I remember when I came back to education as an adult after a long gap, it was with gusto and excitement (and behind the mask a lot of self-limiting belief and fear). But I persisted and came through the other side with new skills and more opportunity to do what I really wanted to do and here I am. I enjoyed most of my time studying and retraining but at about three quarters the way though I hit the wall. I was tired, trying to juggle many things at once and started to ‘wonder what am I doing and is it worth it’.
I see the same self-doubt in the eyes of many a student as they are trying to develop a new career in conflict resolution and find a replacement for the lost teddy bear. They are enjoying what they are leaning and making so much advancement however at some point they just feel like they have gone as far as they can and cannot finish the race. As I notice this, I normally give my students the lecture on a marathon runner hitting the wall, however I will save this one for the classroom. But I wanted to share with you a story, it is about about a woman called Florence Mary Chadwick!
Florence Chadwick was a swimmer, and a very successful swimmer at that. She came from San Diego and was born in 1918. On the 8th of August 1950 she swam the English Channel in 13 hours and 20 minutes, setting a new world record. She was a very accomplished swimmer, becoming the first woman to swim the English Channel in both directions as one year after her first attempt she swam from France to England this time in 16 hours and 22 minutes. Why do I tell you this? Well history records that she was a determined, focussed person, and strove to be the top of her game. But in 1952 hit the wall as it were, which is where my rendition of this story begins…
It was 1952, only a year since successfully swimming the English Channel a second time and Florence was out to set a record again. Flanked by a small boat watching over she progress (and for sharks), Florence was in the water swimming the 26 miles between Catalina Ireland and the Californian Coastline. About 15 miles into the swim a thick fog set in. As she swam through the fog she began to doubt her ability to continue. She started telling herself that she could not make it, about an hour into the fog she called to the boat and said she did not think she could make it. The crew which included Florence’s mother tried to encourage her to continue. But she soon asked to be pulled out of the water as she said she could not see the coastline due to the fog. They pulled her in, as she was sat in the boat, she was informed that she had stopped swimming only one mile from the Californian coast, her destination.
All that work, effort and success was wasted because she lost her focus. She started listening to the self-limiting beliefs and they plunged her into doubt and negative thought. In addition she did not focus on the support system she had in the boat and thus became consumed and gave up. She said later that she could not stop focusing on the voice inside her head and the fog all around her, it made her tired and she lost motivation.
The same can be true of a person trying to build a new career through study and learning to do things in a new way. Everything goes well when we can keep focused on our aims and objectives, when we can see in our minds eye the finish line. Don’t allow yourselves to lose sight of that finish line, get help by way of someone keeping you focused on reality not on your self-doubt, that’s one of our main roles as tutors, mentors and coaches here at Beyond Conflict and the NRM Network.
Florence Chadwick returned to the same stretch of water two months later. She tried again to make it to her destination. She hit the same thick fog that had stopped her the first time. But this time things were different, this time she made it that extra mile and reached her destination. Why? Because she said she kept a mental image of the coastline in her head, as she hit the fog she focused on the image in her mind and not on the fog, she also focused on the support of the team in the boat.
So, remember beware of the fog, forewarned is forearmed; we all hit the fog at some point, be prepared to swim through it. Next time my blog article will be entitled ‘Learning to juggle’. If you want to get in contact I would love to hear from you.
By Andrew Gibson