On the fourth of July, 1952, Florence Chadwick attempted to swim the saltwater channel from Catalina Island to the California coast, a distance of 26 miles.
Florence had several dangerous enemies. One was the cold water. But she was no stranger to the cold. She had already crossed the bone-chilling English Channel in both directions. Another challenge was the sharks, which had to be driven away with rifle shots. But on that particular morning, Florence had a far more daunting enemy.
After 15 hours in the water, a thick fog set in. Despite all her experience and training, Florence began to doubt her ability. The fog had a demoralizing effect on her. She swam for another hour and then asked to be taken out of the water. Sitting in the boat, she learned that she had stopped swimming just one mile from the coast. She had covered 25 miles, but the disorienting blanket of fog defeated her.
Later, she said, “If I could have seen land, I might have made it.” She was not beaten by fatigue, by cold, or even sharks. She was beaten by the fog. Why? Because she couldn’t see her goal.
Two months later, Chadwick made another attempt. The same thick fog set in, but this time was different. Florence succeeded in reaching the coastline. What made the difference? Florence said that she kept a mental image of the shoreline in her mind, which helped her ignore the thick fog, maintain her focus, and reach her goal.
Have you ever noticed that the greatest burst of energy comes when a runner rounds the corner and sees the finish line, or when the athlete looks at the clock and sees only seconds remaining in the match or game?
It is the same in life. When we are weary from the struggle, it is often because we have lost sight of our goal. We no longer see how our day-to-day activities are connected to achieving our big goals. It is easy to get lost in the fog of daily minutia. Define your goal and stay focused. Anticipate barriers, challenges, and unpleasant surprises. Don’t get discouraged. Allow yourself to succeed by keeping the big picture in your mind and do not get bogged down by daily tasks. Stay true to the course and you will reach your target even when it is obscured and seems impossible.
This lesson has been excerpted from our award-winning 52 Leadership Lessons book. If you enjoyed this lesson and would like to read more, including additional insights and action items related to each lesson, please click here to purchase your own copy.