
I will never forget that feeling of excitement, exhilaration and pure terror at having faced my greatest fear in the world, and succeeded. But it was so worth it, because living in fear is denying yourself a life full of love.
And so, back to you my fearless leader.
If you knew that the deepest part of the ocean was as clear as the surface wave, would that change the way you showed up?
Confidence comes through action. What is one thing you fear and what is the next best step for you to take in the face of it?
I’m here to cheer you on. I know you can do it!
If your fear gremlin is getting the best of you – that’s okay. Sometimes when fear has been hanging around for too long, it starts to set up camp in our reptilian brain and it becomes part of the hardwiring. But you know what? Your hardwiring can be changed! Something as seemingly insignificant as a visualization can begin to rewire your brain so that you are in a more resourceful mental place to take forward action with wild abandon. It’s simple. I’ll show you how. Contact me for your no obligation 45-minute strategy session that will move you into an empowering space from which to create your own success with more joy in your heart.