Just four short years ago, I didn’t know how to swim. I mean, I could doggy paddy, but keeping my face in the water while swimming was not possible. I couldn’t imagine it would ever be possible either.

I remember the absurdity of it all when I went to my first coached swim class and listened to Annie, our swim instructor, tell us what we were going to do once we got in the water. Her words didn’t even sound like English.

Then there were the mermaids in the 50-meter lane, zipping back and forth as if such a movement were natural, much less effortless. Watching them, I remember hearing myself think, “I wonder if there will ever be a day when I can swim in one of those lanes.”

Almost as soon as the thought registered, I dismissed it. I didn’t even know how to put a swim cap on yet!

Fast-forward just four years later (September 17th, to be precise) I finished the five-mile open water swim for Swim Across America, a non-profit organization that raises funds for Johns Hopkins Kimmel Cancer Center.

And now, as I write this, I’m asking myself, “What other areas of my life have I been too afraid to take action? What areas am I playing small because I don’t think I have what it takes… because I don’t yet believe in myself?”

If I could go from seeing myself dead at the bottom of the 25-meter lane (which I did four years ago), to swimming five miles in the open water (among swarms of jelly fish), what else can I do?

Where do I need to begin questioning “impossible,” and instead seeing “I Am Possible?”

Beyond sports, there are various experiences I crave in this lifetime. At this moment, these are my top three:

  1. Spend a month exploring Australia and New Zealand.
  2. Be selected to speak for leadership conferences that inspire me greatly – like, The Global Leadership Summit, SXSW, TED Women, Forbes conferences, Culture Summit, and a few others.
  3. Publish my fifth book with my proven process for giving compassionate, candid, feedback that is guaranteed to provoke potential.

What about you? What has been calling for you to do? Is there a skill you’ve wanted to learn? A job you crave? How about a skill you know you need to learn for your own good? (For me, yoga and meditation fit this category. So did swimming, which ultimately did help my hip.)

What will your life look like when you decide to allow yourself to be pulled by possibility? How will you coax yourself into remaining focused on the outcomes that matter to you, even as obstacles and detours disrupt what feels like progress?

Looking back, here are the critical factors that kept me bravely moving forward:

  • Riddled with significant pain in my left hip, I was faced with two options four years ago: get surgery (which may or may not help) or significantly reduce my exercise (which I enjoy tremendously.) Helping my hip was just the motivation I needed during those first few weeks. After that, inspiration took its place, and I was well on my way.
  • In the beginning I shared to release the pressure valve of fear that plagued me. As I experienced the inspiration my journey brought to others, I was further fueled to keep progressing. Turns out, sharing with others is no different then sharing with myself—it helped me remember where I began, along with how far I’d come.
  • The event was on September 17th, whether or not I was ready. The specific date, time, and location helped me prioritize and focus. Sporting events make such specificity much clearer. Today, I’m learning to define “success” in all areas of my life. The question I ask myself is, “How will I know I’ve reached success?”
  • As challenging as it was to go from such intensity and connectivity, to completely unplugged and recharging in nature, a camping trip to the Shenandoah’s was the perfect way to celebrate the completion of that swim. It allowed me to push the “reset button,” as I reconnected with nature, and the love of my life.
  • The week before the swim I came down with the flu, and my chest wasn’t done fighting it off when I walked up to the shoreline. It would have been easy to say, “Well, I’m not 100% yet, so maybe I should just do shorter distance.” With Mina at my finish line, I had every reason to get in and give it my best effort.

What is it that you keep hearing yourself wanting (or needing) to do differently? Imagine the possibilities as you get out of your own way and watch your life transform, along with the many, many others who are watching on.

Here’s to your greatness,

Misti Burmeister