Before Alcatraz last year, I hadn’t willingly jumped into cold water since I was on a camping trip when I was eleven. On a ten dollar bet, I cannon-balled into the chilly North fork of the American River. My hatred of cold water overpowered by the anticipation of dropping ten bucks on candy at the corner store.
I’ve dreaded swimming in cold water my whole life. I have done whatever I could to avoid it. But in order to make the swim from Alcatraz without a wetsuit, I had to overcome the power that cold water had over me.
In February of last year, at the beginning of my Alcatraz training, I was at the Sierraville hot springs with my men’s group. Next to the 103 degree natural hot spring, there are two cold plunges. They are tubs of frigid water built out of stone. One is about 50 degrees, one is about 40 degrees. After soaking in the hot tub for a while, I walked over, stepped into the colder tub and sat down; the water up to my chin. HOLY CRAP IT WAS COLD! Every cell in my body screamed at me to jump out and get warm. I was hyperventilating. It hurt.
Rather than listen to that voice that had kept me warm and comfortable my whole life, I told it to shut up. So instead of jumping out of the cold plunge and running back to the hot tub, I just sat in it. In fact, I told myself that I had to sit in it until I didn’t want to get out at all. Once I had no desire to exit the tub, I could exit the tub. After about 90 seconds, once my breathing and heart rate had normalized. I slowly stood up and walked out.
Over the next seven months, cold water, and being cold in general, lost it’s grip on me. I wore tank tops in 37 degree weather, I swam in rivers, lakes, the ocean. I took cold showers. I embraced being cold. I told myself, and anyone who would listen, that I loved being cold. On September 14th 2014, when I jumped off the boat at Alcatraz, the water felt great. As swimmers in full wetsuits passed me, I smiled.
Everybody has their own version of cold water. For many people, it’s a fear of rejection, a fear of letting someone down, or a fear of failure. Right now, I am leading a handful of clients through rejection therapy. Basically, they intentionally put themselves in the position to be rejected. They have to sit in it until their fear of rejection loses it’s power over them.
It’s the same with you. You’ve given power to things in your life that are holding you back. I know that it doesn’t feel like it’s a big deal, but hear this. Giving away your power like that will keep you from living the life you wish for. There is nothing more insidious and destructive than our limiting beliefs and misplaced fears.
Like the monster under the bed that disappears when you turn on the lights, your fears lose power when you confront them. In fact, fear only has power when it’s avoided.
You’re afraid of losing control? Go take an improv comedy class or find another way to give up control. You’re afraid of getting rejected? Go get rejected, repeatedly. You’re embarrassed of dancing in public? Get out on that dance floor!
In order to become a better version of yourself, you need the things you’re avoiding.
Find your cold water and sit in it.