I didn’t grow up swimming.

My parents didn’t swim either, even though they grew up in the country. My father has more ability to get across the pool dog paddling than my mother. So, my well intentioned parents made sure to take my sister and me to the YMCA for swimming lessons. To give us a gift and get us started.

Unfortunately, I didn’t really learn how to swim as a kid because of fear. As a consequence, there have been many pool parties in high school and college, where I had to settle for standing on the platform watching everyone else have fun. What I could do was to wade into the water and play in the shallow end of the pool. I lifted weights and was strong, so I became a very good base for others, on my shoulders, to have chicken fights in the shallow end.

Over the last few years as an adult, I have set my intention on learning to swim. At first, I told myself that I just wanted not to be fearful in the water. This was a real stretch goal. I can still recall jumping off of a diving board as a naïve kid at a public pool and having my next door neighbors Dad rescue me when I swallowed what seemed like a gallon of water after a fearful attempt to sink or swim. To be big and strong on land and so fearful in a pool was humbling. I am so grateful for this now.

Over the last couple of years, I recruited 1-2 adult swim coaches to work with me periodically, to observe and evaluate what I do in the water. My goals were clear and straightforward. I want to do the breast stroke that I always see other recreational swimmers perform. After that, I want to add a front crawl, followed by learning how to tread water. I really want to swim laps for cardiovascular fitness. Something I see as a practice that I can do even when I am older and may not have strength to rely upon.

The male swim coach, saw I was physically working so hard – kicking and stroking – like I was fighting the water. His nugget of truth for me was to relax and breathe (Principle No. 1). Seemed simple, of course. It has taken a couple of years to progress in that area. The female swim coach, observed many things and videotaped me swimming so that I could see myself. Aside from the technical guidance, her nugget of truth for me was to become aware of my balance in the water (Principle No. 2). So, these Yin and Yang perspectives, my awareness and practice — created some powerful breakthroughs in my abilities in the pool. The profound thing is that these principles apply to my life outside of the pool as well.

Recently, I had a friend who is a certified lifeguard; watch me perform my breast stroke at a neighborhood pool. They saw promise in the elements that I demonstrated – relaxation, breathing, better kicking, and strong pulls – and saw I needed some tweaking to pull it all together. So, in a brief session, I received expert coaching and suggestions on how to modify my frog kick, how to adjust my arms (pull no farther than the chest, put my hands together in prayer position and then outstretch them) and to understand and listen to the rhythm of all the elements (Principle No. 3). In a short time, I actually started to propel myself through the water like never before!

This morning, I decided to go to the pool and practice before I started my work day.

Where are my goggles?! Where are my goggles?

I always wear my goggles over my contact lenses, so I can see the far end of the pool. Oh my. This could be problematic. After searching and going around in circles for a while, I just couldn’t find them. This meant that I had to wear my eyeglasses and go to the pool anyway. Upon arriving at the pool, I noticed my usual routine had to change. I usually wade in to the water, soak my goggles, then put them on and do a few underwater bubble breathing exercises to get adjusted.

Nothing to put on.

I submerged myself under the water and noticed that I instinctively kept my eyes closed.

Different.

I started my bubble breathing exercises while consciously keeping my eyes open. My breathing was shallow and I realized that I couldn’t see even a short distance in front of me. I could not see the end of the pool at all.

My anxiety started to increase.

I didn’t realize how much being able to see the goal (the end of pool), made a difference to my state of mind and relaxation.

Oh boy.

I kept practicing the bubble exercises while keeping my eyes open and started a reassuring dialogue with myself, something like, “be calm and relaxed.”

It worked.

Next, I told myself this is an opportunity to use what I know and that this will make my breast stroke better. I will be more aware of putting my head into the water to exhale and then raise it to see and get air as I progressed down the pool.

Yes. This is an opportunity. I get it. Push on.

What occurred has never happened before. I swam the length of the pool down and back, then down and back again without fighting the water. I was aware that my kick was actually propelling me forward. I could sense how my body rolled and corrected itself back into position – I had a sense of balance. After those 2 laps or 4 lengths – I felt and knew new possibility. I wondered if anyone watching me thought I was crazy after I openly laughed upon reaching the pools edge. I didn’t care. This was my Olympian moment. Something so small and probably insignificant to someone who has been swimming all their life. To me? If I would have heard the National Anthem playing somewhere and I am sure I would have wept like a baby.

So what am I saying?

Breakthroughs in your being or abilities could seem minor to someone else.

Don’t worry about that.

Celebrate your successes — BIG and small!

Look for principles. Apply them. Own them.

  • Have faith in what you can’t see.
  • Trust that everything will come together.
  • Don’t become impatient with the process.
  • Be coachable and open.
  • Practice. Practice. Practice.