3 Ways to Push through Fear

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Here be dragons.

It’s been more than 500 years since Juan Rodriguez Cabrillo was the first European explorer to navigate the coast of what’s now California.

Yet dragons in the form of swells and currents confronted me every time I went stand-up paddle boarding this spring and contemplated venturing beyond the marina.

The conditions were never right. Or at least that’s what I told myself. The waves were too big. There were too many big boats coming and going. I didn’t know how to navigate the open ocean.

Yes, as a kid I’d made it though the shark level of YMCA swim classes. I still remember the trauma of having to do a back dive to pass one of the classes. And yes, time proved that I was correct that I’d never, ever again need to know how to execute a back dive.

But fast forwarding to the present day, it was getting a little boring paddling around the Redondo Beach marina, as scenic as it is. I mean, how many laps can you paddle back and forth past the sea lion barge before you want to venture further and try something new?

So my husband and I decided on a three-pronged approach. We’d take another lesson to get some coaching. We’d go in the early morning, when the water was calmer. And we’d be prepared to fail – in this case, to fall off our boards.

Here are three things I learned from this today.

  • Take the counterintuitive approach and relax. This is similar to when your car skids and you need resist slamming on the brakes. Instead, you should just lift your foot off the accelerator and steer into the skid. It’s not the intuitive approach.

“Paddle boarding is a weather sport,” our instructor from Tarsan Stand Up Paddle Boarding reminded us. So you have to go with the conditions. Move with the water. Stay relaxed.

And that’s the last thing I wanted to do. But breathing, focusing and staying in the moment helped. Before we knew it, we were past the small swells at the breakwater and out into the ocean. We did it. Amazing!

  • Try something, see how it works and adjust the approach on the fly. Our instructor gave us a few strategies. Stay low, with your knees bent. Kneel on your board if you have to. The paddle is a great stabilizer, plus it floats (who knew?). And think of your paddle as an extension of your arm.

Try leaning left. Leaning right. Padding straight into and over the swells. Wiggling toes when they go to sleep. Trying something to see what happens. Adjusting the approach as needed.

  • Go further every time. The best way to make progress is to keep pushing yourself beyond your comfort zone. Just try something new and see what happens.

It doesn’t matter if it’s your career, your family or your hobbies. More often than not, it will be like today – much easier that anticipated (or dreaded, in my case) and a whole lot of fun.

And who wouldn’t like more fun in their life?

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Caroline Leach

Hi, I'm Caroline Leach. I help people and organizations tell their stories. I'm a Marketing VP at AT&T, a former Communications VP at DIRECTV and an enthusiastic alum of the USC Annenberg School for Communication and Journalism. This blog, Social Media Savvy for Corporate Professionals, shows you how to build your personal brand, advance your career and embrace your future. It helps you promote your employer and your network too. Opinions expressed in this blog are my own. Your comments are welcomed and encouraged. I'd love to hear from you!

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