Jumping into the Unknown

by Abby Ford

Earlier this summer I had the opportunity to cross something off my bucket list: snorkeling for the first time. While getting our gear on and listening to safety instructions, the instructors asked how confident we all were in our swimming abilities. I grew up in Florida and spent countless hours in a pool, so I’d say I’m pretty confident in knowing how to swim. The instructors then began to hand out noodles, and I decided to take one as my security blanket, “just in case” I started to struggle. I felt silly taking a noodle, but something just felt right about having it with me. I was completely calm, cool and collected…until that moment when I had to jump off the boat into the dense blue water that was below me.

Normally, we breathe through our noses and our mouths, but when you’re snorkeling, you can only breathe through your mouth into the tube that sits above the water. Let me tell you, this is actually one of the hardest things to get the hang of, and I was feeling #blessed I had my noodle to keep me afloat while I tried to calm myself down. I definitely didn’t think about how I was going to breathe before jumping into the water, so naturally I began to panic after my cannonball.

In those panicked moments, I was surrounded by tons of other people on the snorkeling adventure, but I felt like I was in a scene from one of the shows they have on during the middle of Shark Week. The sea water was a very dark blue, not the blue that you can see through easily, and I started to freak out that something was going to come up and get me at any moment. It wasn’t until I took a few deep breaths and let myself look underwater (with my nifty goggles) that I felt at peace. I looked down and saw a puffer-fish, beautiful coral reefs, and different kinds of fish. It was as if the setting from Finding Nemo was happening right in front of me and I was in complete awe.

This entire experience reminded me a lot of the feelings that we might have when going through change or new transitions. When we take on new roles, we often times feel like we are jumping into a big sea of unknown waters, which can be intimidating and uncomfortable. Whether its council or chapter executive board transitions, or just simply changing the way we complete a task, transitions can be tough and present big learning curves. We want to make sure that we do a good job in this new role or experience, but also don’t even really know what we’re supposed to be doing either.

Having recently gone through a transition myself by finishing graduate school and starting a full-time role at Phired Up, I’ve learned a few different tips and tricks that can be helpful when experiencing newness:



1. Ask Questions. We often hear that “no question is a dumb question” and yet still feel dumb asking questions. Don’t let that feeling get in the way of your curiosity – you need to gather all of the information you can and need to be successful. This is extremely helpful when we actually sit down and have intentional meetings (yes, more than one) with your predecessor. If we want to enact change, we need to be informed about things that have happened previously.

2. Observe Your Surroundings. Take the time to sit and be present in the experience, and fully embrace the newness that surrounds you. Tune into the way that others interact with one another and with you – take note and aim to adjust your communication style so that you can effectively communicate with everyone on the team. The more you know about your peers and surroundings, the better off you will be. Understand the environment you are working in, and challenge yourself to think about how YOU can make it better for everyone.

3. Listening is Key. Taking the time to listen, and truly listen, can be one of the most powerful tools in our toolbox. The largest communication breakdowns and barriers tend to be a result of a lack of listening. Ask yourself, am I listening to understand or am I just listening to reply? Am I invested and present in the conversation I am having? Being open to new ideas and ways of operating are super important when experiencing transitions. We need to take all of the information and advice in, and then figure out what is best for us moving forward.

4. Try to “Fly By the Seat of Your Pants.” Stay with me here. When transitioning into new roles or experiences, we often times feel like a fish out of water and are just trying to grasp at everything we can. When taking on new things, we have to learn to be okay with things not going exactly how we planned, or hitting roadblocks we never could’ve imagined. Remember, everyone is also experiencing newness just like you, so why not have some fun with it together?

Change and transitions can be hard, but I think it is so important that we embrace it. Change often leads to us learning so much more about ourselves and others. Sometimes we just need the extra push to embrace the unknown by grabbing a noodle and jumping right in.