I watched in amusement over and over again as my 9-year-old daughter, Rose, repeatedly climbed the tallest diving board at the local community pool. She made it all the way to the very edge of the diving board platform. She even plugged her nose, edging and swaying to ready herself for the jump. She would get SO close to jumping… and inevitably decided to turn around and go to the back of the line again.
We were all cheering for her – family, friends, and strangers alike. It’s exciting to watch people take their first big leap! We watched in anticipation, smiling, and saying, “You can do it!” And we would all let out a disappointed sigh when she turned back around to the beginning again.
The first jump off that diving board is the hardest, of course.
Rose told me the reason why she “chickened out” was because when she looked down at the clear water, she couldn’t judge the distance to the water surface. It was that uncertainty which made her hesitate – over and over again.
She kept trying, nevertheless. But she has yet to make the plunge.
Rose went back to the line of divers a few more times, watched from behind while others (including her baby brother) made their carefree leaps and plunges off that tall diving board into twelve-and-a-half-deep water below. What I found curious is that it really wasn’t fear that made her turn back every time… it was UNCERTAINTY. Her brain couldn’t visually judge how high she was, so there she stood, looking down, ready and wanting to plunge, but hesitant because of that uncertainty. She wanted to KNOW – to be sure.
Rose WANTED to jump. She watched all the other kids doing it. They seemed so carefree. They were having fun! I can imagine her thinking:
Are they all just braver than I am?
Am I just a chicken, being silly not to jump?
Or are they the foolish ones?
Why aren’t they scared like me?
Rose, the reason why all those other kids are jumping over and over with confidence is because:
IT IS NOT THEIR FIRST DIVE.
Everyone feels the same way the first time they take the plunge. It’s scary! Looking down into that water there are many uncertainties:
- How long will it take to hit the water?
- Will it hurt?
- Will I be able to hold my breath long enough to get back to the surface again?
All these uncertainties YOU CANNOT KNOW – UNTIL THE PLUNGE IS MADE.
We can have all the information we need to make decisions. Research all we want. But in the end, we stand at the edge of the diving board looking down at the deep dark water, and at that moment we realize there is still so much that we don’t know. And how can we make that last step off the diving board when we feel so much uncertainty?
It’s all up to the individual.
Some people spend their whole lives looking down at the water, trying over and over, testing their courage, but they never do take that last step off the edge.
Some people make that decision to dive in, and from that point on in their lives the unknown is gone, and they gain wisdom from it. They proceed to cheer others to take the plunge at that point, encouraging them because they have the wisdom in knowing “it’s going to be okay!”
And then there are some people who look off the edge of the board into the waters of the unknown. They stare down, shake their heads deciding “I can’t do it,” turn away, and choose to never try again.
I know Rose will make the decision to step off the edge of that diving board eventually.
Sometimes it takes several visits to the edge, but after enough time, you have to just say, “this is it!”
You’ll just never know what it feels like until you close your eyes, take that last deep breath, and jump!