We Can Create Our Future

by Kathleen D. Cone
(Phoenix Arizona, USA)

We Can Create Our Future,
By Will Marre (by permission)

I love to surf. I talk about it all the time. It's not that I am a great surfer. Far from it. I am one of those journeyman surf dudes who "mind surfs" much better than I actually surf. But as they say, "Only a surfer knows the feeling." The feeling is everything. The ocean, the porpoises, and the screaming sensation of speed when you're in the right place on the right wave.

But I am also 60 years old. Darn. I've noticed that this winter I have been more tentative than ever to take on bigger, overhead waves. I've been super careful not to paddle into anything I didn't have a 95% chance of riding well. That's being too careful. I began to notice that when I saw a set of waves coming and I was paddling outside to either catch it or get over it, my mind was telling me fear stories.

"Don't even think about it. It's too steep. It will close out for sure. It's going to pitch. Ah!"

When my mind is going off like that I can feel the fear rise from my toes to my newly freaked out face. Then all I want to do is survive. Not surf. Survive. So what happens is I let too many perfectly good, potentially thrilling waves go by. Then I sit outside in the calm water silently cursing myself...

"You wimp. You old, clumsy sorry excuse for a surfer?" No I am not kidding.

The reason my mind hits the fear button as soon as I see anything out of my comfort zone is logical. I've had a few bad wipeouts and hold-downs earlier this winter. In I went pin-wheeling head-over-heels down the overhead wave face and was rag-dolled under the water until my lungs were burning for air. That makes an impression. But the real risk is minimal. I surf deep-water breaks, which means I won?t hit the bottom. I've got a new surf leash so I won?t lose my board, and if I did the swim in is easy. I?m not afraid of the real risk.

I just hate the few seconds a violent thunderous wipe generates and the "I blew it" self-talk that rings in my head. So I started playing it safe. Way too safe. Then I had a breakthrough.

A life lesson.

I was talking to the renowned sports psychologist Dr. Jim Loehr. According to Dan Jansen, the former Olympic speed skater, Jim's coaching was essential to him finally winning a gold in his final Olympic race. Jim has coached 16 #1 athletes in the world. He's the real deal.

So Jim was telling me about the power of asking yourself the right questions to take charge of your private voice. He's found that for anyone in stressful situations from elite athletes, Special Forces soldiers, to CEOs facing a crisis our private voice will determine success or failure. And one the easiest ways to take control over the script our private voice is speaking is to change the questions we ask ourselves.

In my case it was as simple as changing my voice from "No way" to "How?" He suggested the next time I find myself paddling furiously outside to meet an oncoming bomb I simply ask, "How can I catch this in the right spot?" "Yeah, whatever," I thought.

So three days later on a bright, glassy Southern California morning the waves were pumping. A storm in the Gulf of Alaska had sent a vigorous impulse down the coast and solid ten foot faced waves were pumping through with an occasional rogue a bit bigger. It was crowded. Many of the young, hot, zero body fat guys were ripping the break apart.

I was paddling up and down the reef as usual in frantic search for solitary waves. Then it happened. (Of course this story has a happy ending.) I was already sitting outside when a dark green extra large wave popped up on the horizon. I started paddling. I was the only one who had a chance of getting out deep enough to spin my board around and stroke into it. But I felt Mr. Panic crawling up my legs to my stomach.

Suddenly my mind shouted, "How?" Just how. I immediately adjusted my line of paddle slightly to the left, calmly turned, two stokes and I was in. The wave face suddenly got bigger and steeper as I dropped but my fin and rail bit into the wall and I slung myself under the feathering lip and there in front of me was a watery, green highway. For nearly 100 yards I turned up the face and back down gathering and scrubbing speed in a primal rhythm that simply stokes your mind, body and soul. I left the water as one giant human smile.

What a lesson. Since that mind-bending wave I've given several high-risk speeches and sales presentations. I now prepare with "How can I help the people I am talking to?" That question, "How?", tied to a motive of service is emotional liberation for me.

All of us deal with our inner voice. And Jim's point is to "own it." Become the positive narrator of your life by listening to that fearless inner essence that is the "who" that answers the question, "Who am I?"

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