Have you ever embarked on a challenge that pushed you beyond your limits, both physically and mentally? That's precisely what I did last Saturday when I took on the incredible feat of swimming 12.5 miles around Key West. I learned some invaluable life lessons on that 9-hour journey that I'd like to share. Here are the Top 6 life lessons I learned swimming around Key West.
1) Imperfect Action is Always Better Than Perfect Inaction
Before the race, my training partner, Marcus, and I traveled to Hawaii to fine-tune our plan and put it to the test. We thought everything was figured out, from our nutrition strategy to our pacing. However, as soon as we plunged into the warm waters around Key West, we realized adjustments were necessary. The heat was far more intense than anticipated, and our initial plan fell short. We adapted our nutrition plan on the fly, ensuring I stayed adequately fueled and hydrated throughout the race. It was a valuable reminder that taking imperfect action, even when faced with unforeseen challenges, is always better than being paralyzed by pursuing perfection.
2) You Will Want to Quit. That's Okay. Keep Going.
In a grueling endurance race like this, it's natural for the desire to quit to rear its head. There were moments when exhaustion set in, doubt clouded my mind, and the prospect of giving up seemed all too tempting. There was a time around mile 10 I wanted to quit! I even looked for a support boat to pick me up. I didn't see one, so I thought, what the hell, let's keep going. I reminded myself that I felt merely discomfort, not danger or damage. It was okay to want to quit; those thoughts were part of the journey. But deep down, I knew that the real triumph lay in pushing through those moments of doubt and forging ahead, one stroke at a time. And so, I did. And with each stroke, I discovered a newfound resilience and strength within myself.
3) Things Are as They Are, Not How You Want Them to Be
One of the most humbling aspects of the race was realizing that the conditions were beyond my control. I found myself swimming against a relentless tide for more than 8 miles, struggling against the force of nature. An unexpected delay occurred when we had to wait for a passing navy ship, disrupting my rhythm. On top of that, the water temperature exceeded 90 degrees Fahrenheit, and soaking my tongue in salt water made it hard to swallow and talk. It was a powerful reminder that in life, as in this race, things often unfold differently from our expectations. Accepting the present moment, embracing the challenges, and adapting to circumstances is the key to navigating life's unpredictable currents. Even the jellyfish stings I discovered on my head and neck after the race reminded me that obstacles could arise unexpectedly, and we must adapt and persist.
4) The Importance of Goal Setting, But Remaining Present in the Moment
Setting goals is essential for any significant undertaking, and my swim around Key West was no exception. My goal was to complete the 12.5-mile swim and challenge myself in ways I had never imagined. Goal setting gave me a clear direction and motivation to keep pushing forward, even when the going got tough. However, I discovered that while having a goal is crucial, remaining present in the moment is equally important.
During the race, I realized that constantly fixating on the end goal, the finish line, or the distance yet to be covered can be mentally draining. It detracts from the joy of the journey and creates unnecessary pressure. Instead, I found solace and renewed energy by focusing on the present moment. By concentrating on my stroke, my breathing, and the beautiful surroundings of Key West, I tapped into a state of flow. I embraced the "play" of the journey, finding joy in each stroke and relishing the experience of being "there" at that moment. I GET to swim in the ocean! I GET to hang out with my best friend. I GET to see the seaweed underneath me. Time seemed to lose grip, and each stroke became an act of mindfulness and self-expression. In those moments, my progress felt effortless, and the distance I had already covered became a testament to my capabilities.
Goal setting provides us with a sense of purpose and direction, but balancing between striving for the goal and immersing ourselves fully in the present moment is equally important. The journey is just as important as the destination, and by embracing the present, we unlock the true essence of any experience.
5) Having a Strong Support System Can Propel You to Greatness
A solid support system can make all the difference during a grueling endurance race like swimming around Key West. Throughout my journey, I was fortunate to have Marcus Vowell, my dedicated kayaker and life-long friend I've known for almost three decades, by my side. His unwavering support, encouragement, and guidance were invaluable. Marcus provided me with essential nutrition and hydration during the race and gave me so many encouraging words, lifting my spirits when doubt crept in.
There was even a time when Marcus wasn't feeling great and I helped him troubleshoot that he needed electrolytes. This was by no means a solo operation. I could NOT have gotten through this race without him. He endured the heat, the tide, and the time the same as I did.
No matter what challenges we face, it's essential to cultivate and lean on a solid support system. Surround yourself with individuals who believe in you, uplift you, and challenge you to be the best version of yourself. Whether it's family, friends, coaches, or mentors, their support can propel you to greatness and help you overcome even the most formidable obstacles.
6) Your Legacy is Determined by What You Do Today
In our journey through life, we often find ourselves waiting for the perfect conditions or the right moment to take action. We believe things must be exactly how we want them to be before we can truly live. However, the truth is that life passes us by while we wait. Our legacy, the mark we leave on the world, is not determined by our aspirations or intentions alone but by what we do today.
During this swim, I realized that the experiences I had, the challenges I embraced, and the moments I pushed myself beyond my comfort zone gave my life true meaning. It's easy to stand on a rock and take a picture, but what truly defines us is how we determine our capabilities, earn our experiences, and challenge ourselves to achieve a sense of accomplishment.
When we reflect on our lives, we don't want to be remembered solely for what we planned to do or what we dreamt of achieving. We want to be remembered for our actions, the risks we embraced, and the impact we made. It's about living fully and intentionally, maximizing every opportunity, and seizing the present moment.
So, as you navigate your own journey, ask yourself: What legacy do you want to leave behind? What do you want others to say about you at the end of your life? Don't wait for the perfect circumstances or for everything to align perfectly. Take imperfect action, make a difference today, and let your legacy be a testament to the depth of your experiences, the challenges you conquered, and the imprint you left on the lives of others.
Dare to live a life that reflects the legacy you wish to leave. Embrace imperfect action, cherish the present moment, persevere in the face of adversity, accept life as it comes, cultivate a strong support system, and let your actions today pave the way for a legacy that will be remembered for future generations.
About the Author:
Ramsey Bergeron has been a leader in the coaching and wellness industries for over 15 years and has over two decades of public speaking experience. To learn more about his coaching or speaking services, please click here.