What I Learned When Learning to Tread Water
I had a long-term fear of water. I could never put my head in the water nor tread water. 2-3 strokes of breaststroke with the head above water has been the extent of my skill level. What’s worse is the resulting fear of drowning.
A couple of months ago, I decided to sign up for 6 private swim lessons in anticipation of a being in my dear friends’ wedding that involves water later in the year.
After 4 lessons, I was able to make some progress. Learning freestyle from scratch was challenging for me - despite my realization that it is a more efficient swim style. During a self-practice, I was able to relax and use breaststroke to slowly get across the entire lap with my head above water. This was a big progress!
I decided to take a break from freestyle. It’s time to conquer treading water! The 1-hour seemed extremely long on Lesson #5 a few days ago.
Scissor kicking the legs was not natural for me. 45 minutes later, I started to feel hopeless. The thought of potentially drowning someday felt particularly heavy.
Then, Thom caught me in action with my negative self-talk.
"Your narrative is that you have to learn how to tread water so that you can wait for someone to come rescue you, so you don’t drown.” Said Thom.
Well, that’s precisely my thinking.
“I’d like you to change your narrative to ‘swimming is fun and I enjoy being in the water.’" Thom asserted.
Though foreign, it made sense. Changing from a fear-based negative mindset to a joy-based positive mindset. I should know this as a professional coach myself! I noticed internally just a slight sense of guilt.
“OK. I will fake it until I make it.” I agreed.
I started to verbalize positive words about water and swimming to Thom, forcing the corners of my mouth up pretending to be smiling. It looked and sounded fake. we both laughed.
But that shifted me.
I turned to Thom, “Can I show you how I can relax and use breaststroke with my head above water to go across the lap?”
I did, Thom said I was very relaxed and didn’t exert much energy.
I turned to Thom again, “What if I can start with what I already feel comfortable with - breaststroke with head above water, and approach treading water from that perspective? Basically, I would just be doing slow breaststrokes in place while being relaxed?” I could feel the increased energy in my body as I said that. Thom supported my idea.
It worked! I screamed! Thom was elated for me.
Right there, right then, within a few minutes of re-framing my mindset, I was able to tap into a much more creative and resourceful space. We used my strengths to overcome a massive hurdle and achieve the outcome I have much desired in many years. I felt powerful and free!
Reflecting on my learning, I feel even more connected to my profession of executive coaching. These lessons I learned in treading water are directly relevant to the learning I help facilitate when working with executive clients who are taking on impactful goals in their lives.
I have summarized the common lessons below:
Connect with a motivation that’s close to your heart. In my case, it was my sense of responsibility towards my dear friends.
Practice, practice, and practice. The breakthrough learning point will come.
Shift to a positive mindset to tap into your creativity and resourcefulness. Your style is yours. You don’t need to be the same as anyone else.
Lean on your strengths, not your weakness. The breaststroke style was my strengths and scissor kick was not.
Relax and trust that you will get there.
Celebrate your small successes every step along the way, let the upbeat energy provide the momentum
I am excited about my next lesson - this coming Sunday. What might you be excited about at work and in life?
Growth Opportunities: Contact me to discuss how to best leverage your strengths to achieve your most audacious goals.