Have you ever been water skiing? I had my first opportunity about 3 years ago on Julie’s parent’s boat at the beautiful Lake Cumberland, and had a blast (with some pain of course). I didn’t do too bad as I was able to get up pretty quickly and had no problems staying up. I did experience quite a few thuds as I tried to show off by going through the wake. Disaster. Anyway, water skiing is a good analogy to something I’ve been thinking a lot about lately (inspired by Dr. John Eliot): how your thoughts impact your life.
When you are skiing off the back of a boat you really have no control of where you ultimately end up. Yes you can weave in and out, but your control is really limited. The driver of the boat is the one who can steer you through calm waters, up to the shore, or through chop. You just are along for the ride. I think that in the same way our lives are a direct reflection of our outlook on life. Your outlook is made up of many things including your values, personal rules, and self-confidence. On a day to day basis you don’t think about these things, in fact most people don’t really ever confront these things, instead they spend their time and effort figuring out how to weave in and out of the wake, while their personal outlook continues to drive.
I personally have invested a lot of my self-confidence in performance, and I have for as long as I remember. I would feel great about myself when I did great things, and horrible about myself when I did bad things. This meant that I could literally be on top of the world after a good performance one minute, and down in the dumps after a bad one in the next. The interesting thing about my personal makeup (and I suspect it is true for most) is that the negative stuff sticks in the memory a little more firmly than the positive. This was especially true for me in sports growing up. I was/am a good athlete (although not as active now), loved to compete, and generally was a top performer (not trying to toot my own horn), but even after some of my best performances I would’ve downplayed my good plays and emphasized the bad. The impact of this perspective, the investment of a lot of my personal confidence in my performance, impacted my life in many ways. It still continues to today. It’s extremely difficult to have a strong sense of self-worth if it depends on how many times you “win,” especially if your criteria for a “win,” is so high. I can see that I used to spend all my time trying to improve my weaving in and out of the wake not realizing that ultimately the direction I was heading in was impacted by the driver, my outlook. I thought if I performed better, just got those 1 or 2 big wins, then I’d feel better and be more confident to go after bigger victories. The problem here is that it’s difficult to put yourself on the line for a win, if you’re not confident you can do it. It’s even more difficult to steer a boat on skis while holding a rope attached to the back of it.
The first step is realizing what it is that is driving you. I can see that no matter how well I perform with my current outlook it will never be good enough. I’ll always be one victory short of feeling great. So the focus has changed drastically for me in the last 8 months. It’s no longer about what I do outside, it’s about how I feel on the inside. Redefining my core outlook is giving me more power on my perspective, and more power on my perspective is a building a foundation for the outlook I want. It’s a better feeling trying to steer the boat than to steer the skis.