Life Coaching Tip: As a means of protection, your primal brain will create dramatic stories and bring up all kinds of fear and panic for you whenever you tread outside your comfort zone. These well-crafted, scary stories can hold you back—as they are designed to do. I encourage you to keep moving forward anyway, my friend. And when your brain tries to freak you out, remind yourself that you are a capable person who can do anything she sets her mind to!
A client once shared with me that she was feeling like she’d just jumped off a riverbank into raging waters after taking a real “big leap” in her life. She said she knew it was necessary to get to her goal on the other side, but she was scared that she couldn’t swim.
As her life coach, I helped her to see it was the way she was framing her story that was scaring her and not her actual circumstances.
“Of course, you can swim!” I reminded her.
I then shared the following story with her in hopes of helping her see just how bananas all human brains—including mine—can get when we tread outside our comfort zone.
My ridiculous story lightened her energy, inspired her, and made her smile. I hope it does the same for you too!
Here we go . . . .
Several years ago, my husband, Jerry, and I visited the Florida Keys, and we booked a day trip on a catamaran to do some snorkeling. Although it had been a few years since we’d snorkeled in the Gulf of Mexico, we were both experienced swimmers and had always enjoyed such adventures.
It was a gorgeous day and there were others on the excursion with us—seemingly as excited as we were to explore the beautiful underwater world of the gulf. Jerry and I were a bit surprised at how far out in the waters we traveled, but we knew this meant the experience would be even more spectacular.
When the boat finally anchored, no land could be seen, and my brain took this in. It’s fine, I told myself, ignoring the knot that was tightening in my tummy.
As we prepared to hit the water, we were given a choice: Either use a staircase that lowered into the water and just ease out—or, “for those who like a challenge—jump off the side of the boat!
Jerry said to me, “It looks like the kids and older people are all using the staircase. How about we jump off? I’m sure we can do it.”
Of course, I thought, no big deal!
Then, as we waited for our turn to jump, one of the deck crew, who was a very nice-looking young guy who looked like he could have been on the cast of Baywatch, told us what to do. He explained the importance of holding on to your snorkel gear at the sides of your face while jumping to prevent it from popping off.
Okay, I thought again, no big deal.
Jerry went first, and—easy-peasy—jumped into the beautiful turquoise waters.
Then, it was my turn.
As I climbed to the edge of the boat, I hadn’t anticipated how high the boat would be when rising up before falling back down with the waves.
Timing the jump was critical and meant the difference between a 10-foot and 20-foot drop.
Whoa, I definitely didn’t anticipate that!
I also didn’t realize how difficult it would be to balance on the boat’s edge in flippers while holding on to my snorkel gear at the sides of my face.
I couldn’t put my arms out for support, and I could feel my tummy grip tighter—my heart was beating so loudly that I was certain everyone aboard could hear it.
But since the Baywatch fella had emphasized the need to hold the gear secure to my face, I didn’t want to be that person who didn’t follow directions. And so, I awkwardly stood on the edge of the boat, wondering how I would keep my footing steady enough to jump in.
I stood there, legs trembling, and my mind began to race. It felt like everyone was looking at me and the Baywatch dude was saying (in a California-type of accent), “Come on, you can do it. You’ve got this!”
Jerry was also cheering me on from the water, and a few other spectators had gathered to watch the show. Since I am not one to back down from a challenge, especially when there are witnesses, I counted to three-and into the water I plunged!
Unfortunately, my timing was less than perfect, and I jumped when the boat was about as far from the water as it could get!
I went in hard—and deeper than I had anticipated. I took salt water into my mouth and nose and lost my bearings. My brain went into panic mode and my snorkel gear popped off—despite following the directions, I might add.
The scene wasn’t pretty, nor was it cool. The Baywatch fella had to jump into the water after me. I came up panicking and coughing out the water I had taken in, and I clung to that guy like a human life raft.
He eventually got me a real raft and convinced me to loosen my grip on his arms.
Jerry was there too, and he tried to reassure me that I was okay.
However, I looked around at the horizon with no land in site, and my brain stayed in panic mode: Oh my gosh, oh my gosh, I’m going to die!
Jerry eventually talked me into letting the Baywatch dude go back to his post—but despite the aversion on my husband’s face—there was no way I was going to let go of that raft!
“Tracy, there are kids in the water without rafts. You really don’t need the raft,” he said.
“Nooo! Leave me alone!” I insisted. “I need this raft!”
“Okay, it’s fine. Whatever you need to feel comfortable,” he sighed.
I held onto that raft for a good long while. My brain kept warning me I was in danger: Hold on for dear life! Don’t let go!
Jerry, being the smart husband that he is, left me alone for a bit in hopes that I would calm down over time.
Eventually, he floated back over and said, “Babe, you know how to swim. Remember? You are a good swimmer.”
WHAT? Oh. My. Gosh! That’s right, I DO know how to swim!
Wow—for a hot minute, I had forgotten who I was! And with that simple thought shift, I relaxed and released the raft.
Every time I think of that story, it cracks me up. I’m not sure what was funnier—my mind drama or the horrified look of embarrassment on my husband’s face.
In either case, the truth is, I was very frightened at the time because my whole body was reacting to my panicked thoughts. Jerry brought me back to reality by reminding me of who I am and what I am capable of.
I simply forgot that I am a person who can swim!
I encourage you to keep this story in mind as you take steps into the unchartered territory outside your comfort zone in the direction of your goals and desires.
Write down a list of your strengths, gifts, and talents. This will be your “EXHIBIT A”.
And when—not if—your brain decides to freak out and trick you into believing you are in real danger, remind yourself of the all the badassery you are capable of! Refer to your “EXHIBIT A”.
Your fear does not define you.
You get to decide who you are.
And, my friend, you are a person who can do anything you set your mind to!