[Side note: For the purpose of this letter to you, I’m going to assume you’ve been in the ocean… or at the very least, that you have a working knowledge of how the ocean behaves.]

As is often the case, I have noticed recently a pattern among my clients, friends, and family… a tendency to find themselves in an intense situation and then feel that they have one of three options:

  1. stand firm;
  2. turn around and run the other direction; or
  3. keep moving forward exactly the way they had been all along.

These may seem like perfectly reasonable responses to a stressful scenario… but I would submit to you (and to them) that there is a 4th option. And before I share with you what that is, I want to use a metaphor (yes, I know… my fav!).

So, let’s say you’re on the beach. You’re heading out into some pretty heavy surf and as you get out into the water a bit, you realize you’re headed right for a massive wave. Our instinct tells us to choose one of the three options I mentioned earlier.

But, as you probably know, that wouldn’t work out so well for you. Here are the likely outcomes for each:

  1. stand firm = you’ll get crushed by the breaking wave, or at the very least, shoved roughly backwards.
  2. turn around and run = you’re still going to get either crushed or shoved, but from behind instead of from the front this time.
  3. keep moving forward in an upright position, or try to go up and over = yeah, you guessed it… you’ll either get crushed by the breaking wave or you’ll wear yourself out trying to get to the quieter waters beyond the waves.

So… the best option is really to dive into the middle of the wave. You have to change how you hold your body (become ergonomically correct), change the intention (going through, rather than muscling over, around, or running away), and face the fear of being momentarily submerged under water. And then… you have to let yourself come back up to the surface on the other side of the wave (but theoretically, that part should be all instinct).

Can you see how this analogy applies in a stressful situation (outside of the ocean)? We are so often taught that avoiding the intense emotion (the wave) in some way is the “wise” course of action, when really, diving in will get us where we want to go much faster and more easily.

So, what is the “wave” in your life? And how could you dive in? What could you do to prepare yourself for taking this different type of action? And what might the outcome be in your specific situation? I’d love to hear from you… share your thoughts in the comments below.