06 Feb How Swimming In The Five Oceans Helped Bhakti Sharma Find Her Resistance
Bhakti Sharma is an Indian Open water swimmer. At aged 25, Sharma became the first Asian woman and the youngest in the world to set the World Record in open swimming in Antarctic waters by swimming 1.4 miles in 41.14 minutes, at a temperature of 1 °C. She first swam the English Channel aged 16, and then repeated the endeavour as one half of the first mother and daughter to complete the English Channel together. She has swum challenges in all five oceans, and is still only 29.
Sharma has faced the external dangers whales, sharks, and jellyfish, as well as extreme cold and density and even salinity of the water, but she recognises the internal demons or that negative Self Talk as the most dangerous, and her main battle to build her resilience and find herself.
In her recent TED Talk, Bhakti Sharma explains that despite the intense preparation for her record-breaking swim in the Antarctic Ocean, she was almost mentally overwhelmed right at the beginning because she was not prepared for the density of the water so it felt like swimming through oil.
She says: “And in the first five minutes, I had that paralyzing thought of just giving up. How nice it would be to just forget about all this, get on the boat, stand underneath the hot shower or wrap myself in a warm blanket? But with that thought, also came a stronger, a more wilful voice from deep within. “You know you have it in you to just take one more stroke.“ So I lifted my arm and took a stroke. “Now one more.” So I took a second and a third stroke.”
As she persevered, a penguin swam under her and then alongside. Sharma says it felt like the penguin was cheering her on, and her Inner Voice confirmed to her this achievement was meant to be. She could do it.
Bhakti explains the loneliness of open swimming when she cannot hear and only see just in front of her, and the focus on her thoughts becomes vital to ensure her Self Talk shuts out the doubts, the negativity, the criticism from other people. This awareness of her thoughts, and her Internal Compass which guides her thoughts and attitude to determine her actions and success is the key to her resilience. Sharma’s Internal Compass is basically the Taxi Driver which our director, Heather Wright talks about on our courses. That voice within which leads you to behave the way of your most ingrained and powerful thoughts.
And whether you are swimming in the sea or ocean, or preparing to deliver a vital presentation, focusing on your positive thoughts empower you to be your best self, and build your resilience against external negative factors. Bhakti recognises that life can throw many different challenges so being your best self changes.
“What does not change is that voice within. That internal compass which guides me to a better self every day.”