I'm married to a surfer, have two surfing daughters, and have spent my fair share of time in the waves. Surfing is a way of life in our family.
I was recently talking with a friend about the struggles she’s facing in her business venture. The conversation eventually turned to surfing — a sport she's trying to master. As the conversation progressed, I suddenly realized that the skills she'd learn surfing would be equally valuable in her business.
Surfing is so much more than a sport. Here are six profound ways its lessons can be applied to other aspects of life:
1. Observe the conditions before jumping in.
For the sake of safety, it's important to always scope the ocean out before taking the plunge. What's the tide doing? How big are the waves? Likewise, before undertaking any new venture in life, it's prudent to ask a few key questions: What do I want to accomplish here? Why I am motivated to do this? Have I considered the pros and cons? In other words, is the thrill worth the risk? If the answer is yes, go for it!
2. Be flexible when conditions change.
As soon as you've decided the surf conditions are safe and stable, they will often change. The tide or wind may shift and you may suddenly need to use a different surfboard, change your position, or switch to a different surf spot. Conditions change all the time in life, too, and flexibility is key. Sometimes you need to be aggressive and sometimes you need to back off. Pay attention to the feedback and move with the flow rather than against it.
3. Accept that you're part of something bigger.
Many of us become so wrapped up in our own thoughts, problems, and lives that we forget we're actually part of a much larger organism. When you're out in the ocean — surrounded by sea life, the elements, and other surfers — it's easier to see your place in the world. Take this metaphor as a reminder of the bigness and downright miracle of life the next time you're feeling overwhelmed or single-minded. We are but tiny ships in the deep blue sea, on a temporary sail through time.
4. Help others in need.
Surfing can be fun, but it can also be dangerous. My husband has saved numerous people from drowning over the years — he tells me it comes with the territory. Surfers may be focused on catching their own waves, but they also look after each other as a matter of survival. Helping others is incredibly rewarding — it feels good to be of service. And if karma is real, the hand you help will be your own before you know it.
5. Be ultra-present in the moment.
I teach mindfulness to elementary-school kids, so I talk a lot about "being present." Through breath, meditation, mantras, and yoga, many of us practice this every day, with varying degrees of success. But when you're in the surf lineup and there's a big set of waves coming, not being present will probably result in a nasty wipeout. In that way, surfing is an intense spiritual practice that forces presence of mind and body. Even if you aren't a surfer, you can look for that edge in your mindfulness practice by challenging yourself to remain present as though your life depends on it.
6. Once you've decided to go for it, don't hesitate.
In surfing, hesitating to get on your feet once you're in a wave will likely cause you to wipe out. Likewise, you can marinate on an idea until it becomes stale if you consistently fail to take action. Once you've observed the conditions, and you're clear this is your wave —whether in surfing or in life — go for it! And don't look back. You may fall anyway, but at least you'll fall trying.
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