Wednesday, March 21, 2012

Mental Management - Just say "no".

The dives I didn't make might be the best ones. The mental management project is actually working. This series of posts is not hypothetical; I am testing Lanny Bassham's Mental Management system and myself in a fairly dangerous laboratory.
 
In scuba diving there is a golden rule; "Any diver can call any dive at any time for any reason, no questions asked". Scuba diving is fun but there is risk. Any time you feel it is not right to continue a dive you can end it. This past weekend I had a great class even though there was a lot of performance anxiety involved. I'm pretty good with mental things and absolutely stink at anything requiring relaxed and coordinated movement. Okay with numbers but I can not tell left from the other left.

Leading up to the class I had been listening to my head and dealing with issues as they cropped up. I committed to the class in that I would not "wimp out" and try to find an excuse for laziness or being overly self-critical. However, there is a line to be drawn and I faced it Saturday morning.

Like I said, there was a good bit of performance anxiety going into the class. But Saturday, in my dry suit, I tasted some primal fear about this dive. I wanted the class. My instructor, Ronnie Wakefield, is good and I trusted what he had taught us so far. After tasting the fear for a few minutes, trying to see if it was just performance anxiety, I realized this was a totally different flavor. No idea what it was at the time but it was not the same.

So I called the dive. That was tough for my ego but it was the right choice. Ronnie and the other student supported my decision and helped me out of my gear. While they were diving I really worked on understanding where my head was, to understand what caused the fear. Fortunately I have a lot of experience wandering around my brain. The fear I had tasted was not caused by one big thing but several small stressors . I had not dried my gear from the day before and I really don't like getting into clammy cold socks and thermals. I need to replace the too small boots on my dry-suit as they cramp my feet. Some one had mentioned low visibility and the spring was already looking crowded. While the class was a growth step for me, as a good class is, there were several new pieces of gear and new skills that I needed to grasp.

The root cause was the accumulation of discomforts and challenges that my brain knew would cascade quickly. I would not have gotten into the water happy and things would have gone down hill from there. So I kicked my ego aside and called the dive. Once I knew what the issues were I set about fixing them. Cold clothes got put in the sun to warm up. I made a mental note to get with Steve Gamble and talk about dry-suit boot replacement, and I put the memories of yesterday's fun dives to work to hype me up for the afternoon. After lunch I went back inside my head and made sure things were cool. The fear was gone we had a great dive.

Basic lessons: Listen to your fears but don't be consumed by them. Analysis will either clarify the issue or expose the illusion. Mental Management still works; it is not false bravery but cool headed thinking that carries the day.

Are you facing something that needs examination? Do you need to call the dive or are you letting fear rule your decision? What is real and what is illusion?

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