My daughters and I love going to the beach and enjoying the calm waters of the Gulf of Mexico. While my 10-year-old enjoys trying to surf even when the waves are not big enough, my seven-year-old prefers to make sandcastles by my side.

On a recent Sunday family beach day I was set for a relaxing time reading in the shade until my little one lifted her gaze from the sand and, perhaps considering the waves were small enough for her to enjoy, grabbed her body board and ran right into the water. I sprung up and walked on the shore alongside my redheaded mermaid as she kicked away happily in the calm sea. A huge wave that seemed to rise up out of nowhere all of a sudden enveloped her. The sea, my friends, is treacherous even when it seems tranquil—just as life can be.

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I dove in as I saw only the body board float back up. Thankfully, her little hands soon appeared, grabbing on to the board. She pulled herself onto it and started furiously paddling towards me. I could see her lips moving, as if muttering something. When we came together, my daughter hung on to me and said: “Mami, the wave tumbled me.”

“But you were very brave,” I told her. “You didn’t cry and you held on to your board. What were you saying?”

She looked at me open-eyed, her lashes heavy with salt water: “I said ´paddle to Mami, paddle to Mami!´ so I wouldn’t be scared.”

At that moment I realized my 7-year-old daughter knew one of the secrets of success—focus—which she achieved by repeating a mantra.

A few days later I told my sister, who was having some personal difficulties, about the experience. The next morning, she posted my child’s mantra as her Facebook status: “Paddle to Mami, paddle to Mami,” and I knew what it meant: she was focusing on solving her problem.

Now, if ever I feel scattered or scared, I recall my daughter’s determination as she weathered the unexpected waves and I tell myself: “Paddle to Mami, paddle to Mami.” It’s now my current mantra. And in this case I am my own ‘Mami’, because I know that the solution to my challenges is always in me.