Yesterday I was on a raft in the middle of a friend's pool and the three big kids were happily swimming around. To keep things interesting, I decided to throw out a challenge to Aiden.
"Hey Aiden," I said casually, "I'll give you two dollars if you jump off the diving board and swim all the way to me."
Instantly, the light went off. This is the kind of challenge that he might ordinarily turn down without much thought. However, this time there was money involved and he wanted the money so much that the fear typically involved got pushed to the back burner.
He gulped hard and thought it through. Staring at the board and then looking at me on the raft he began his bargaining. "How about I swim to you right here," he suggested pointing a few feet closer to the board.
"I know you can do that Aiden. You can do that for a practice swim, but if you want the money, you have to swim to me."
He went back and forth with me a few more times and finally decided to do it. He was nervous but the swim was no problem. I thought there was no time like the present to offer a bigger challenge.
"Great job Aiden! I'm so proud of you. Do you see how easy that was? I'll tell you what, if you can swim from the diving board all the way to the other end of the pool without touching the sides or the bottom, I'll give you three dollars instead of two."
Here's where the battle began. Not between me and Aiden but between Aiden's fear and his desire for the money. He stood at the end of the pool crying, yelling, debating, and pondering for several minutes. The struggle was so real, so emotional. Nothing was held back. He wanted so badly to earn that money but he was scared out of his mind to swim that distance.
It was amazing to watch the physicality of such a mental struggle. And then, after several minutes, he threw caution to the wind and jumped in. The first time he came up for air I saw the panic in his face. I could tell that he was looking at the far away goal thinking he would never reach it.
I jumped off the raft and joined him in the swim. "You're doing great buddy! Keep swimming. You're getting closer." His look of fear changed to one of determination. Before long he reached half way. "Go Aiden! Go Aiden!" I began to chant. Mackenzie and Dawson soon joined the cheer.
And then he was there. He touched the first step and stood up in total amazement of himself. I scooped him up and spun him around while we all cheered. He was panting, but elated. He had done it.
I felt privileged to witness his struggle. I felt proud that he won. I feel that watching his struggle is the impetus I need to take on a challenge of my own.
When was the last time you did something you were genuinely afraid of - something you thought was impossible? I think it's time I did. Anyone want to dangle three dollars in my face?