I was kayaking - on a more challenging river than usual.
In the warmup I was just feeling out of touch, not connected to my boat, to the river, to anything.
Whatever I did, it didn’t matter - there was no style, no power, nothing.
And so I got to the first big rapid … and got an absolute spanking.
Upside down, backwards, staring at the sky (it’s not a good thing when your kayak is vertical).
Yet thankfully, somehow flushed out at the end …
To a round of applause from a group of boy scouts out on a walk.
I’d rather be smooth as silk when I’ve got an audience.
Not this time.
As well as a bash to the ego, what it gave me was a good dose of fear.
A big chunk of the river to come, and I was feeling useless.
Feeling out of control, no skills, no balance, nothing.
I haven’t been in that position of fear for such a long time.
I’d forgotten how it eats away at you.
Your head goes wild with "what if?", your heart rate goes through the roof, your belly twists in knots.
The past failure leans on your heavily, right?
What I used to do was go into survival mode - just give up and try and get down the river as quickly as possible.
Or - I’d get angry with myself. Frustration at not being as good as I thought I was would mean I’d start swearing and hitting things.
(Not that useful a reaction actually)
Yesterday I did something I wouldn’t have done years ago - even when I was paddling much better.
I picked up my kayak and walked back up to the top, and tried again.
More than anything - given my meditation skills I wanted to see if I could better my own head, to not let that grey voice of “useless” win.
To be as present as possible, and not let the past get to me.
It was grand.
I got another spanking, but I loved it.
Even though I was only slightly better skills wise, I didn’t let my head win.
And I remembered to have fun.
5 more times I walked back up, just to see - just to give it a go.
And that was the important thing for me in that moment - not so much being better than the rapid, but to not give up, to not let fear or frustration win.
Sometimes you have to change your definition of what success is.
Be happy with a lesser challenge without giving up.
You know what I mean?
I think that might apply everywhere in life, don't you?
Take it easy out there!
If you’d like to up your mental skills game you might well like to head here for a super simple, and super effective guide to getting going with all this: