Can Anything Be A Metaphor for Change?


Can anything we do be a metaphor for change? What can we learn about change by trying something new? And what is taking up a new sport teaching me about change?

Here are a few parallels between stand-up paddle boarding and navigating change – whether it’s a corporate change initiative, of which I’ve led many, or a change in your family life.

Lean into it. The further forward you lean and put your paddle into the water, the faster you can go. Don’t hold back. Jump into it. Thank you, Sheryl Sandberg, for the universal truth about leaning in.

Stay grounded, yet flexible. When you attempt to hang on for dear life, ironically you make yourself more vulnerable. I had to consciously tell myself to relax and roll with it when a boat left a big wake or when we hit the open ocean for the first time.

Get more involved for more control. This is about putting your paddle deeper into the water It’s a stabilizing move. Who would have thought that steadiness could be found in the water. It’s the counterintuitive things in life that often work.

Try new things and see what happens. What happens if I lean slightly to one side or the other? Paddle backward? Try to turn faster? The only way I’ll know is by trying.

Keep pushing yourself by taking small steps on a consistent basis. Last time out my husband, Kevin, and I reached the end of the rocks in the marina and peered beyond, to see how we could navigate the open ocean. Take small steps – or paddles, in this case – to see what can be learned and then course correct.

This time, the water was relatively flat, so we ventured beyond the rocks. It wasn’t easy figuring out how to navigate, but we tried it.

Even on a “calm” day with 3- to 4-foot surf, it was a lot harder than gliding across the calm waters in the marina. And next time, we’ll go further. Maybe early in the morning, when it’s really calm (e.g., flat).

Enjoy the change of scenery. It’s great to be outdoors. Even in the fog, which is invigorating. Not to mention the terrific feeling of being physically tired at the end of the day. It felt like we’d worked hard and earned a good night of rest.

Notice what’s around you. Boats heading into the Santa Monica Bay. Seals relaxing on a barge. A duck paddling by. That reminded me of the serenity that shows on the surface, with legs likely paddling frenetically below. Just like what we humans do every day. Especially during times of change.

Enjoy the company of others. This is fun family time with my spouse. We’re learning something new together. We laugh about our silly moves as we’re getting up to speed. We’re a team. And we look forward to it every weekend.

Stay calm when crisis looms. As we were coming in for the day, I found myself heading straight for a docked boat. What was the worst thing that could have happened? Running into the boat and falling into the water.

I tried turning. Didn’t happen fast enough. Three more feet and I’d hit it. Finally I remembered about sticking the paddle straight in the water and paddling backwards. I didn’t go quite in the direction I intended, but I did manage to reverse course and avoid hitting the boat.

Don’t be afraid to fail. In paddle boarding, that means falling into the water. Assuming you know how to swim, what’s the worst thing that could happen? You get a little wet or a little cold. Easily survivable. And the learning? Priceless.

Use snippets of time to your advantage. I drafted this post as Kevin was driving us home from the marina. Going mobile is a time hack that will make it possible to blog daily for a month.


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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 alum of the USC Annenberg School for Communication and Journalism. This blog, How to Build Your Career through Social Media, 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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