Perhaps I spoke too soon.
As with most anything, there are ups and downs. I just seemed to be experiencing a steady stream of downs which led me to believe that mediocre was about as good as I was ever going to get. Now, I have never been very good at stomaching just mediocre, much less anything to the south, especially if I had been investing a fair amount of time and effort in an endeavor.
So, it’s been with a great sense of disappointment that I have chronicled my surfing misadventures of the past year — all starting with my near drowning at El Golfo and continuing through my trip to Guiones eight months later where the swell was consistently overhead and relentless for the entirety of my seven day stay. Yes I had some successes, but no breakthroughs, nothing to merit a mention of anything but a claim of “mediocre” for the quality of my surfing. So I beat myself up and publicly pronounced in this blog that I was “just not a natural.” I doubted that I would ever be anything better than a mediocre surfer — not the spirit that draws one back into the water, especially with the plethora of alternate athletic pursuits that release dopamine into the system and generate an endorphin high. Let’s see: feel bummed out or feel jazzed? I’ll go with jazzed and what makes me feel that way.
So I went back to the tried and true. I went back to the gym, and lifted weights for six months. I told myself that I was doing so because (as I’d read in several articles on aging) weight lifting was essential for men of my age to defend against bone weakness and the loss of bone density. Okay that seemed valid. But much closer to the truth, weight lifting was something I knew I could do and be good at — certainly I could be better than mediocre. So to the gym it was, earplugs in place, music and muscles pumping — I set about a high reps, high intensity workout three to four days a week, confident that a six month regime would deliver results that would make me feel good/better about myself physically and athletically.
And it did.
And then I went back to surfing.
Six months out of the water, I went back to Guiones — site of the relentless overheads. And this time, I went back with the express intention of having fun, whatever happened in the water.
And lo and behold, I did.
And even more, I got noticeably better in just 10 sessions.
So, what happened this time around that eluded me in my previous two excursions and caused me to both doubt my abilities and lose my confidence?
Well first, the conditions were more in line with my abilities. I was challenged, yes, but not overwhelmed by the size and speed of the waves.
Second, I had coaching from terrific instructors who focused keenly on just two or three elements that I could fine tune. (Now, in all fairness, I had had a superb coach who did the same on my first trip to Guiones, but the conditions were just too overwhelming.) On both occasions, the coaches were precise and persistent at pointing out the few incremental shifts that could allow for a leap in my performance on the waves.
Third, I made a commitment to both listen to and follow through on the coaching. The former without the latter is a formula for frustration if not futility. (And, yes, I will fess up that I have been and am one to listen to good counsel without following through in other areas of my life.) But that was not going to be the case this week. The pattern was going to be different — and perhaps good practice for those other areas of my life!
And, finally, I allowed myself to be content with my sessions — each and every one. Whatever happened out on the water, I told myself that if I was following through on the advice of my coaches, then I could allow myself to be just fine with the results — content.
Conditions, coaching, commitment and contentment — these are my take-aways. These are the elements that have lifted me out of a place of disappointment (if not discouragement) and re-stoked my enthusiasm.
So, if you will allow, let me linger for a minute longer and reflect on the broader lessons — the broader implications of these convenient (and okay, slightly contrived) four Cs.
Conditions: They will always be different. They are the exogenous variable over which we have no control. What we do have is the knowledge that they will change. Sometimes they will overwhelm. Sometime they will underwhelm. At times they will challenge. At other times, they will seem easy. Once in a while, they will be perfect. And then it all changes all over again. For my part, I can honor this dynamic, knowing full well to stay away when the conditions are clearly beyond me, but otherwise I can just keep going back.
Coaching: I am well served to connect with a coach who will help me articulate goals that are precise and meaningful to me — goals that get me jazzed about achieving them. This is valid not just out on the water, but for so many other areas of my life — personal, professional, physical health. Then the fun begins. It will be my coach’s job to set challenges and push me to meet those challenges and to give me feedback along the way to point out what to change or fine tune. My coach will be my champion and co-creator as I pursue my goals. My coach will be a gift I give to myself to help me grow!
Commitment: I will commit to follow through on the coaching I receive, or all has been for naught. At times this will take courage. If we look to the dictionary for a definition of courage, we find:
Courage n : 1. mental and moral strength to venture, persevere and withstand danger, fear or difficulty; 2. firmness of mind in the face of danger or extreme difficulty
So, at its core, we can say that courage is a resolve of the mind.
And, there’s more.
At the root of the word courage is the French word coeur, which means heart. At its core, then, courage is also rooted in the heart. That is to say, we garner our courage, in part, because we care, and that caring helps us generate the force to take on risk and confront fear — in short, to act! When we take into account both meanings, the full dimension of courage reaches broadly to embrace both our mental resolve (head) and our caring (heart). Courage, in sum, is the force that allows us to draw on the strength of our mental resolve and our deeper, heartfelt caring to push against fear, and dare to take actions that could have a strong impact as we attempt to grow.
And there is more.
When I commit, fully commit and follow through, there is every possibility that an unexplainable force will help me along in ways that I might never have been able to script for myself. The great German philosopher Goethe expressed this phenomenon this way:
Until one is committed, there is hesitancy, the chance to draw back, always ineffectiveness, concerning all acts of initiative (and creation). There is one elementary truth, the ignorance of which, kills countless ideas and splendid plans: That the moment one definitely commits oneself, then providence moves too. All sorts of things occur to help one that would never otherwise have occurred. A whole stream of events issues from the decision, raising in one’s favor all manner of unforeseen incidents and meetings and material assistance which no man could have dreamed would have come his way. Whatever you can do or dream you can, begin it now. Boldness has genius, power and magic in it. Begin it now.
Contentment: Contentment is the high-five I will offer to myself with sincere generosity of spirit for a job well done. Regardless of the conditions, I will heed and follow through on the direction of my coach. I will have the courage to throw myself wholeheartedly and with mental resolve into the challenge handed to me. I will offer myself the peace of mind that comes with being just fine with the outcome.
So, what are my take-aways? Tomorrow the conditions will be different — that is out of my control. No matter. I will focus on the challenge and direction handed to me by my coach and I will commit to follow through. At the end of the day, I will allow myself to be content with the results!