How to keep moving forward in the face of challenge

How do we keep moving forward when faced with challenges?

If you are a fan of Disney Pixar films then you will most likely have seen the 3D animated movie ‘Finding Dory’, which was the long awaited sequel to the 2003 hit ‘Finding Nemo’. And what does this have to do with it anyway!

In Finding Nemo, when Ellen DeGeneres’ character Dory tries to encourage Nemo’s father to keep his faith that he will find his son, she tells him ‘When life gets you down, you know what you gotta do? Just keep swimming!’

And what a great piece of advice that turned out to be; for Dory, for Nemo, his father and his friends.

Regardless of whether or not you were excited to see the Dory movie, or you are one of the few people who have not seen Finding Nemo, there is a lot we can all take from Dory’s one line reminder.

What a helpful metaphor we can all remember and apply in life, to help us keep calm and continue to move forward in whichever area of our lives we want to focus on, despite whatever challenges we face.

Not always easy to do, but there are definitely some situations when we can all remember to ‘Just keep swimming’:

When we feel overwhelmed. When it seems like there are a million things to do or a thousand things coming at us all at once and we feel like we will never get them all done, we can often feel that we don’t even know where to start, and that’s when we tend to do nothing or procrastinate. When this happens we can apply skills to focus on the most important thing or the thing that is just in front of us right at that moment and just do that.

We can take one step in any direction and we will move from procrastination or overwhelm to action. When we take action in any direction the overwhelm eases. Just keep swimming.

In the midst of chaos. When chaos is all around us, and everyone seems to be losing their heads, we can keep ours by focusing on the present moment and using our physiology in many ways especially through breathing. In our PLS Early Childhood Wellbeing Program we encourage young children to say to themselves in their minds ‘1 Hippopotamus, 2 Hippopotamus, 3 Hippopotamus, as they breathe in and ‘1 Hippopotamus, 2 Hippopotamus, 3 Hippopotamus’ again as they breathe out. When we are in fight and flight mode us bigger kids can use the same theory too. Slow deep breaths in and slow deep breaths out can help us to stay calm, and the counting helps us to re-engage the logical thinking part of our brain that gets overtaken when we are in fight flight mode. Keep breathing, focus on the present moment, and just keep swimming.

When we have a big goal. Maybe we signed up for a long distance charity bike run, or a 5km walk or 10 km run, or we want to lose what seems like a lot of weight, or we have decided to take on a big study project. Sometimes we have goals that we really want to achieve but today they seem a very long way away from achieving, and there seems like an almost insurmountable amount of work between here and there. If we remember to just keep walking, or pedalling, or taking small action steps day after day, and we focus on going just a little bit further than yesterday, we will get closer and closer to achieving what we seek. Just keep swimming.

When we don’t know what to do to help someone else. Sometimes other people in our lives are facing huge challenges, and we can feel powerless to know what to do to help. Just letting someone know you are there is taking a leaf out of Dory’s book. Just be there, listen, be honest and tell them you don’t know what to say or do to help if that’s the truth, and that will still be a help. Just moving forward in your own life is being a role model to others and tells them that if you just keep swimming, you will be ok.

When we feel that a situation is hopeless. When something in our life seem hopeless, like it will never be fixed or over, or we can’t seem to see forward to a time when things will be how we might want them to be, we can choose to just keep getting up and showing up, in that moment or on that day. Whatever emotion we are feeling, we can remember that ‘this too shall pass’. We can remember that we will never make a permanent decision based on a temporary emotion.

So how can we keep moving forward despite whatever challenges come our way? We can just keep swimming.

“You may encounter many defeats, but you must not be defeated. In fact, it may be necessary to encounter the defeats, so