“We were both professional swimmers, although I was retired and Steve still swam competitively. The kids were still in bed and the lake where we had decided to vacation had a large cove that was usually trafficked by speed boats, but this early it was an oasis of calm.
It took us about 45 minutes to swim to the end of the cove in the iridescent blue water. At one point we stopped and treaded water for a short break, as we treaded about 10 feet apart I yelled to Steve, who seemed in his own world, ‘Hey. I feel so connected to you right now. This is amazing.’
In response to my moment of sentimental vulnerability, he gave me a thumbs up and kept swimming.
I was irked by this but decided to let it go. On the way back I decided to give it another shot, and as we treaded at a breakpoint in one the deepest points of the lake I said it again. I was vulnerable. But in response, he just nodded and said, “Yah!” And kept swimming.
At this point I was livid, and in my rage and fury I beat him to the dock. As he started to climb out I called him back to the water for an explanation. Because a thousand thoughts of rejection were floating in my head, I demanded a response from him, ‘Look Steve. I just tried to connect with you there, and you rejected me. So I’m feeling really insecure, because the story I’m telling myself is that you don’t care. What happened? Why don’t you want to talk about this?’
In response, he said something that has changed everything in my life from that moment, he said, ‘I didn’t hear a word you were saying out there. I was having a panic attack and trying to count strokes.’
When competitive swimmers do outdoor swims a common practice is to count strokes, to prevent the panic that often comes with unknown and unclear water.
“ ‘You were having a panic attack? Why?’ ”
He then continued, “Last night I had a dream that the kids and I were swimming across the cove and a speed boat was coming straight for us. I tried to wave it off twice but it didn’t see me. I knew it would kill us, so I grabbed all the kids and swam as deep down as I could. And as we were down there, I saw Timothy, and I knew if we were down there for two more seconds he would drown. But if I came up we would all die. That’s why I was having a panic attack. And didn’t hear a word you said.” ‘
This story is told by Brene Brown in a talk called, “Called to Courage”, but paraphrased for summary’s sake. I would highly encourage each one of you to take the time to watch it.
Today, however, I want to talk about the power of that one sentence, “the story I’m telling myself…”
Any conversation that has any gravity to it is filled with stories that we are telling ourselves. Arguments with co-workers, differences in relationships. Each of us has a story we are telling ourselves based on the data we have received from the opposite party, combined with our own data from the lives we have led.
So this week I want you to approach things with “the story I’m telling myself.”
Whether it be how you start a conversation to fix a problem or a dialogue you have in your own head to sort something out. There is so much power when you give your mind the opportunity to explain itself and give a platform for the data you have collected to spread itself out. We will talk about the massive dividends behind this more on Friday. But this week, start with the story you are telling yourself to defuse some tricky situations with others, and get yourself out of your own head.