“It is good to have an end to journey toward; but it is the journey that matters, in the end.”
― Ursula K. Le Guin

The pandemic, along with politics and even climate change, have made it very hard to feel optimistic about and in control of where life is headed. Yet humans prefer to feel hopeful and in control of the future.  

So here is one idea to help you conquer the dread of this pandemic winter.

Making It Through Uncertainty

Standing at the water’s edge on Gibson Island in late September of 2015, my heart pounding as the storm clouds rolled in, I wondered how I could possibly swim five miles in these increasingly intense waves. Having learned to swim just one year before, uncertainty mounted, as I wondered how I was going to make it through this swim. 

Each minute we waited for the official start of the swim felt like hours, as I battled with my self-talk…

“You’re the newest swimmer here… just quit. Everyone will understand.”

“What’s the point?” 

“You have nothing to prove, just walk away.”

Commit To Move Forward

I wanted to finish this swim for three reasons. First, I had made a commitment to dozens of people who contributed to my fundraising goal. Second, I had trained hard and made a commitment to myself. And finally, a good friend was battling cancer–this swim was for her. I wanted to get in and try. 

Five miles? Are you kidding me? I thought again, as the dark clouds consumed the sky and the wind continued to pick up. 

The task was daunting and overwhelming, much the same as getting through this pandemic, political shift, or making headway on the massive problem of climate change. 

Waves of Uncertainty

Standing there, looking out at those waves, I made a decision that changed everything for me that day. It wasn’t a big decision. In fact, it was a small, simple, and manageable decision. It’s the same decision you can make today about all the challenges you are facing in your homes, communities, workspaces, and the world.

My decision?

I will swim for thirty-minutes. 

Think about that. You can do just about anything for thirty-minutes, right?

Managing Your Overwhelm

I knew I could not make it five miles in thirty minutes. Heck, I could barely make it one mile in thirty minutes. I had just learned to swim one year before. I didn’t have a professional swim instructor either. Instead, I had whatever resources the Universe offered on any given day.

Sound familiar in this new world of Zoom-everything (networking, happy hours, team meetings, etc)?

Marci, a volunteer coach for Swim Across America, taught me the basics, and then challenged me with tough workouts. My buddy Caroline joined me in the water for several tough swims together, offering me tips along the way. Lots of swimmers offered me tips here and there. 

Still, I was very far from an efficient swimmer. Many of us are very far from experts on change and challenge of the magnitude we’ve been asked to face in 2020. 

When Giving Up Isn’t An Option

The idea of completing this swim was daunting, and could easily have become paralyzing. I could have given up, walked away, and chalked it up to a bad weather day. 

But, by the grace of a-power-that-be-that’s-greater-than-me, I refocused. Instead of throwing in the towel, I made a decision: swim for just thirty minutes. And, let me tell you–Those first thirty minutes were tough! Each wave felt like it was pulling me back further than I had swum. 

Critical Voices Are Normal. Getting Past Them Can Make You Stronger

The critical voices in my head were nearly impossible to ignore, and I seriously doubted my ability to finish this swim. You’re just not ready for this magnitude of a swim, my inner talk kept reminding me. 

Just thirty minutes, I spoke back to myself, dedicated to staying the course. 

Helping Yourself Adapt In An Ever-Changing World 

Can you keep learning, growing, and adapting for just the next thirty minutes, considering all that is happening with politics, COVID19, and climate change? Of course, you can!  

Thirty minutes was doable the day of the swim, and so I stayed focused exclusively on making it to the end of those first thirty minutes. Then, the most interesting thing happened. Almost like magic, at the end of those first thirty minutes, my negative self-talk quieted, and I started having fun!

Leaning Into The Fun Within The Challenge

As each wave hit my left side, it would effectively toss me to the right. Then, the wave would hit shore and pull my right side downward. I felt like I was swimming in a washing machine. At the thirty minute mark, I couldn’t help but start laughing. I was swim-laughing. It was hilarious. 

Add to that, I could only effectively breathe on my left side, so I had no real understanding of how much progress I was making until I stopped to grab some water from Bob, my kayaker, who was supporting me. Together, we enjoyed a good laugh as we kept working at making it to my next tiny goal; thirty more minutes. 

Watch Your Courage Grows As Achieve Small Victories

Each time I made it to my next tiny goal, my courage grew, and so did my strength, and my resolve to keep going. Before I knew it, I was half-way there. 

How about you? Have you made some progress since March of 2020? I bet you have. I bet you’ve learned about politics, viruses, Zoom, masks, and even climate change. I bet you’ve even learned some things about yourself, your tenacity, and your adaptability. 

Let Micro Goals Help You Achieve Excellence

Nearly three hours later, stroke-by-merciful-stroke, I finished that swim, stumbled out of the water, and into Mina’s (the woman I had been swimming for) arms. Coincidentally, I also stumbled into the greatest secret of getting through any challenge: stay in the moment, decide on your next miro-goal, focus, and trust. 

What small goals are you working toward achieving in the midst of this pandemic winter? 

Rather than allow yourself to get overwhelmed with the whole pandemic, winter, politics, or climate change, shrink your focus to achieving small goals throughout each day and week. 

While it’s easy to become overly concerned with the fruits of your labor, consider counting the seeds you plant every day, especially when you feel overwhelmed. See if you can let go of the bigness, and shrink it down to just one day, just one task, just one moment at a time.    

“It is good to have an end to journey toward; but it is the journey that matters, in the end.”
― Ursula K. Le Guin

For fun, here are a few micro-goals I have set for 2020:

  • Reach out to my niece a couple times a week. 
  • Complete a run at the harbor in Baltimore. 
  • Find a way to be of service/support to one person every day.

Simple, small, and manageable. I would love to hear about your micro goals for 2020. Send me an email, or simply add a comment below!  

Here’s To Your Greatness, 

Misti Burmeister 

P.S. Remember to celebrate your successes along the way… celebrating fuels you, and keeps you focused on the progress you’re making.

Misti Burmeister has been solving people problems and empowering leaders for nearly 20 years, increasing engagement and productivity across generations. Help your team reach its highest potential at https://MistiBurmeister.com