Whenever possible, say yes.
In the last few years of my journey toward better overall health one thing has guided many of my choices. When faced with a hard decision, I just say yes. More often than not, the things I’ve said yes to are the things that have helped me grow into who I want to become. Like I always tell my kids, you’ll regret the things you don’t do way more than the things you do.
That lesson was put to the test a few days ago.
I spent some time with my family at an amazingly picturesque lake in British Columbia. It’s in a small town that attracts big crowds in the summer. But it’s a perfect winter getaway to socially distance yourself and connect with nature. That’s especially true because of Canada’s strict quarantine rules which we followed to the letter.
When safe to do so we ventured out to explore the province, passing the sprawling lake almost daily. Drawn to its beauty I couldn’t help but wish the weather called for a refreshing leap into the lake to cool off. Yet, the thermometer consistently hovered just above freezing and the rain was often relentless. Toward the end of our stay, it wasn’t the weather calling...it was my family.
My wife started talking about going for a swim in the icy 34-degree water (1-degree Celsius). At first, I thought it sounded crazy. However, the more we talked about it, the more my 9-year-old daughter started warming up to the chilly idea. So I encouraged her with my standard line about regretting the things we choose not to try.
That’s when I realized I was talking to myself.
Eventually, we all came to the conclusion that we would embark on our first family polar bear plunge despite not having proper swimsuits, experience doing such a thing, or much of an educated idea of how to survive this endeavor.
After some quick googling for safety tips and rummaging through suitcases for something to swim in, we soon found ourselves on the beach staring into the unknown. So many questions rushing through our minds. How cold will it feel? Is this safe? What the hell are we thinking? WHO IS GOING FIRST?
It was my wife and daughter’s idea so they continued to lead the charge, splashing their way into the water with screams of joy, fear, exhilaration, and excitement. As quickly as they were in, they were out. Hypothermia sets in after about 2 minutes in those conditions, less for little ones so this was never going to be a lengthy dip.
Next, it was my turn with my 5-year-old daughter. I didn’t hesitate. Not because I’m some brave, macho dude. I didn’t hesitate because if I did, I would talk myself out of it. So my jackets and shirts were tossed aside and I lumbered my way to and eventually leaped into the ice water. My 5-year-old dipped her toes in and ran to a dry towel. She may be the brains in the family.
I should mention I am no stranger to the cold. I take cold showers almost daily. It’s part of my routine when I can stick to one. However, to say that prepared me for this experience would be complete bullshit. When 34 degrees surround your skin there is a brief moment of panic. It only lasts a fraction of a second but at that moment, time like my body was frozen. I didn’t know which way was up, if I was frozen or on fire or how the hell I was going to get out. But soon I remembered where I was and what I was doing and rushed back to warmth and safety.
We had so much fun that moments later we jumped back in just because we could. It was a unique end to a unique trip. That crazy idea will likely be one of the times we look back on as a moment that deepened our bond and strengthened our family. It is proof that scary and challenging things can be done and will make you stronger. It is also proof that sometimes overcoming those challenges is a little easier when you have support and encouragement to take them on.
It’s also proof that most of the time you’ll regret the things you don’t do more than the things you do. So, when faced with a hard decision, whenever possible, say yes.