Practicing Choosing Power
The day I finally became the deepest female diver in the world, was the day I started to realise that there was something more to the story than just moving limits. Yes, setting a world record is an accomplishment and it required effort and commitment, but the journey was more than just a physical one. In fact, mastering the physical side was the easier of the challenges. Our society is geared toward learning facts and practicing skills. The real challenge came when I realised that being good at it was not going to get me my world record, there was something else I needed to be doing.
Now in my own mind I was the epitome of normality (albeit a little more stubborn than most and with a natural talent for scuba diving). Even today I do not feel different which means if I could break a world record anyone could ? Well maybe not a world record per se, but their personal equivalent of one.
Which left only one question, how ? How did I go from being ordinary, paralysed by fear and petrified of being visible, to the deepest woman in the world ? And could I use that journey to replicate that success in any area of my life ? What had I actually done ?
The answer it turns out was remarkably straight forward, three words in fact. I had practiced, choosing power. Let me explain.
Do you have permission to practice ? What if life was not about getting it right first time every time ? Who would you be if you had permission to practice ? Who would you be if you were supported ? What if it was nothing was wrong when you got it wrong ?
The key word here is practice and with that comes the freedom to learn, make mistakes and grow. It is a freedom that comes naturally when what you are doing is not ‘serious’. In the business world, permission to practice and get things wrong is most definitely not the norm. Yet, I have occasionally worked with people who did not expect immediate perfection and who allowed things to go wrong. That was normality for them and it was as if a huge burden was taken from me. These days I let go of the fear of being wrong and just allow myself the space to practice. What would happen if you did the same ?
Which brings us to the second word, choosing or Choice – there is always a choice, you just may not like it. The thing with choice is most of us have forgotten we even have it. I know I had. There I was sitting waiting to be rescued, wondering why the world was not falling all over itself to help me. I had chosen (albeit unconsciously) to play the very familiar and comfortable role of the victim and simply did not see that I had another choice.
I could wait until I was accepted by the male diving community and given permission to dive deep (a wait that had taken 6 years and showed absolutely no sign of ever being granted) or I could choose to let go of wishing things were different, accept what was and work with that. The concept of free will or choice is one of the hardest things for individuals to accept. It is far easier to just accept the carefully thought out and perfectly good reasons why you can not change. In fact, there are more good reasons not to do a dive that will break a world record than do it.
The last word is Power or rather Empowerment. Empowerment is not something you can be given, it is something you have always have. You have it right now, no-one has taught you how to use it. You become truly empowered when you give yourself permission to exist and practice, you exercise your right to choose. Power comes when you let go of the illusion that you are able to control the outcome. This is a lesson that most of us never get to learn in the ‘real’ world. It is however an essential lesson that must be learnt if you want to something as dangerous as break a world record.
You see, when diving sub 150 meters (in a water filled cave) you are doing something that a handful of people have done before. Of these, around 50% died on the dive. Yes I can practice my skills until they are instinct. Yes, I can discuss the theory with anyone and everyone to make sure I totally understand the risks (known and unknown) and have processes in place to manage those, but at the end of the day, diving sub 200 meters is something that only a handful of people have done. There is simply not enough experience on which to base decisions. Instead a large chunk of your knowledge is nothing more than assumption. Add to that is the very real fact that every human body is unique and that your body reacts to the same dive differently with no obvious cause you get a situation where you have to simply trust that you are prepared enough and then go and see what happens.
No matter what I did, how controlling I was, there was always that unknown factor that we could not predict, so, if I had no control over the outcome, what did I have control over ? This is not a situation that is unique to diving, in business, meetings, car accidents, life happens. You can not control some events and can not control other people, so what happens if you let go of control ?
If I am not focusing all my energy on maintaining control (or the illusion thereof), what am I doing ? Looking back at my world record journey I realised that I had spent years focusing on what I was doing or rather being better at what diving than everyone around me (sound familiar ?) yet I remained exactly where I was. It did not seem to matter that I was better or knew more theory. In fact, I was watching people who knew less and dived worse, overtaking me. Which is when I came to the realization that perhaps it is not only about skills, perhaps it is as much about who I am being, how I am behaving ? I may have no control over other people and the outcome of an event, but I did have free will. I could choose who I was being ? Which was a rather alien thought as I had spent 30 odd years of my life believing I was who I was and could not change that.
Was true empowerment, true power, really about my ability to choose who I was being? The thought did and still fascinates me. If I knew who I wanted to be in every moment, then would I ever fail ? Even if I did not get the outcome I wanted I still would have been successful because it had never only been about the outcome, it was as much about who I was being ? Even more importantly, when I looked back at my world record journey I realised I had spent years stuck trying to get deeper not because my skills were not at the right level, but rather because who I was being was not at the same level. I only reached my record when I started to act like a world record holder. When my being matched both my knowing and doing I was able to shift my limits!
To set a new world record I had let go of getting it right first time and give myself permission to PRACTICE. I had let go of controlling an uncontrollable situation and instead step into my power by choosing who I was being and how I was behaving. I had to stretch my mind (knowledge), body (skills) and soul (being). What could you do if you started to Practice Choosing Power ?