Underwater looking up at Imtiaz

I can't really describe the feeling, or explain why it happened. A couple of weeks back I was in Cozumel, heading out into the open waters on a boat to go diving, when I was suddenly seized by anxiety. I'm an experienced diver, and I know it's normal on any trip to feel a little apprehension before the first dive, but this was different. My mind was racing with negative thoughts – What if I forget to breathe correctly? What if my mask fills up and I can't get the water out? What if I get caught down deep in a cave? These are the kind of fears that grip novice divers. I have more than 100 dives under my belt, and I've earned my advanced certification, which means mastering things like buoyancy, navigation, and night diving, among other things, so I had no reason to worry. But I did anyway.

So, as the boat continued outward, I had a talk with myself. I went through my diving credentials in my mind. What's more, I began to visualize the perfect dive. I closed my eyes and really worked on envisioning what that was like. I could see the beautiful, complex reefs. I could watch the fish swimming around me. Eventually, I could really feel that sense of wonder and exhilaration that comes from a great diving experience. I took the worrying, irrational story that was playing in my head and replaced it with a completely new story – one where I could see and feel myself enjoying the dive of my life.

Underwater looking through vegitation at Imtiaz

And I did. When I was in the water for real, it ended up being one of those “flow” moments that Frank talks about, where you just become totally immersed in the experience and lose sense of time. I felt at ease and as one with my environment. It was an incredible transcendent experience. When it was over, I still had plenty of oxygen left – a sign that I had achieved ideal buoyancy and had been breathing easily and comfortably the whole time.

Of course, the idea behind creative visualization to achieve a desired outcome is not new – athletes and performers and entrepreneurs have been using this simple method of mind focus for years. But this episode in my life was yet another reminder of how powerful that method – and the human mind – really is.

Our minds give us the ability to see fearful things – it happens especially when we are confronted with something new or out of the ordinary – and those imaginings can feel very real and trigger very real responses. But our minds also give us the ability to master those fears by changing the story and creating a new set of images and outcomes for us to respond to.

Shark above the reef

What triggers your doubts and worries? And how do you overcome them? When you imagine ideal, what do you see? What do you say when you talk to yourself? These are ideas I'd like to explore some more in future posts, and I'd love to hear your thoughts about them.





Commenter's Profile Image Fiona
May 18th, 2011
If I am worried about something I want to do, I don't do it right away. I take my mind off it completely, do something I enjoy and go back to it with a fresh mind. If I'm still worried, then I envision the worst scenario and what I would do if that happens, then dive in. I always tell myself "You can do it, you can do it."