We can overcome our prehistoric genes, swim through those scarey moments and reach our goals.
I could taste the saltiness in my throat as my breathing quickened, magnified and menacing through my snorkel.
I thought about the magnitude of what I was doing. For me, that is: a lifelong underwater phobic with an ironic obsession for coral reefs.
Others around me were swimming and diving with carefree ease. I was surrounded by water babies whereas I felt like a cat that had fallen into the fish pond!
I took a moment to tread water, risking being left behind by the group. I glanced back to where our boat was anchored. Both directions felt like a mile away!
I hesitated. At this point I could swim back to the boat and a reassuring dry deck with my panic abated. But I had visualised the experience ahead of me for a whole two years: floating above a coral reef, marvelling at the beauty, the colours, the serenity. At this moment, any available serenity was being drowned out by the din of my panicking lungs!
Another moment: Slow, regular breaths just like my meditation practice, a word to myself that I can do this. I turned away from the boat and started swimming.
And there it was. Everything I had imagined. The colourful corals, the fantasia of fishes elegantly swimming about their watery business, the sun’s rays penetrating the cyan water like the gods were shining a spotlight for us to witness the beauty.
And so I floated, I marvelled, I accepted every emotion. I allowed the fear to be, but not consume. I kept breathing.
And eventually I swam back to the boat buoyant with excitement, gratitude and pride.
Why am I writing this story all about me, me, me?
Because the experience pulled some important life and health lessons into focus.
Whether your goal is to eat healthier, exercise or pursue a more fulfilling career, there will be times when no matter how much you prepare, you will encounter inner resistance. Times when your familiar habits feel so much closer than your desired destination. But those are exactly the times when we need to take a breath and remind ourselves that we wouldn’t have started the journey if we didn’t know that what we are travelling towards is better than where we started from.
Here are some tips to overcome those moments when the leap ahead feels so much farther than the retreat to familiar territory:
- Be prepared
Visualising achieving your goal and how your life will be when that happens actually changes you on a physiological level: your brain can’t tell the difference between a real and imagined action. When you imagine an action, your body produces the same electrical impulses as if you were doing it for real. This strengthens the neural pathways, creating a mental navigation plan for the action. This is why so many athletes use visualisation to gain a competitive edge.
- Acknowledge your fear/doubt/panic
Say hello (or flick your tongue) to your lizard brain! Yes, we have a pre-historic lump near the brain stem that sends out those feelings of fear and resistance. And it isn’t going anywhere any time soon so we may as well make friends with it. Recognise that it’s just a part of you, trying to protect you. But that fear of the unknown need not be your whole story.
Finding a way to acknowledge this part of our experience without allowing it to take over and hold us back is part of becoming the whole person you want to be.
The visualisation from step 1 will help you keep the lizard in its cage. And if the lizard gets loose at the point of action, then deep, steady breathing works really well to calm your prehistoric pet.
- Take a bite at a time.
It’s so daunting to look at your end goal, whether it’s life without your love handles or earning the salary you know you are worth. But breaking down your ultimate goal into achievable chunks makes changes much easier to adjust to plus you get to celebrate each step on the way. Take some me-time to figure out the ‘hows’ on the way to your goal.
And here’s another cool factoid about Step 1 that supports this practice of breaking up your plan into bite size chunks: There is a part of your brain called the posterior parietal cortex that is responsible for creating a navigation plan for action. It’s a busy bit of brain, gathering information from our skin, internal organs and vision to create these action plans. If we give it too much information at once through visualisation, it gets overloaded and your well-laid mental plans become less effective. Treat your visualisation as a practise. Imagine your end goal vividly to get your creative juices flowing, but also create a plan to visualise each step of your plan as you work through them.
- Take Action!
Imagination is a wonderful gift, but Intention + Action = Miracles
You have prepared yourself mentally for the steps required. Now it’s time to let those strengthened neural pathways do their job. You have your bite-size steps all ready to execute, so go get ‘em!
And remember, when the resistance appears, you have the tools and understanding to KEEP. ON. SWIMMING.
Do you have a dream, a goal, an ambition that feels kinda scarey when you think about it? You know, that fluttery, knotty feeling in your stomach or a slight quickening of your breath.
Is your pet lizard flicking it’s tail at the thought of you getting outside your comfort zone?
THAT’S GOOD! That’s the place where the real magic happens.
Tell me what your dream is, what that deep down burning ambition is. Let’s imagine it together.
If you would like to talk through your health and life goals and discuss how you can achieve them, contact me for a FREE Health Breakthrough Session.