Since becoming a resident in B.C. I have spent my time pursuing opportunities for work and play to learn more about Canadian culture and develop new skills. Itís been a busy and energizing time. The transition through this personal change has also been challenging ó in fact, quite daunting at times, and has required a lot of effort and persistence on my part.
Kayaking was one of my most enjoyable new pursuits and it reminded me that there are learning opportunities all around us. I wasnít looking forward to the Level 2 Capsize Recovery Program, as Iím not an experienced swimmer. I was also in unfamiliar territory; I didnít know what to expect and what would be required of me. My mind raced with a number of questions and concerns:
How long would I be under water for? Could I hold my breath for that long? What if I couldnít free myself from the kayak? What if I wasnít strong enough to get myself back into my kayak? Would I be able to assist my husband if he capsized? What if I made a fool of myself in front of the other kayakers (who were all bound to be better at this than me...)?
Not surprisingly, I started to feel anxious. Realizing this wasnít helping, I stopped and took a moment to reflect on what was happening. I recognized I had negative expectations of this program ó I was not expecting to enjoy myself; I was not expecting to be any good at it.
This was my first and most important mistake.
I had insufficient information about how I would learn the capsize and recovery techniques, so my imagination set to work and filled in the gaps, with negative assumptions and images of failure and struggle, rather than success and enjoyment. I realized that all the pictures I created in my head were negative ones of me struggling with my new sport, an inevitable by-product of my first mistake.
And who creates our expectations...? We do! So I only had myself to blame.
I quickly realized that, if I wanted to get the most from the experience I was about to have, and do my best, I needed to change my attitude. Instead of using my imagination and self-talk in a way that limited me, I ďre-framedĒ my expectations, created more positive pictures of success in my head and constructed some ďcan-doĒ dialogue.
Once on the water, I worked hard to summon those positive resources, on more than one occasion, to give me the courage to capsize and then find the energy to haul myself back into the kayak. After a number of repetitions, realizing I was still alive and in fact, admitting it wasnít as difficult as I had first imagined, I allowed myself to relax and enjoy the experience.
I think it can be helpful to remember that, whatever you do, whatever happens, you canít learn less. Itís all experience. And sometimes the experience can even be good.
Hazel Morley is principal of Think Smart: Training and Coaching with Change in Mind. She can be contacted at email@example.com.