As 2012 comes to a close, many swimmers take stock of their achievements during the year.

Some swimmers, however, will focus a bit more on their failures (real or perceived), missed opportunities, unexpected situations and all kinds of “what if” scenarios.

In either case, most swimmers optimistically and ideally consider what is possible in the New Year. The slate is clean, the start is new, the possibilities are real. A swimmer’s goal can range from participating in their first official open water swimming competition, swimming without a wetsuit, doing an ice swim, or attempting a marathon swim.

The first step is not the first arm stroke. The first step is thought.

As channel swimmers often describe their discipline, “Our sport is 80% mental.” And, in our opinion, thoughts are the first, most enduring and most important parts of open water swimming. Thoughts are how we conceive a swim, how we perceive its progress, and how we enable ourselves to achieve our goals.

As Dr. Mariusz Wirga, creator and leader of the Beat the Odds program, explains, “The brain is a blind organ. It will obey any sincere thought that you may have and will respond with an appropriate emotional reaction to that sincere thought. The brain interprets your words literally, and then uses them to direct mental, emotional, physiological, and behavioral responses. The words we use both internally (our thoughts) and externally (our speech) have the power to change the way we experience our world in dramatic ways.”

Read about the exploits of Lynne Cox, Lewis Pugh or Marcellus Wiley. Watch videos of Trent Grimsey, Ous Mellouli, Stephen Redmond or Eva Risztov. Listen to your friend who did a triathlon or a neighbor who completed a 10K charity walk for the first time. Their enthusiasm, commitment and sense of accomplishment is uplifting and motivational.

They describe their difficulties, hurdles and hardships with clarity and raw emotions. Their road to success is fraught with problematic physical, financial, logistical and climatic issues. They never achieve their goals through a straightforward, easy or quick route. But their counter-balance those descriptions and a minefield of obstacles with a deeply felt joy and self-satisfaction that is inspirational.

Their choice of words to their audiences is not only motivational to others, but also a strong internal affirmation of their own chosen goals. As Dr. Wirga explains, “Words of a [good] story may affect you profoundly, but no words are more powerful than those that you say to yourself. No orator can impress or persuade you as well as you can do it for yourself. You cannot escape the continuous flow of words through your mind, or the impact they have on you.

Convince yourself that 2013 will be an outstanding year for all kinds of open water swimming opportunities. The time is now. The choice is yours.

You set your own limits,” as Marcellus Wiley says. “It’s your turn now.”

Copyright © 2012 by World Open Water Swimming Association