Today while I was out on the water I couldn’t help but reflect on my life. Something about the ocean makes me feel totally at home. But in reality, out there I am completely out of my element. With nothing but a 7 foot fiberglass board separating me from the Pacific Ocean, I started to think about how surfing was a lot like living.
Even if you never step foot in the ocean, here’s some life lessons to help you ride the wave of life:
1. It’s Big Out There.
The ocean, like the world we live in, is a big place. When I’m out on my board with an endless stretch of water in every direction, I am reminded of just how small I am. Relatively speaking, that is. It’s important to keep things in perspective. It’s too easy to get caught up in our self-focused bubble that doesn’t extend farther than our own smart phone, job, home and social life. If gaining a few pounds, getting dumped or losing your phone can turn your world upside down, it’s time to expand your world.
Don’t sweat the small stuff. YOLO. Whatever you want to call it, is up to you. But if you keep things in perspective and remember how much more there is to life than what exists in our 50 mile radius, you are winning. Explore, be curious, smile at strangers and really get to know people. Just like one surfer can ride a large wave, one person can make a big difference in this world we live in.
2. Worrying Is A Waste Of Time.
Worrying is ironic. It’s like praying for what you don’t want to happen. Even though I have been surfing for years, sometimes I still catch myself scanning the water around my board. Maybe I will see a shark swimming underneath or catch a fin popping up near by, but what would I actually do if I saw a shark right next to my board?
Worrying about it won’t save me. I don’t actually want to find a shark in the water (duh) but I still search the glassy water for a dark outline. It’s silly, really.
The same thing goes for life. Wasting time worrying about all the potential bad things that could happen-failure, accidents, infidelity, betrayal- won’t actually prevent them from happening. Now I’m not saying to be careless and unprepared, but worrying is counterproductive. Be smart and take action when necessary, but until that time comes, just enjoy the ride.
3. Be Flexible and Go With The Flow
Life has a way of throwing curveballs at you. Plans change, things don’t go how you imagine and surprises are around every corner. But if you learn how to be flexible and adapt, things usually work out in the end.
Have you ever tried to keep your balance on a board when the waves get choppy? If you stand tall with stiff legs you are bound to get tossed with even the tiniest swell in the wrong direction. The only way to keep your balance when the water gets tough is to go with the flow, literally. Bend your knees, feel the water move underneath you, and go with the flow. You can’t fight the current, you have to adapt to it.
Next time life takes an unexpected turn, be flexible so it only bends instead of breaks you.
4. If you are going to go for it, really go for it.
There’s a moment when the water starts to rise and swell into the beginning shape of a wave that you have to make a decision. You either paddle out farther to sea or you turn around and paddle for the wave. Whatever you do though, you have to commit to that decision 100%.
When I was just starting out I made the mistake of second guessing myself. I would debate in my head if I should paddle out or if it was going to be a good wave and I should go for it…And before you knew it, it was tossing me like a washing machine because I hesitated. Good surfers commit to the wave or they commit to getting the hell out of the way.
If you are going to do something in life, or go for a goal, you need to REALLY GO FOR IT. No half-assing it, no waffling, you either do it or you don’t. Don’t be one of those people who says they want to do something, but then makes excuses or stalls. If you want to lose weight, do it…don’t just talk about it. Nothing will ever get accomplished unless you really go for it and give it all you got.
5. If it doesn’t scare you just a little, it isn’t worth doing.
All the best things in life are a little bit scary aren’t they? Following your dream, taking risks, falling in love, quitting a crappy job, all incredibly rewarding but a little bit terrifying. Surfing is a great workout mixed with a great adventure. The opportunity to be in nature and work with it to take thrilling rides is one of my favorite things to do. Could it be considered dangerous with the possibility of injury or meeting a shark? Sure (gulp). But that reality is also what makes it exciting and fulfilling.
Do something every day that scares you because the best things in life happen outside your comfort zone. Learn something new, tell someone you love them, or sign up for a marathon. Don’t waste time doing anything that doesn’t make you say HELL YES.
6. Focus on what you can change, and forget about what you can’t.
It’s impossible to stop the waves. You can’t make them bigger or smaller. The ocean will always crash into the sand when and how it wants. But you can learn to surf.
Shit happens. And if you worry about things you can’t control or complain about things in life you can’t change, you will get nowhere fast. It doesn’t really matter what life throws at you if you know what you want and what you are made of. Obstacles are inevitable, just like waves, what matters most is what you do when you are faced with them.
7. Keep Paddling until all your dreams come true
When in doubt, just keep going. Everyone can have ideas and dreams and goals. What really makes the difference is taking action to accomplish them. Don’t just think about it, work towards it. You don’t have to worry about being perfect or doing the right things, all that matters is if you do something…ANYTHING to get you one step closer.
And no matter what, point your board in the right direction, and just keep paddling until all your dreams come true.