Have you ever tried to learn something new? Something hard?

Something impossible?

What do you do when you hit a brick wall, and you can’t get past it? Not only do you have brick wall embedded in your face, but you’re dejected, discouraged, defeated.

In my case, it was diving.

I was not a diver. Every time I attempted to dive, my entire body would hit the water at once. A belly flop, they called it.

photo: Craig Howell on flickr

More like a painful, mortifying Aquatic Body-Slam. In front of all my friends.

This went on for years.

I learned to swim when I was seven, but I couldn’t dive to save my life. By the time I was sixteen, I was still incapable of entering the water any way but toes first. It was embarrassing.

And then it happened.

My personal brick wall came crashing down around me.

It started when I was chosen to be Senior Camper at High/Scope in Ypsilanti, Michigan – a groovy summer camp with kids from all over the world.

Senior Camper came with many responsibilities, including lifeguarding, leading work crews, and mentoring the younger campers. The most terrifying of these responsibilities, however, was a relay race between the Senior Campers at the end of the summer. The four of us were required to dive into the water in front of the entire camp. 

Dive.

Like, a real dive, where your hands and head go into the water first, instead of your entire frickin’ body.

photo: Joe Shlabotnik on flickr

I knew this was not possible for me. I knew because I had tried again and again and again. And again.

In a panic, desperate not to embarrass myself in front of everyone in the entire camp, I started visualizing myself diving. I had never been instructed on the art of visualization. I had no idea that such a thing existed.

I was simply a teenager desperate not to experience mortification in front of a crowd.

For months, I visualized myself diving. Anytime I remembered the potential horror of the end-of-the-summer relay race, I imagined myself slipping into the water in a precision dive. Easy as pie.

I clung to that visualization like a life raft. Even though it seemed like a meek and pathetic attempt at retaining my dignity, it was my only hope.

Finally, the big day came. I can still remember standing on that raft in the middle of the camp pond, waiting for my turn. Given my resistance to what I was about to attempt, I elected to be last in the water.

And then it was my turn. My fellow senior camper raced back to the raft and tagged my foot with his hand. It was time. I needed to act.

I bent my knees, I thrust my arms in front of me, and I jumped.

And the most amazing thing happened:

I dived.

photo: easylocum on flickr

My hands went in the water, followed by my arms, my torso, and my legs. It was a real dive. None of this mortifying belly-flop nonsense, smacking the water like a giant carp. Not at all.

It was just like I’d been visualizing all those months – an easy and effortless dive into the water.

I wish I could say that from that moment on, I adopted visualization as a regular practice. I wish I could tell you that I went on to utilize this amazing technique to overcome all obstacles and actualize my full potential.

photo: Hans-Peter on flickr

But I did not.

I was seventeen, and I had used my mind to get myself out of a jam. I was relieved, but it didn’t go any further than that. It would be several years before I began to consciously and deliberately access the power of this amazing tool.

But to this day, any time I doubt the power that lies within me, any time I wonder about the strength of the visions inside my mind, I think back to that seventeen-year-old kid on the raft, attempting the impossible. And succeeding.

And I am inspired to dive in once again.

What’s your experience with visualization? How has it helped you to overcome the impossible?

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