Are you going to sink or swim?

Have you ever failed at something?

This is a trick question of course – we all have.

Maybe a better question is – have you ever been too scared to let yourself succeed?

Do you ever view failure as a more comfortable outcome, and let all of your effort and energy drop off at the first sign of defeat?

In thinking about this topic, I was reminded of the summer my youngest daughter learned how to swim.

As all parents know, this is a stressful summer – one where the comforts of flotation devices goes away before true competence is formed.

On one particular afternoon while I was playing the role of pool monitor/cheerleader, I held my own breath as she slipped under the water,

legs fluttering and arms twirling,

pushing, striving, reaching,

until she resurfaced, breathless, on the other side of the pool.

WHEW!

My pride was surpassed only by her exuberance as she exhaled mightily, gulped in oxygen and fresh air, and exclaimed, goggles raised to her forehead,

“Did you see that Mommy? I was under the water!”

Being underwater is a rush.

But most of us don’t see it that way. For us mere grownups, the thought of being under water or in over our heads is not associated with exuberance, but rather with overwhelm.

We’ve all been there. We stare down what’s ahead and murmur, “I have absolutely no idea how I’m going to do this.” And our brain just shuts down in a misguided attempt to protect us from…

The to do list that’s never ending
The promotion we’re not quite ready for
The deadline that’s looming
The child who is spiraling
The carpool conflict we can’t resolve
The decision we can’t make
The piles of laundry that are multiplying

When we’re standing at the edge of one of these oceans, we feel powerless.

Our thoughts are muddled and we’re anxious.

We struggle to make sense of the work ahead of us, to break it down into tasks we know how to do.

Instead of taking action, we turn to distractions and bad habits – ones that keep us occupied and prevent us from making any meaningful progress at all.

I’ve been there. I’ll bet you have, too.

We just continue to assess the situation from afar, dipping a toe in the water and pulling it back, fretting about how hard it is and how uncomfortable we are. We’re afraid that once we jump in, we’ll get in over our head and we’ll drown.

We don’t for a minute give ourselves credit that we can actually swim.

Even if we run out of breath, or take in a bunch of water, or struggle for a minute – we know how to save ourselves.

We can survive a few moments of being uncomfortable when we know it’s not a permanent state.

If you’re scared to make a leap because you’re already preparing to sink, why not learn to swim?

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This is based on a blog post originally published August 2, 2016

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