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You are closer than you think

Updated: Jul 26, 2022

On a cold July morning in 1952, Florence Chadwick, an American swimmer known for long-distance open water swimming, decided to swim 42 kilometers between the coast of California and Catalina Island.

Along the way, Chadwick traveled with a team whose job it was to keep an eye out for sharks and be prepared to help in the event of unexpected cramps, injuries or fatigue.

Approximately 15 hours after the swim, a thick fog began to cloud Chadwick's vision and confidence. By chance, her mother was on one of the boats while Chadwick relayed to her team that she didn't think she could finish the dive.

She swam for another hour before deciding to give up. Sitting on the teetering boat, she discovered that if she had continued half a mile more, she would have reached Catalina Island. In a later interview, Florence confessed that it was not the cold, fear or exhaustion that made her abandon the Catalina canal crossing. It was the fog.

The lesson

Many people have abandoned a dream on the verge of its realization. It's when challenges seem the most daunting that we are often closer to our destination than we feel.

Irish poet John O'Donohue writes the following in his book Anam Cara:

If you've ever had the opportunity to go out early in the morning before dawn, you may have noticed that the darkest hour of the night is just before dawn. The darkness deepens and becomes more anonymous. If you've never been in the world and never knew what a day was, you couldn't imagine how the darkness breaks, how the mystery and color of a new day arrives. The light is incredibly generous, but also soft. When you take care of the way dawn comes, you learn how light can persuade darkness.

If we manage to row through a small fog, we will find that the fog eventually gives way to a sense of clarity and self-confidence.

But what is important to remember is that the fog is never far away for long. Like doubt, it comes and goes, its density varies with the seasons.

The key is to recognize the value of moving forward anyway - to bring your own climate when it comes to pursuing meaningful endeavors. Keeping your balance is an essential skill and will allow you to skillfully navigate moments of uncertainty.

Two months after Chadwick's failed attempt, she tried to swim once more. Once again, a thick fog settled.

But this time she had a mental image of the coast in her mind as she pushed. And not only did she succeed, but Chadwick ended up swimming twice more.

Chadwick also became the first woman to swim the English Channel in both directions and she did so in record times.

Daniel Luz is a professor and columnist for Gente Mais

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