How often do you paddle out to the wave?

Today is May 8 and the Navigate the Chaos question to consider is “how often do you paddle out to the wave?” One does not have to surf to answer this question. The wave is symbolic and represents any challenge in which we are trying to overcome.

Working on your education and stuck in a class? Trying to lose weight and not having much success? Looking for a new job but have found nothing of interest? We all have our waves. Anyone trying to navigate the chaos has a wave. The question is – will you paddle out and meet it, again, and again, and again, until you ride it into the shore?

In a May 10, 2013 Harvard Business Review blog post Peter Bregman asked the question: “What if we all lived life like a surfer on a wave?” All surfers have three things in common: they use a board, they paddle out to the wave, and they end each ride by falling. Surfers, by their very nature, are trying to navigate the chaos of the wave dozens, if not hundreds, of times during a day.

Living more like a surfer, Bregman wrote, “would entail that we all would take more risks.” People tend to avoid risks because of the feelings involved with them. For example, people avoid difficult conversations with colleagues, lovers, or family members to avoid confronting an important issue. People delay sending out that application, manuscript, or email for fear of being rejected, or ignored.

The conversations we avoid, the opportunities we turn a blind eye to; they risk failure and rejection. But what if we approached our life and work like a surfer? We would go into each event knowing that some would result in a complete wipe out but others would allow us to ride the wave all the way into the beach.

You would also recognize that every ride provided you with another opportunity to paddle back out to the ocean and ride another wave. People don’t live like a surfer, Bergman noted, because we are afraid of feeling. In each opportunity, or wave, our greatest fear is that we will feel something unpleasant.

Difficult conversations could lead to hurt feelings. Rejection could lead to feeling awful about yourself. Bregman concluded that “More often than not, our fear doesn’t help us avoid the feelings; it simply subjects us to them for an agonizingly long time. We feel the suffering of procrastination, or the frustration of a stuck relationship. Taking risks, and falling, is not something to avoid. It’s something to cultivate through constant practice.”

As author Cheryl Strayed wrote: "There's a sunrise and sunset every day. You can choose to be there for it. You can put yourself in the way of beauty.” But will you? Will you choose to wake up early to see the sun rise? Will you choose to stop working and view the sun set? Will you choose to paddle out to one wave after another, get back on your board, and try to surf back to the shore? How often do you intentionally place yourself in a situation where you know you are most likely going to fail; but you do it anyway?

How often do you paddle out to the wave and intentionally put yourself in the way of opportunity?