“You don’t want it bad enough,” the white-water kayaking instructor said to me.
What did he know? I’d spent the day before practicing my combat roll just for this clinic. I got up early that morning, raced to the kayaking hole, got in my boat with all my gear on, because I wanted to surf.
I’d spent fifteen minutes hanging back and finally had gotten up the courage to try, but I couldn’t get past the first wave and into the hole. He was wrong. I wanted it.
“No, you haven’t decided to really go for it, so you’re only semi choosing to go in. If you really wanted to get in there, you’d attack it with some aggression. You’d be willing to flip and possibly swim.”
There was the key. I was holding onto the story of failing and being embarrassed when I did. I was surrounded by successful boaters who had enough experience to know they could surf, be flipped, and right themselves. They weren’t afraid.
“I guess I’m not confident enough in my skills to go for it,” I said.
“The only way to gain confidence is to get in there and try. You’ll never get it from the sidelines or being tentative,” a female paddler said.
Did I want it bad enough to brave the flip, the fear, the bad outcomes that hadn’t even happened yet. I realized the “what if’s” of the negative we’re in my way.
Eleven years ago, my life opened up because of asking the “what if’s” from a positive perspective. “What if I wasn’t afraid? What if I didn’t care what people thought? What if I didn’t worry about money or society’s rules? Where would I go, what would I do, how would I live my life?”
Those questions led me to make a list of 101 dreams, and I spent years going from one magnificent experience to the next, exploring the world as if it were a huge playground.
I realized as I sat in the water, looking at the surfing hole and everyone playing within it, that at times I let the negative “what if’s” take control. “What if I fail at business, or no one likes the book I wrote? What if I can never get my doubles in figure skating, or I go out on stage in front of thousands of people and completely choke?”
I carry my negative story baggage from the past, as heavy weights dragging me down. The bad stuff that happened that gives me an excuse to not go further because of some failure or upset in my past that I believe will happen again.
I looked at the wave and wondered, how bad do I want this? I could stay in my safety zone, paddling Class II white water. I didn’t need to go for more.
The thing about safety is that I lose the excitement of going beyond what I believe that I can do. As humans, I believe we are meant to grow, to seek more, it’s why we’re given lives with so much opportunity and a huge playground called earth.
My brain had a different opinion. Be safe. Find security. Don’t live on the edge. Settle down. It’s good enough.
The brain always wants to protect to the point that it likes to lie. It will tell me all the reasons that I’ll be embarrassed, injured, killed, destroyed emotionally. It makes up these grand stories and just for kickers releases the anxiety chemicals to make my heart race, and my anxiety go through the roof, so much so it’s hard to even begin to move.
Yet, I know from experience, that it’s on the other side of those feelings, that true victory comes to fruition. If I didn’t care about what I was trying to do, it wouldn’t matter, and therefore I wouldn’t have this intense experience of fearing failure.
The truth of how to succeed isn’t the absence of this feeling or thoughts. It’s not in overcoming and training the brain not to release the chemicals and stories, but in wanting something so deeply that I can turn that feeling to excitement.
I looked at the hole. It was going to be mine. I wanted this. I loved this sport. The stories and baggage I carried from all the swims and bad experiences were in the past. I paddled up, put my boat into the wave, paddled hard, and I was in — the hole holding me in place as I used my rudder to move back and forth across the wave.
The instructor cheered from the side lines, “I told you. You just needed to want it bad enough.”
In everything we desire, there’s always going to be fear, and the lies our brains tell us to make the excuses of why we don’t want to do it. The only way I’ve found to go beyond that part of our body is to ask, “What if I succeed? How will that look and feel?”
That’s when the fear turns to excitement.
As I paddled down the river later that afternoon, my confidence in my paddling now soaring from going beyond my comfort zone, I thought about the fact that I never flipped in the hole. The stories my brain told me never came to fruition.
Ten minutes later, I went for a very small surfing wave, something that doesn’t scare me, and within seconds I flipped over, and rolled back up.
Life’s biggest flips are never the ones we think about. They’re the ones we don’t expect. If we build our confidence going after the big things, the deepest desires and going beyond the fear, asking ourselves how much do we want it, and then matching our push to that desire, how much more confidence could we build within our minds? How many success stories could we create, so that when those flips we don’t expect do happen, we know we have the courage and strength to handle them with ease?