Focus on what you can control
Standing the golden beach, staring out to the crystal blue waters. Tears silently running down my cheeks as I tried to calm my distressed breathing. “You can do this but you have to get your shit together now” the voice in my head said.
I close my eyes for a moment and focus on breathing deeply, waiting for the starting hooter to sound.
I recently had an opportunity to fly to Fiji to compete in the inaugural Ocean Swim Fiji event. This involved three days of racing. I was lucky enough to win this trip in a competition but this meant I was much less prepared than I would like to be and not very swim fit.
I love a good challenge. My choices each day for racing were 1km or 3km. 1km didn’t feel like a big challenge but 3km felt HUGE, in fact I have never swum 3km before in my life. I decided I was race 1km on the first two days and then step up and take on 3km on the final day.
From the moment I woke on Day 3 I could feel the anxiety in my body. The fear of the unknown. The doubts. The sense of overwhelm.
As I stood on that beautiful beach preparing to take on this massive challenge I knew I had to find a way to let go of my fear and I knew the only way to do that was to focus in on what I could actually control.
The hooter sounds. I move slowly to allow myself another moment. My face hits the water and instantly a sense of calm washes over my body. My doubts fall silent. “Just swim” the voice in my head says firmly and calmly. “Focus on the first buoy. Just swim. Then just take one buoy at a time. That is all you have to do”. So I swim.
This moment in time reminded me of something I already knew but had forgotten in the moment of my greatest overwhelm. Whenever fear, anxiety or overwhelm threaten to consume me the best course of action is to focus on what I can control. Fears and anxiety come from the unknown and the ‘what if’s’ – we have no control over these things so the energy invested in them is wasted.
By focusing on what we can control our energy is focused on taking action, moving forward, which in turn softens the fear we hold.
Can you think of a time you felt especially overwhelmed, scared or anxious?
- What things, in that moment, did you have control of?
- What actions did you (or could you have taken) that you had control over?
- What might you choose to do next time you feel like this?
As I swim under the wharf for the second time I know there are only two buoys remaining. I know I am not coming last and I know I will make it. I start to swim harder, determined to finish in the best time I am able to. I feel strong and grateful that I had this amazing opportunity.
I hit the shallows and start to run towards the finish line. I see friendly faces. My new swim friends who had seen me earlier in the day being consumed by my fears were there to support me, cheer for me as I finish my race. I look at the race clock and feel surprised. I have swum much faster than I expected to. I feel proud, relieved and a little silly for all my tears earlier in the day.
Immediately my mind turns to what my next swimming challenge will be …