I was very excited the first time I went inside a body of water. I was out with a group of friends and we just decided to go swimming. What they didn’t know was that it was my first time.
We all entered the open water that day and started splashing and playing. I joined in the fun too. I was about 13 years old at the time, and very eager to try new things. I never really got inside the water. But then my friends were doing it, and I also wanted to have the experience myself.
I plunged myself deep into the stream and took my legs off the ground in a bid to float just like I saw them doing. For a moment I lost control. I got scared, and I panicked. I thought I was about to die, and drowning was not my ideal way of dying.
I struggled with the water for a few seconds, trying my possible best to regain control of my environment and at least not drown. After a few seconds, fortunately, I found my feet – literally. I stood up, and that was it. I just couldn’t afford to trust the water anymore.
After that experience, I was never keen to go swimming again.
While in the university, for instance, most of my course mates went to the pool from time to time. Starting from our Students’ Union Government (SUG) week to our departmental week, there were so many activities arranged for us as freshmen. And one thing that usually reappeared constantly was going swimming.
I always managed to avoid those trips.
As a final year student, I became concerned. Five years in the university, and I still didn’t know how to swim. It wasn’t a major concern, but it was something I gave a thought to occasionally. I talked about it with my roommate, Daniel, and we both agreed to go swimming. The problem was that somehow, we always chickened out in the last minute.
What I’d love to achieve before I die.
Fast forward five years later. I was browsing through my archives one day and I saw a note where I wrote things I was going to do before I die. It was written during my 21st birthday. See the screenshot of the title page below.
One of the things I wrote in the ‘Physical’ Category, was that I was going to learn how to swim.
When I saw that note, I almost got depressed. It was exactly six years since I wrote those things down. And apart from starting my first business, I had not done up to 10 percent of the things I wrote.
I had fallen into the trap of seeing life as something that was still going to happen sometime in the future when: “I have more money,” “When I get married,” “When I get a better job,” etc.
I realized what had happened to me.
Suddenly, I felt a new surge of energy well up inside of me. I realized that life as it were, had started happening. I didn’t need more money or a better job or a marriage to start living. Life was going on already whether I had those things or not.
Most importantly, I realized that at the end of life I would feel bad about the times I didn’t really live, and about the things I didn’t do due to fear, than the things I did.
How I finally overcame it
So I decided that I was going to start crossing off the things written on that list as soon as I can. That was when I decided to go swimming again.
Unlike before, I made plans for it. I decided beforehand that no excuse was going to stop me this time. I made sure I completed all the tasks I had at work. I outsourced the ones I couldn’t do, taking care to avoid these outsourcing mistakes. I didn’t want any excuse to tie me down this time.
So, I decided on the pool I was going to use. I bought my swimming gear (wasn’t much by the way). I told some of my friends and even got some to come along with me. I just didn’t want to chicken out at the last minute.
When the fixed day came, we all went to the pool and had a great time. I overcame my aquaphobia finally. All I did was consciously tell myself that I wasn’t going to drown if I remain at the 5ft shallow level. And I did just that. Of course, it would have been a lot easier if I had a swimming coach, or if I had taken an online swimming course beforehand.
With the assurance that I won’t drown, I went into the water. And before you could say ‘Jack’, I was doing a few short laps. In the end, we all had fun. But above all, I was happy. Not just because of the swimming experience, but because I had overcome my aquaphobia.
Since then, going swimming has been a delightsome experience for me. It is one of the first places I usually recommend when I want to go on a date. It is fun for me, and exciting too. In fact, I even learned a few business lessons from it.
Also, that experience made me confirm that, truly, the only limitation we have is the one we place over ourselves in our minds.
In other words, if I could conquer my aquaphobia, I can go ahead and live my life without limits. That means that every other thing I wrote down on that list can equally be accomplished too. And since then, I have ticked off quite a number of things.
Life has never been this good!