With waves breaking over my head, I fought back panic. Glancing to my left, the shore seemed too far away to make it. I thought how ironic it would be if I drowned. Then I consciously slowed my breathing and heart rate. It took a few minutes, but I regained the calm I needed to complete my swim and I learned an important lesson in my journey to personal greatness.
I've never done a triathlon in my life, never participated in a road race since I was 25, never swam in competition and I gave up running over five years ago. Yet, I find myself entering my first sprint triathlon and facing the joy and pain of preparing for it. The most challenging part is the ocean swim. A little under half a mile, the swim runs along the New Jersey coast line next to Asbury Park. A little over a week ago I was swimming in rough surf when I learned my lesson.
At first the waves just seemed like a nuisance. Little by little they began chipping away at my confidence. Was I a little too far out from shore? Did I over-estimate the distance I could safely swim? Would I make it? After a series of three waves broke over my head just as I was trying to breathe I felt the first hint of panic. My heart started pounding. I cursed the relentless waves and pushed against them with all my might. But I knew one thing, I was losing the battle. That's when I chose to breathe deeply and calm myself. Immediately I realized that I could create a rhythm with my strokes that matched the waves. I surfaced for air in the troughs. Wonderfully as I made my turn to swim south again I realized that now the waves were aiding me. Though I would make two more "laps" I was fine.
Anytime we strive to accomplish something waves of opposition will impede us. Whether from others, organizations, the world around us, or even ourselves. Somehow parts of life resist change. My normal response is to fight as hard as I can against the waves as I did in the ocean. But perhaps I've learned my lesson. Rather than initially push harder against the waves of opposition, the next time I might just take a deep breath and learn their rhythm to see if I can move more efficiently through them.
Let's face it, there will always be waves when we strive to accomplish new things, or change our own life. Sometimes those waves will be larger than others, but they will be there nonetheless. The success of our lives, our personal growth and endeavors will depend on how we handle the waves. Cursing the waves doesn't help (though it might feel momentarily comforting), I'm learning from them and finding a way through them to my goals. Give it a try, the water's fine.