Against the Tide
By Robin Lee Kennedy
Have you ever been caught in a strong current? You’re happily going along and suddenly are pulled off course – in a direction you don’t want to go. Initially you’re unconcerned – after all you’re a strong swimmer. You swim faster – kick harder. As you see yourself drifting further from shore, panic sets in. You start to focus on your fatigue. You notice the heaviness in your arms. Your kicking becomes frantic as you realize that you might not make it. Fear overwhelms you. Swimming furiously against the current is exhausting – images of sinking down beneath the surface encompass you. You begin to think about your family, and how unhappy they’ll be without you. Saddened by the image, fatigue overwhelms you. It would be so much easier just to let go – to accept the terrible reality of your circumstances.
The Power of Your Thoughts!
Just when you feel like giving up, a spark ignites inside you. You choose more positive, empowering thoughts. You muster the courage; see yourself on the beach – now miles away. Determination and belief drive you and – before you know it – you’re standing on that beach. You can hardly believe that you made it. It seems surreal. Wow! The power of your thoughts!
You’re probably aware of, and at some point have even experienced, the power your thoughts have to change your life. How being clearly aware of your choices, staying true to who you are, and being accountable to yourself can empower you to reach your goals. In my case, growing up with an abusive stepfather and a mother who often ‘took to her bed’ to escape him, I was determined to show the world who I was and what I had to offer.
Although we seemed to have plenty of money, my stepfather, Ivan, wouldn’t buy me school clothes. Each fall when all of my friends had new stuff, I trooped in wearing hand-me-downs. Ivan said that if I wanted something more, it was up to me to earn the money, but…good luck. That was all I needed to hear to go against the tide – a suggestion that I couldn’t do it! I just needed to figure out how.
We had property with a big river steps from the house. Of course! I would learn how to fish and sell my catch to the local market. Fortunately, I did have a fishing pole, a Christmas gift from my Grandmother. I had the tools and was in the perfect location. But, I had to convince myself, and everyone else, that I could do this. I marched into the fish market to share my intentions and negotiate a deal. The local fishermen who were dropping off their catch chuckled at my announcement. All but one. Charlie, the father of a schoolmate, did not. He had heard about the way Ivan treated me. Instead of snickering along with his peers, Charlie was interested in my plan. Proudly, I told him how I was going to make it happen. First, I was going to focus on flounder because they were running and plentiful. Instead of undercutting the price, I was going to offer some “free” services to get on the good side of the fish market owner. Next, I would buy a boat with the money I earned so I’d be able to place and monitor more profitable crab traps.
Then I began my advertising campaign. I told anyone who would listen what I was up to. Everyone laughed at me, no one harder then Ivan. Everyone, except Charlie. People said things like “I hope you won’t be disappointed;” or “It’s too big a plan for a little girl.” But I didn’t listen. Charlie got a bunch of “the boys” together to show me the ropes. I went out on their boats and was allowed to keep my own catch. They guided me and believed in me, because I believed in myself.
In just two seasons I was able to buy my own rowboat, which cost $99 – a lot in 1962. I also learned the crab trapping business and had my own traps set in the best spots. I had a growing bank account, purchased a 5HP motor for my boat, bought my own school clothes and gave the hand-me-downs to the Salvation Army. I was even able to buy the special red shoes that I’d had my eye on. I was ten years old.
The Currents of Human Influence
Whatever your circumstances, you may find yourself from time to time pulled in a direction that you don’t want to go or letting dreams live short lives because of a belief you accepted.
Do outside influences direct your course or is it your own inner critic telling you that you can’t do something you’d really like to? If you’re like most people, the path of least resistance is the one you most often take. Particularly, if your belief or desire is unpopular or unproven.
Direct the Course of Your Life With Conscious Choice and Effort
It is possible to focus your energy on creating the things that you want. If you’re willing to go against the tide, you can direct the course of your life.
It takes courage to step out of your comfort zone to take control of your future and perseverance to stay on course and resist habitual patterns. Forming new habits will take you where you want to be. Recognize the power of your thoughts and words to make focused decisions about which ones to empower. You can breathe life into what you truly want with conscious choice and effort.
Doubts That Multiply!
Notice what happens when another person or your inner critic says that you can’t do something or that an idea you have just won’t work. Suddenly your doubts multiply. Your enthusiasm and belief in yourself wanes – you might even retract your idea. In some cases, you feel embarrassed that you actually believed it had merit. The current was just too strong for you to go in a different direction. Silently, grudgingly you dive back into stagnant waters.
Choose a Positive Focus
Now, consider what happens when you speak positively about something you want or believe in. Your energy is contagious and people buy into your idea. You react with more positive thoughts and energy. Before you know it, there is a collective belief that begins to grow. The air feels electric. You’re going where you want and pulling others along with you – caught up in your enthusiastic wake.
What would happen if you always chose positive thoughts and words? Notice that I pointed to a choice. Everyone has negative – even self-deprecating – thoughts from time to time. However, we all have the ability to decide whether to pursue a particular thought or not. We can choose to go with a positive current.
The Process: Awareness, Truth and Accountability
First you need to become aware – to be awake to the moment and keenly observant of what is – to be conscious of all possible and probable outcomes of any choice or action. To live in awareness is to not pretend that you don’t know. It is to not do things subconsciously, but instead make conscious choices and decisions and understand their impact. Clarifying your values helps you to make choices that serve you. In my case, being a young girl keenly aware of the impact my home life was having on my image of the world, and focusing on a path that I understood completely would not be supported by that home, my actions were chosen carefully, in neat succession, to meet my goal. What is important to you? What are your “must haves” in order to be happy?
Next you need to tell the truth – to yourself. Are you living by your values? If not, what gets in the way? Your values can motivate you to stretch beyond the comfortable status quo. They give you the why for doing something new. Are you willing to navigate uncharted waters by altering your ready acceptance of negative thoughts or discouraging input? Can you identify the Ivan’s and Charlie’s in your own life? In yourself? Had I given into the views of the Ivan in my life, I would have achieved nothing.
Last comes being accountable – again, to yourself. I took control of my circumstances by making choices and taking actions that were not influenced by the will or view of others. My success or failure would not be the result of anything outside of my own actions, without excuses and regardless of how toxic the world around me could be. Will you take responsibility for getting yourself to shore?
By being aware, honest and accountable you’ll find that you can create your own flow and current. You’ll find the best places to cast your line and life’s ebbs and flows will be much easier to navigate.