Just Keep Swimming!

“When life gets you down, do you wanna know what you’ve gotta do? Just keep swimming!”

Hello again!

You’ve probably heard Dory reciting those words repeatedly in Finding Nemo and Finding Dory by Disney. A few days ago, I was reminded about the films when I saw those words (and the fish) tattooed on someone while waiting in line at my favorite cappuccino house.

So, you might be wondering why I’m bringing this up. Why are those three words so well-known that just saying them can have immediate meaning for us? After all, Dory is portrayed as pretty “dumb.”  She comes across as disorganized and unable to figure out how to handle relatively easy situations. But is she as “out of it” as she seems? Sure, she’s got amnesia and can’t remember past two or three minutes. However, she’s in pretty good physical shape! And, she can read! And, she gives us a lesson about the importance of persistence: that is, not giving up no matter what happens.

  • Both films demonstrate how challenges and difficulties shape our characters, how we can learn from them and overcome them, and how families and friends play an essential factor in our life and development.Dory demonstrates all of the above by holding to one principle: “just keep swimming.” She makes those three words her personal mantra. And, if you look closely, you’ll see that she’s not just swimming around in circles. Even when she doesn’t know what to do next, she always has  goals: finding Nemo or her parents. These goals persist even in the face of breakdowns.

    Breakdowns are inevitable. They occur to all of us when we’ve got a goal and then take action to accomplish it. They will always happen to us, no matter how much energy we put into trying to stave them off.  

    The question is not 

    • How do I avoid breakdowns from ever happening to me?

    Instead, the question is:

    • How might I handle these inevitable breakdowns with ease?

    Look at how this might apply to us. For example, you’ve started to write a book. You’ve been writing two pages per day for the past 25 days. You have a goal to write 60 pages each month. You’re happy with what you’ve accomplished so far. On day 26, your screen has a “blip” of light. Your computer goes dark. You’ve somehow lost 25 out of the 50 pages you’ve written!

    What do you do? (That is, after a few expletives! I call it the OSP, which stands for the Oh sh*t point!).

    Something like that happened to me while writing my “Mastering Life’s Energies” book.  Ironically, it was the chapter on Enjoying Ease! My laptop went dark in the middle of a sentence. When it came back on, I’d lost 20 pages of work. I thought I’d lost precious minutes, let alone material, that I’d never be able to capture again.

    I called my writing coach, Sally, and told her what had happened.

    She told me to consider that I had that chapter already written inside of me. The external chapter was gone, but the internal one remained. She suggested that I keep writing! (This was before seeing “Finding Dory”.)

    I sat at my laptop and began. After trying out a few ways to continue, I started doing what follows. It worked for me, and I hope you find this helpful. I think we all need to follow clear guidelines when we’re in the middle of a muddle. And that’s just what an OSP is, isn’t it? So here are some steps to take that can help you to  “Just Keep Swimming.”

    First, You want to change the energy circulating in your brain when you’re in the middle of an OSP. Your amygdala is going full blast! You want to cool it down before you do anything else! Focusing on gratitude is an excellent way to do it:

    1. Now, list two things you’re grateful for regarding this goal or project. If you’re having trouble doing this, go to YouTube and watch Brother David Steindl-Rast’s “A Grateful Day.” Here’s the link
    2. Then go ahead and list those two things for which you are grateful.
    3. Ask yourself: what’s more important to me right now: to give up  or to “Keep on Swimming” toward this goal or toward finishing this project?
    4. What is a small, sweet action I can take? One that will keep me swimming?
    5. Am I willing to take it right now? If the answer is “no,” listen to Brother David Steindl-Rast again. If “yes,” go on to the next step, which is: 
    6. Ask yourself again: what is the small sweet action I’m willing to take?
    7. Take that action!
    8. “Keep on Swimming” until you reach the end!

    This eight-part sequence can help you through many an OSP.  Try it out the next time something isn’t going exactly as planned. You might surprise yourself with how easy it is to “Keep on Swimming” when you know how to do it.

    Let me know what you discover! 

    Until next time!