At the age of 61, former long distance swim champion Diana Nyad just attempted a feat that no one else has ever completed – a 103-mile, 60-hour swim from Havana, Cuba, to Key West, Florida. In watching and reading news accounts about her historic effort, I am reminded of what helps anyone succeed in going for their dreams and goals:

  • Take the first plunge – Diana Nyad had a goal and a desire to be the first person to complete this swim, and she chose to make it happen. That sounds simple, and yet, sometimes the biggest obstacle to achieving your dream is your inability to say “yes” to it and take the first step toward doing it.
  • It’s never too late – How many people do you know who lament about what could have been or should have been, if only they had gone after their dream when they were young. Diana Nyad is 61 years old, an age many would say is past prime for any strenuous pursuit. And to top it off, Diana made the decision at the age of 60 to attempt the swim after not swimming competitively for 30 years. What goal or dream have you set aside as a lost pursuit? Look again at what is truly stopping you from going after it.
  • You can try again – There is truth to the adage, “If at first you don’t succeed, try, try again.” Nyad first attempted this swim in 1978 when she was in her twenties. She had to abandon the swim after 40 hours when weather took her off-course. But instead of seeing her dream as a one-time pursuit unrealized, she set her mind to try it again. And while she failed to complete the swim this second time, her decision to try again showed tremendous conviction and determination. Thomas Edison wrote that each failed experiment brought him closer to a big discovery. Think about the lessons you learned from a previous attempt to achieve your big goal. How can that knowledge help you go for it again?
  • Prepare to succeed – Pursuing a big goal or dream is significant in that it usually requires tremendous effort, sacrifice, and focus. Diana Nyad prepared for over a year with extensive training, weightlifting, and practice swims lasting upwards of 24 hours. How can you invest the time upfront to prepare to reach your goal?
  • Have a support network – Not only did Diana Nyad have fans the world over cheering her on and tracking her swim via the internet, she had a team of 22 people traveling by boat with her – monitoring her health, keeping her on course, lifting her spirits, and using special equipment to keep sharks away. Who can help you stay focused on your goal and support you as you go for your dream?
  • Create the environment – Having structures in place that help you stay focused on your goal and motivated to achieve it are essential for success. Diana Nyad used the music of her favorite artists like The Beatles, Janis Joplin, and Bob Dylan to give her inspiration and focus. What can help inspire and focus you toward your goal?
  • Stay positive – In every interview reporters ask Diana Nyad about how she will feel if she doesn’t complete the swim. “I can’t go there,” she said. Although in the end a shoulder injury and asthma complications prevented her from completing the swim, she maintained a positive “can do” attitude which helped drive her. Where may negative self-talk or naysayers in your life be keeping you from going for your dream?
  • It can be bigger than you – Sometimes our dream can inspire others to go for their dreams or to attempt something that they have always been too afraid to tackle. By jumping in the water at age 61 toward a lifelong goal, Diana Nyad’s attempt carried the message she hoped for – “Be engaged in your life – live and live large.” What message will your journey toward your dream send to others?

While certainly watching Diana Nyad achieve her goal would have been amazing, for me and countless others, she won when she took that first stroke toward her goal. May her effort be a catalyst to challenge you to jump into unknown waters in pursuit of your big dreams and goals.
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