Wednesday, 30 July 2014

How did William Douglas overcome his fear of water?

When William Douglas finally crossed from one shore of Warm Lake to the other, he shouted with exultation. He had finally overcome his fear of water  - a handicap that had its roots deeply embedded in two childhood incidents. The first incident happened when he was three or four years old. His father had taken him to the beach in California and there the waves knocked him down. The second took place much later when at the age of ten or eleven he was thrown into the deep end of the YMCA Swimming pool at Yakima. The whole story is a lesson for all young people. The message of the Lesson, ‘Deep Water’ is that handicaps can be overcome. But then, the question is how did Douglas do it? Is there something that we can learn from this lesson to use in our own lives? The answer is yes! To understand how Douglas did it, we need to analyse the whole process. I have broken down the whole process into steps with the relevant Headings given below:

What is the secret to Success in Life?

1.Accepting that you have a problem in life: I have a problem, I need to do something!
Many years after Douglas had that terrible experience in the swimming pool at Yakima, he felt he had a problem with water. His handicap prevented him from enjoying outdoor activities like canoeing, fishing, boating and even swimming. He just couldn’t enjoy life as he wanted to. It was then that he realized that he had a problem and he had to do something about it. The first step in learning to overcome one’s handicaps and weaknesses is to accept that one has a problem. For Douglas, this included an understanding of how his childhood experiences had a larger meaning for him. What comes after accepting that you have a problem in life, is to try to identify the root cause of the problem.
2. Taking Help from someone
It was after Douglas had accepted that he had a problem that he decided to take the next step in solving it. The next step required taking help from a swimming instructor. The swimming instructor was an expert and he took Douglas through a rigorous training schedule until, ‘piece by piece he built a swimmer out of (him).’
3. Physical Training - The Process
In this case, I should mention that physical training is relevant where the handicap has a physical context. In Douglas’ case, it was a strong fear of water. The process was arduous enough. The instructor trained Douglas from October to April five days an hour each. The training included tying a rope around Douglas's waist which was wound around a pulley which the instructor slackened and tightened as his student swam to and fro in the pool. Next Douglas was taught to exhale while his mouth and nose were in the water and inhale when his nose came up. Then he was told to hold on to the sides of the pool and kick his legs. The instructor taught him different swimming styles. For students and young people who are struggling with handicaps, this would mean setting up a schedule of work. planning for the days ahead, and sticking to the work schedule. Some of the most successful people like Arunima Sinha the first woman amputee to surmount Mt. Everest stuck to a schedule of processes which would prepare her for her goal.
4.Mental Training – The Process
Some of the most important aspects of training for success include mental training. In the case of William Douglas, it was about developing the mental skills of persistence, patience, and hard work. Success depends on  Intrinsic and extrinsic motivation, a hunger to succeed and a desire to overcome one’s limitations. Most of the successful people we might know have achieved success in life because of their ability to plod over the same areas repetitively. Arunima Sinha kept practicing mountain climbing till she started bleeding from the place where her prosthetic limb joined the stump of her leg. Douglas  repeated his breathing exercise ‘hundreds of times’. While learning to swim in the pool, Douglas describes how, ‘we went back and forth, back and forth across the pool, hour after hour, day after day, week after week.’ Douglas as such had trained himself to be patient and persistent!
5.Doing it On Your Own-Doing it Solo
The next most important thing to do after the period of physical and mental training is over is to Do it On Your Own! Douglas tells us how after the ‘Instructor was finished’, he felt that something still remained. Douglas felt that nagging fear at the back of his mind. He wondered if he would be terror-stricken if he attempted to swim solo in the swimming pool. Therefore, in his own words, ‘I was not finished’. Douglas knew that he had to overcome his fear of water, so he decided to swim solo in the swimming pool. Whenever ‘tiny vestiges of the old terror would return,’ he would frown at it and challenge it and swim another lap!
6.Push your Limits!
Complacency, overconfidence, and laziness are the worst enemies that an aspiring woman or man can have! For William Douglas, swimming solo in the YMCA swimming pool was simply not enough. He just had to push his own limits. For him what mattered was proving to himself that he could do it! Douglas thus went to Lake Wentworth in New Hampshire and he dived from Trigg’s Island and swam to Stamp Act Island. In the middle of the route, when he put his face into the water and could not see the bottom, the old terror returned. He confronted it and it fled. But even this was not enough for Douglas – he just had to push his own limits. Douglas next visited Warm Lake and swam from one shore of the lake to the other. It was only after he had done so, without being confronted by his own fear that he shouted in exultation and the cliffs echoed his shout of joy and achievement. Nothing can beat the joy of having conquered one’s fears and weaknesses to emerge victors in the true sense.

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