Imagine wading in one spot in a lake with over 200 other swimmers. Every person looks the same, with their yellow cap and goggles on. Suddenly, a gun goes off and there’s a mass hustle of splashing and arms turning in and our of the water, feet kicking. You do the same and move forward with the pack. The water has an icy chill that takes the breath out of your lungs.
You keep your head down and try to swim forward but everyone is clustered in and there’s a lot of other people grabbing at your feet and kicking at your arms. To make matters even more complicated, green, slimy algae has grown up from the bottom of the lake and is also gripping at your body, forcing you to swim awkwardly. The space is tight and because you’re already breathless from the cold lake water, your heart starts beating too fast and you begin to feel paralyzed.
You stop for a moment, wading in the water, getting pushed left to right by other swimmers, pull off your foggy goggles. The smell of the gasoline from the safety boat engines burns your nose. Your eyes focus and you squint to see the finishing spot, a mile and a half away–or at least what you think looks like the finish.
And you think, “What the hell did I get myself in to?” The self-doubt creeps in. “I’m not a triathlete. I can’t even swim part of this distance.”
But deep in, you know this is not true. You’ve trained. You spent miles on the bike, in the water and one foot in front of the other, running on the road. You have put as much grit in to getting to this day as many of the others around you. You can do this but the far, far distant finish of the swim is making you think otherwise.
But then, you see someone else very close by wading water, goggles off, looking towards the next buoy. They smile and ask you if you’re okay.
“Yeh, I am okay. Thank you!.”
And that’s when you know it. You had your eyes focused on that tiny, little yellow dot a mile and a half away in the distance–the finish. But before you can get to that spot, there are 10 red buoys floating in the water along the path, guiding you to the finish.
Goggles back on, your put your head back in the water–and the game–and you focus on getting to the next buoy. In no time, you’re there. You look up, take a breather, and then head back down, you swim to the next one. One by one you conquer the red buoys until that far, far away yellow dot clearly becomes the finish line buoy for the swim leg of the race. You know you’ve got this.
A lot of the things we do in life are like the swim leg of a triathlon. Change is hard to make and sometimes the long-term challenges will get to us. It’s easy to feel helpless and frozen when the end-goal is far away and has many chances for failure in between. But in times like these, we should focus on swimming buoy to buoy and enjoy the journey. We do not have to get to the finish right this moment, we just have to keep our eyes focused that way and find the things between that will keep us motivated and up for the challenge.
If change were easy, then it wouldn’t be change because everyone would have already done it and it would certainly be the norm–the status quo. Change is always going to be challenging. It’s always going to be imperfect. And the journey is always going to be a remarkable one if we can stay encouraged and positive, despite the let downs and mistakes we will make along the way.
Always remember, to get to the finish, you’ve still go to swim buoy to buoy.