Life Lessons From Choking on a Snorkel?

Life Lessons From Choking on a Snorkel?
Snorkeling with a friend at the Great Barrier Reef
Snorkeling with a friend at the Great Barrier Reef

Last summer before I shipped off for an amazing 5 months in Sydney, Australia, I spent a long weekend with my buddies in the Los Angeles area. One of my friends happened to have a family vacation house on Catalina Island – that’s right, Catalina Island, home of the f*ckin’ Catalina Wine Mixer.

We decided to go for a snorkel in the harbor and see what we could find in the beautiful blue waters. After jumping into the water with my snorkel, the water was surprisingly cold and I began to slightly hyperventilate because of this. Hyperventilating while attempting to breathe through a snorkel typically isn’t the best way to go about doing things, so I ended up with a nice, big gulp of seawater and proceeded to nearly drown, much to the amusement of my friends. I don’t blame them for laughing either, as it was a pretty pathetic sight.

After hopping back in the boat and getting my act together, I put the snorkel down and figured that my days of becoming a professional snorkel-er were over (I was perfectly content with that too).

Fast forward a few months, and you (or I) never would have guessed what I was doing… I was now scuba certified and about to take my very first open water dive at one of the world’s most amazing dive spots, the Great Barrier Reef. Oh, and fast forward a few more weeks… I was scuba diving alongside sharks as well as diving through an underwater cave, 30 meters below the water. Pretty hard to believe considering my laughable snorkel incident just a few months prior…

As I was choking up various types of seaweed and saltwater while hyperventilating through my snorkel, I can assure you that the thought of scuba diving at the Great Barrier Reef or diving alongside sharks never even crossed my mind.

Here’s my point – we don’t, we can’t and we will never know what the future holds for us

Snorkeling with a friend at the Great Barrier Reef

Snorkeling (and not drowning!) with a friend at the Great Barrier Reef

And this has been a recurring theme in my life (not the making a fool of myself part, although that also happens quite frequently). But whenever I plan too far ahead or worry too much about the future, I add unnecessary stress to my life that prevents me from living the way I should in the present. And after the fact, I always realize and am reminded that it was foolish and wasteful for me to worry about whatever occupied my mind at the time.

Being in a relationship is another perfect example, at least for me. I’ve been in relationships before and been stressed out from worrying about when I’d be able to see my girlfriend at the time several months down the road. Even worse, sometimes we would talk about our career aspirations and when they didn’t seem to align, I’d stress about that too. What a joke right?! Well, when we broke up only few months later, I realized how stupid that was.

Don’t get me wrong, it’s very important and necessary to think and plan for the future. It’s also very important to set goals and aspirations for yourself, which obviously require you to think about the future.

But when the future gets in the way of the present, when the future causes you to waste the present and prevents you from living in the now – it’s time to let go

Newsflash: you can’t control the future, no matter how hard you try. The only thing you can control is what you are doing right now. The first step in realizing this is mindfulness. We must allow ourselves to realize what is blocking us from living in the moment and what is preventing us from living fully in the here and now. And as we discussed a few weeks ago, here are five questions you can ask yourself to make sure that you are making the most of your time in the present and not wasting it:

Why are you more concerned with where you’re going than where you are?

Why are you more concerned with what you’re going to do than what you’re doing?

Why aren’t you paying attention to how you live your life right this very moment?

Why are you wasting this moment?

Why, indeed, are you wasting your life?

Don’t feel bad, don’t feel guilty. I’ve done it and continue to do it often. However, as with anything, it takes practice and time to master this skill. The more you are aware of your thoughts and worries, the more you are able to control the present and relax and enjoy the time that you have right now.

And here’s the good news – you don’t have to choke on a snorkel first to realize this – I’ve taken care of that for you already 🙂