Just keep swimming

“I think that a lot of people in our country have gotten depressed, pinned in, pinned down with living lives they don’t want…tell me what your dreams are. What are you chasing? It’s not impossible.” ~Diana Nyad

There are lots of big stories in the news right now. Some of national import, others of international import, but the one of personal import is about badass Diana Nyad. She’s a 64-year-old marathon swimmer, she set a new record, and perhaps most importantly, she refused to be defeated by time, circumstances or self-doubt. She went for an Xtreme Dream and made it come true.

Age is not an excuse for giving up. Allowing yourself to grow passive and draw back is a sign of personal defeat. There may be a retirement age at work, but there is no retirement age in life. ~Daisaku Ikeda

Nyad swam 110.4 statue miles  in just under 53 hours, making the trek from Cuba to Florida without a shark cage. She wasn’t without protection – donning a special suit and mask to protect her from the jellyfish which foiled her previous attempt. And she wasn’t alone – her team was with her, stopping her for feedings and rest and making sure her path was as passable as possible.

Xtreme Dreams Require Relentless Pursuit

The seed to swim to Florida was first planted in Nyad as a young girl, and she made her initial attempt at the age of 29. That attempt, and the next three were beset by obstacles she couldn’t overcome. Despite the disappointing setbacks, she refused to give up on her dream without trying one last time.

You have a dream 35 years ago — doesn’t come to fruition, but you move on with life. But it’s somewhere back there. ~Diana Nyad

Not only is she a lifelong swimmer and dreamer, Nyad is also a lifelong learner. Although 35 years passed between her initial attempt and her final, successful one, Nyad said she learned we should never give up, we’re never too old to chase our dreams, and even solitary sports like swimming are a team effort.

I’ve been thinking quite a bit about goals in recent years. And as I’ve hinted in the past, I have a lifelong dream or two I’m pursuing. As beautifully illustrated by Nyad’s victory, dreams don’t simply come true on their own. It’s not enough to have one. It’s not enough to hope and wish it will come true. It takes effort. Human action steps. And sometimes, even with planning and preparation, it’s not enough to go for it once.

Anyone who has ever made a resolution discovers that the strength of that determination fades in time. The moment you feel that is when you should make a fresh determination. Tell yourself, “OK! I will start again from now!” If you fall down seven times, get up an eighth. Don’t give up when you feel discouraged—just pick yourself up and renew your determination each time. ~Daisaku Ikeda

It took Nyad five attempts  – five – over the course of more than 30 years. This tells as much about physical skill and endurance as it does about patience and perseverance.

But just as important as the thought to never give up, is the seriousness of intent and clarity of purpose. That 8-year-old Nyad dreamed of swimming the Florida straits, and 20-something-year-old Nyad was a successful endurance swimmer wasn’t happenstance.  Furthermore, that 64-year-old Nyad was ultimately successful, wasn’t a matter of luck. It was the culmination of focused determination and untold hours and years of disciplined work.

These are habits I’m developing in myself. Mostly I’m working to overcome my own efforts at self-sabotage through procrastination, something Joshunda tweeted about recently. It’s a process, but then again, growing and evolving always is. The point, at least for me, is to keep striving. Or, as Dory said in Finding Nemo, “just keep swimming.”

The worst mistake you can make is to give up on yourself and stop challenging yourself for fear of failure. Keep moving forward with a firm eye on the future, telling yourself, “I’ll start from today!” “I’ll start afresh from now, from this very moment!” ~Daisaku Ikeda

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