Dive right into the fear - What trying freediving taught me about growth mindset.

Updated: Jun 14

Have you ever curious about trying something new but never put into action because you are scared? Hope my experience will inspire you to embrace your fear and dive right into your next challenge!

This picture was taken close to the end of my freediving trip in Lanzarote, a trip in many aspects changed my life. ( Read more in this blogpost)

As beautiful as this picture turned out to be, the journey to achieve it looks quite the opposite - it was a bumpy, muddy and scary journey. Reflecting on it, I couldn't help but appreicate the courage in the first place to go on this journey and it all came down to 1 word: Growth mindset! ( well, ok, it's two words.. technically)

First thing first, what is ''Growth Mindset''?

A growth mindset, proposed by Stanford professor Carol Dweck in her book Mindset, describes people who believe that their skills and intelligence can be improved with effort and persistence. They embrace challenges, persist through obstacles, learn from criticism and seek out inspiration in others’ success.

On the opposite it's the fixed mindset which describes people who see their qualities as fixed traits that cannot change. With a fixed mindset, talent is enough to lead to success and effort to improve these talents isn’t required: one is born with a certain amount of skill and intelligence that can’t be improved upon.

How do I know which type of mindset do I have?

To demonstrate some traits of each mindset, this comparison chart below will give you a quick glance. Now take a look and give yourself an assessment!

You may wonder:'' This seems pretty straight forward, and everyone nowadays should have a growth mindset. Easy peasy.''

The reality is everyone has a mix of fixed mindset and growth mindset, and enhancing your growth mindset will set you apart from others and facilitate your success in life.

Wait, what freediving has to do with growth mindset?

Fair question, let me share with you my learning about the growth mindset from freediving.

Lesson 1: Becoming is better than being.

Before I ever tried freediving, it took a long way for me to even dare getting into the water without losing my cool. After I finally got the courage to learn scuba diving and got my advanced open water certificate, it took me a few years to feel more comfortable with open water and were able to dive from time to time when I went on vacation. This experience opened a new world to me: the ocean.

Still, i'm a BAD swimmer, and can't stay in the ocean over 8 seconds without a life vest. But on one of the scuba diving I had in paleochola (Crete, Greece) last year, I saw a beautiful woman in a black wetsuit taking pictures underwater just wearing a weightbelt. She's so elegant, free, and as if she's living in the ocean.

No tank, no BCD, no octopus ?! Boom, the beauty of the freedom just blowed my mind. -''I want to become a freediver like her!'' I thought.

A few months later, December 2020, I packed a 1-week carry-on and went on my xmas vacay to Lanzarote thinking: '' I'll just give it a try and see how it goes.''

It ended up from a 1-week vacay to a 3months freediving training where I got my AIDA 3 and could dive to 30meter depth and hold my breath for 5mins straight.

So yes, becoming a freediver is better than being the mountain girl who never dare to try dive in the ocean. Your identify is not fixed, you can design your identify, and work towards to become the person you are inspired to be!

Growth Mindset is dare to challenge your identify.

Lesson 2: This is hard, this is fun.

Learning freediving is HARD, I sucked big time in the beginning. The first few weeks, I just got stuck in 2.3 meter, 1.9 meter while watching other diving buddies went straight to 20meter. '' You are a mountain girl, what would you expect to happen?'' My freediving instructor Sergio always semi-joking at me when I embarrassed myself with each attempted shallow dive.

'' What's wrong with me? Is it because I'm Asian and having a unique oral structure?'' I couldn't help finding flaws in myself and making some self deprecating joke at the same time.

I knew it's not because of the equalization technique I got from scuba diving( which prevent you from freediving deeper than 10meter), I was just scared. I was worried that I'll break my ear drump, I'll hurt my lung, I'll black out.. what if I die...?

Meanwhile, the other side of me, the competitive side, the side always want to embrace the challenge was activated. Every day I lie down at the end of the bed, head down simulating the position in the ocean and practice the new equallization technique, and pushed myself to get into the water even if it's a cold day and I was scared of the cold water.

One day, on one of those wavy day, I felt particular relaxed, while I'm taking in my last breath before diving into the water, I thought '' This is actually so much FUN! '' and without knowing it, I came back with a 15meter breakthrough personal record on my diving computer.

I knew, I made it! Finally!

So yes, it can be a hard journey to arrive your destination, but once you put into the hard work, and start enjoying the present moment, the success will just unfold naturelly.

Growth Mindset is to enjoy the ride even when it's getting rough.

Lesson 3: When your mind is there, your body will follow.

Our mind is so powerful, when you visualize every single details of the goal you want to achieve, your mind will believe it's true and help to lead the action of your body to achieve it in real life.

A month or two into my freediving training, I got stuck again around 25meters and just not able to go deeper. I was baffled and frustrated. I was still doing my equlizatioin exercise, still doing my CO2 table, but why could I not have a breakthrough to 30meter?

I've used visualization in many aspects of my life, but never thought I'd try for freediving. Until one day, right before my meditation routine, a thought occurred to me: '' Why not try this for freediving as well?''

So I sat down and started to visualize every single details of my next dive, from putting on my wetsuit, walking towards the ocean, getting into the water, snokelling to the spot, waiting on the line, preparing my breath up, equalizing, duck dive, finning down, more equliazing, turning, finning up, back to the buoy, recovery breath and telling my buddy ''I'm ok''. As if, I'm already in the dive, as if those moments are embodying from my brain cell to my muscle, my bone, my skin, my heart, my lung and every single part of my body.

Next day, the dive went exactly like I imagined. And, Boom! I went down to 30meter!

Your brain is learning at the background when you keep working hard to overcoming the challenges, even if you don't realize it. Often time, you just need to be paitent and actively build that body-mind connection to materialize it to your reality.

Growth Mindset is to integrate your mind and body fully into the challenge.

Final thoughts:

Look back to the 3months freediving training, I've learned SO much ( for more check out this blog post), and I felt a sense of transformation and a stronger sense of self-awareness. I can't wait to train more and grow further into my new freediver identity.

The fear of diving into deep ocean with just one breath and not be able to come back alive is still in me, but I've learned to embrace the fear by diving right into it. I see that is the essence of growth mindset- believing that by keep learning and challenging yourself, you'll grow to a better version of you