Diving Lessons for Life

I made a huge decision (for me at least) to leave my laptop behind on my desk during a recent family diving holiday and enjoyed what I told myself was a much deserved week completely away from work.

It was wonderful! However, opening the laptop once I got back home was like opening Pandora’s box.

I was refreshed, ready to work and motivated, but the harder I worked, the more my to-do list grew and the further behind I got. After only one week back, I was feeling the pang of panic, my sleep was disturbed and I was jumping from one urgent / important task to another without really getting anything off my plate.

I beat myself up with the feeling that I shouldn’t have stopped and marvelled at how impossible it was to get back up to the speed I was operating at before the holiday. It was in a conversation with my supervisor that I realised I had been saying things like, ‘I’m drowning’, ‘I’m underwater’ and ‘I’m struggling to keep my head above water’.

The irony that I’d just enjoyed a glorious diving holiday where I loved having my head deep underwater was not lost on me! I started to think about the differences between choosing to dive deeply and struggling to keep your head above water and the following diving lessons offered a much needed change of perspective!

Always dive with a buddy
I have only ever dived in a group with a guide, but however dives are organised, everyone has a designated ‘buddy’. The ‘Buddy System’ means that divers carefully check each other’s equipment, check for hand signals and agreed communication and basically make sure that any emergency situation can be dealt with quickly, calmly and safely. There is a great deal of trust in this practice as the other person’s life is literally in your hands! Basically, If I don’t make sure my buddy is completely safe and ready to dive, I am taking a disaster-waiting-to-happen deep under the water with me.

For me, the message of looking after those around me was imbalance. This diving lesson reminded me to not only support others, but to define communication channels and clearly ask for what I needed too.

One task as a time and never, ever rush
On our holiday we were caught by a huge thunder and lightening storm that was obviously very dangerous to a group of people wearing giant metal tanks, sitting on a little dinghy in the Mediterranean sea!

Even when the storm was literally crashing all around us and we could barely see through the sheet of rain, no step in the safety process was rushed, cropped or cut. Every step of our preparation and execution was carried out calmly and only one step at a time.

I realised that I was starting a gazillion things and focusing fully on none. I was telling myself that I was multi-tasking, knowing full well that it was about as useful as trying to jump straight in at the first signs of the storm without any preparation – and I don’t think I need to say that that would not go well…

I took the time to run through the information in my “Get a Higher Perspective & Prioritise Your To-Do List” blog and tool, and with a clearer perspective on my to-do list, prioritised tasks and focused all the way through to the end on each.

Review, refresh & renew
As we hadn’t been diving in a few years due to COVID-19, we all had to take a refresher course to discuss and clarify the basics and then remind us of and practice what to do in all eventualities. We were brought back to basics and had a useful review of assumptions and any old bad habits.

What do you do to check back in with the basics and lay safe foundations for any eventualities?

Clear communication
There is no space for blah blah blah underwater. This is an exercise in both stating instructions, questions and needs, clearly and concisely and clarifying answers to fully understand.

The dive guide goes over safety protocol, hand signals and meaning, what to do in any eventuality, what to watch out for and so on before EVERY dive, even if you already dived earlier in the day with the same dive guide. Nothing is left to assumptions underwater.

I was frustrated that the unpacking, laundry and house were still waiting for me and adding another few weighty ‘jobs’ to my list without anyone, myself included, having stated a need and I didn’t listen to understand other’s responses either. Hey presto, ‘have-to assumptions’ immediately busted!

Check air levels, depth and buoyancy constantly
One of the pre-dive protocols the dive guide always includes is the signal for ‘how much air do you have’ with signals for communicating tank amounts and what to do when you notice your air is at a certain level.

The dive guide will also clarify safe depths and remind us all to check our computers or control depth by regulating to the dive guide’s depth.

I had a situation where I was the first to see a very cool Pipefish so I put myself over to one side to wait for the other divers to get a good look at it too. As I was enjoying watching all the fish swimming around me, I hadn’t realised that I had sunk down dangerously low. Luckily the dive guide was able to get my attention and bring me back to a safe level, but I just hadn’t noticed how deep I’d got myself.

It is so easy to fail to notice how deep underwater we really are, until it’s too late and we find ourselves too deep without enough air. What do you do to check your depth and air?

At the beginning of our holiday, one of us used a lot of air very quickly. This means that those of us who were controlling our air well had to finish the dives early. We can only dive as a group as long as the person with the worst air consumption has air.

Most air consumption is used up with rushing around, moving up and down between different depths and inflating and deflating your buoyancy control device (BCG), which is like a vest that you can fill with air. That person learnt quickly to calm their breathing, control their buoyancy and dive as long as anyone else.

This reminded me that, while I might think I’m okay and happy to hold my breath and push on, this has a direct impact on the other people in my life, from clients to close family.

Know when to come up for air
There is a limit to diving and the deeper the dive, the shorter the amount of time we can stay underwater. We have to rest and breath natural air, we have to drink and eat something, check our tanks and equipment with the same buddy precision as before the last dive and ensure that our systems are prepared and resourced for the next dive.

Our human systems need that too! I leapt into work from the moment I woke up to the moment I went to bed and realised I hadn’t stopped for any breaks, except dinner when I was responsible for feeding a family. I believed I was saving time and creating more space to get stuff done.

Once I introduced short, yet complete breaks into my day, I was able to work so much more efficiently and effectively.

Safety stops
Safety stops are where divers come up to a depth of 5m and stay at that level for 3 minutes. This not only allows the body to slowly and safely release the build up of nitrogen that collects in the blood, but also reminds divers to look out for any obstructions to their ascent.

One of the frustrating things about taking breaks for me is losing the flow and having to spend time getting back to where I left off.

Safety stops reminded me to take a moment between work and breaks to put things in order and prepare my working environment to return to. Hey presto, no backtracking and wondering where I was or where that pesky document had got to!

Keep a logbook
Divers keep a log book of all their dives to include the area, dive site, depth, conditions and things observed there.

I was so busy that I didn’t have time to journal. Journaling is such a powerfully quick, easy and cheap way to clear the head, pin thoughts and ideas down for further reflection and start to understand programmes and tabs that have been subconsciously open and running in the background.

What I’m doing, how and why suddenly makes sense and who doesn’t need more of that?!

Take only photos, leave only bubbles
This diving mantra is a lesson in staying conscious and aware in every area of my life and applies as much to my environmental, emotional and energetic footprint on land as to the sea!

And a great way to show up in life like this is with the help, support and guidance of the lessons from diving above.

So the next time you feel yourself underwater, choose whether to hold your breath and panic or kit up safely and go diving.

All the best,