I remember one summer when I was about eight. All I wanted to do was to jump off the high diving board at the pool, but I repeatedly told myself that it would be scary, difficult, and that I’d need to be really brave to jump. It must have taken me two weeks until I garnered the courage to climb up the immense ladder. When I finally was able to make it to the top, my stomach clenched and the muscles around my neck tightened as I began to “walk the plank.” I bet it took another week or two to make it past the midway point of the roughly surfaced diving board. Despite the cheers from friends below I would retreat, grabbing the handlebars with a death grip as I’d cautiously turn around and slowly make my way down the ladder. But, finally the day came. I convinced myself that I was going to do it. Carefully placing one foot in front of the other in the most deliberate fashion, I made it to the end of the board without chickening out. But then I looked down at the huge drop to the water and froze.
“You can do it,” my friends yelled. Still, I couldn’t move.
Then I realized that I had come to the point where I could no longer back… there were no handlebars for me to grasp so that I could do a 180 degree turn and flee down the ladder to the safety of the cemented ground. The choice was to retreat was gone. I had committed. I needed to jump. So I held my breath and took a step off of the plank, which might as well have belonged to Captain Hook.
But then a funny thing happened. As my body plunged into the deep end of the pool, I felt a sort of liberation, freedom, a sense of joy. Maybe it wasn’t so scary. Had the story I built up in my head - the one I kept telling myself about how terrifying it would be to jump off of a high diving board - been far worse than the actual experience?
While I’m sure that many of you have similar “high dive stories,” the point is that we often spend so much time convincing ourselves how horrible something is going to be. But when we gather enough courage to actually do it, we discover that it isn’t so bad. In fact sometimes it’s pretty exhilarating to venture out of our comfort zone
André Gide said, “You can never cross the ocean until you have the courage to lose sight of the shore.” And while my “shore” was the back end of the diving board, I learned at a very young age that if I wanted to fulfill a desire, I would have to take a leap of faith of sorts. But it’s hard to jump, to leave the secure, the safe, the trusted routine.
For those of you who know me, it’s been a journey for me to leave my comfort zone. And when I would cross my carefully laid boundaries, I’d have a hundred questions, wanting to know all possible outcomes so that I could have a crafted plan, just in case. But slowly I’m pushing those boundary lines farther out, asking fewer questions and learning to trust instead of relying on a toolbox of strategies for the unforeseen. And just like my eight-year-old self found joy in jumping from a high diving board, my adult self is having fun exploring my uncharted waters.
Now I’m not saying that I’m ready to bungee jump or go deep sea diving, but slowly I’m making decisions that I’d never consider before. And while I doubt that I’ll ever be labeled a risk taker, I am much more open to the unknown.
This is not to say, “Look at me now… I’m doing stuff I never would have done in the past.” Really, who cares? Going out of our comfort zone is not about the “doing” - it’s about the “receiving.” Sure, there will be new experiences, people, and places we might encounter. But it’s more than that. It’s about developing the internal faith and assurance that we are able… that is the true cherry on top of the sundae.
Whenever we take a plunge in life we put ourselves out there to receive the unknown. This act requires a tremendous amount of belief and trust that what lies ahead will be safe and that it might even help us grow, develop, and evolve.
Have you ever met someone who seems fearless, who will be the first to volunteer to “jump”? This past month I met a woman, who my husband affectionately coined “Crocodile Darlene” (because she is from Australia and because she had absolutely no fear of the crocodile we encountered while paddle boarding). I was amazed with her free spirit and willingness to accept and try whatever came her way. While she isn’t reckless, she is living her life to her fullest. The entire time we were around Darlene her eyes exuded pure joy. It’s as if she’s discovered a secret that very few of us have. Now I know what it is – she is a master at “jumping.”
But while we aren’t all wired to be “Crocodile Darlenes,” we can ask ourselves if we are missing valuable opportunities by playing it safe. Are we avoiding our trip across the ocean because we are afraid to lose sight of our own shores?
I know that I was. But as my eight-year-old self gradually climbed up that steep ladder and walked to the end of the plank, she discovered that the jump really wasn’t that hard. Now I realize that it was the story that I created about jumping - I’d convinced myself that I wasn’t able, wasn’t strong enough, couldn’t hack it.
In essence it all begins with the stories we tell ourselves. These self-limiting beliefs have a great deal of power. It’s pretty amazing at how the tales we’ve rehashed over the years can prevent us from reaching our true purpose in life. However, if we take the time to examine these stories, can we alter the endings, allowing us to flourish instead of fumble?
We all have the power to rewrite the endings to our tales. Doing so will reprogram how we approach new opportunities and empower us to consider things we’d dismissed in the past. This week think about a story you’ve been telling yourself that has kept you from crossing your ocean. Can you change how it ends, allowing yourself to lose sight of your shore? Try revising your story and see what happens. It’s when we are willing to let go of our predetermined outcomes that we can truly cross our oceans!