A few years ago, my son and I were scuba diving the “Fish Bowl” just off the coast of the beautiful island of St Thomas in the Virgin Islands. This dive was 60-80 feet below the surface and was some of the most beautiful coral reef and aquatic life I have ever seen. The water was crystal clear with unlimited visibility and there were hundreds of schools of fish in this area.
As we dove into this amazingly beautiful depressed bowl-shaped area of coral that was about the size of a football field, more and more aquatic wildlife came into view.
We saw thousands of fish – the most colorful fish I’ve ever seen, hundreds of different species. We saw sting rays, barracuda, lobster, and some of the most beautiful coral I have ever witnessed. It was exhilarating, breathtaking and peaceful all at the same time.
However, as we swam over and around the ocean floor and through the coral caverns that lined it’s walls, I noticed something very unique. All of these species of aquatic life would swim, then rest. Many of them would rest for a period on the ocean floor or in a cove or cavern of the beautiful walls of coral reef.
Then, every few minutes, I’d catch the view of a group of reef sharks as they swam by. As they swam, they would watch us, and swim over or under our diving group. Yet, the sharks never stopped. They never rested or waited quietly on the ocean floor like the other aquatic predators we saw that day.
Majestic and fearsome creatures with the beautiful waving motion of their tails, sliding smoothly through the saltwater along the edges of the reef. These reef sharks and the other nurse and hammer head sharks we saw never stopped.
I learned a fascinating lesson that day. If a shark stops swimming, it dies.
The ocean may be its home . . .
And, the shark may be one of the most fearsome creatures under the deep blue . . .
But, without forward movement, the shark will drown. Sharks rely upon obligate ram ventilation of water passing through their mouths filtering oxygen as it is rammed against the gills.
If they stop swimming, they stop receiving oxygen. If they stop moving, they die.
It was a powerful life lesson.
You and I are much like the shark, we survive on a diet of protein, fat and movement.
You are a fearsome collection of appetites, powers, and instincts made for constant forward movement.
If you do not grow . . .
If you do not evolve, risk, or expand . . . Slowly but surely, you will die a spiritual or emotional death.
You may wish and pray it were otherwise. You can try to will yourself content with stagnation and starch . . .
You can try to force yourself to be satisfied. Believe me, I’ve tried.
Yet, as you know by now . . . it doesn’t take. It doesn’t work. Your hunger increases, and you start gasping for air.
You are the shark.
To whatever extent you have failed to move forward, that lack of momentum is drowning you in a deep blue sea of “what if’s,” “could have’s,” and “if only’s.”
You and I are not overwhelmed.
You are not suffering from too much. You and I suffer from TOO LITTLE.
Underwhelm frequently masquerades as overwhelm, and it stifles the life-giving apparatus.
You’re not over stretched. You’re not tapped out. You are profoundly under-utilized . . . bored, rotting & stymied.
The narrow walls of your life begin crushing your heart when you’re not moving. You know it’s true.
Even when everything within you wants to retreat . . .
Fin your tail, flair your vents and MOVE FORWARD.
Do not be afraid to play the bigger game, take the wild risk, make the bold move.
I gained four life lessons from this experience. These make more sense when viewed with this perspective:
- Happiness is not the absence of problems; it is the ability to deal with them, swim at them head on.
- Feeling sad after making a decision doesn’t mean you made the wrong decision. You decide and you keep moving.
- You’re not stressed out because you are doing too much. You are stressed because you are doing too little of the things that make you feel most alive, the thing that keeps the oxygen moving across your gills.
- The lesson you struggle with will repeat itself until you face it and learn from it.
Be the shark you were meant to be, and, at last, watch your life begin.
Adam Nally, DO