I love to sail and once had the pleasure of spending a month on a beautiful 42 ft. sailboat in the Sea of Cortez between the east coast of Baja and the west coast of Mexico. Reflecting on that experience got me thinking about some of the similarities between literal sailing and the experience of sailing on the sea of life.
For one thing, specialized skills are required to succeed at either. One requires sailing skills and the other requires life skills.
In the process of living, the winds of circumstance have an unending and ever-changing influence on us. Sometimes our circumstances are like a favorable breeze that make it easier to move in our desired direction. At other times, they require that we make constant adjustment in an effort to stay on course. And much like the wind, circumstances are often beyond our control.
Coping with ever-changing circumstances
A sailor knows that he can’t control the wind. He knows that staying on course as the winds change is only possible if he develops the necessary sailing skills. The higher his skill level, the more comfortable he is when the wind and sea become more challenging. This is especially evident when unexpected storms arise and his very survival is on the line.
We have all been through life storms and we have all experienced the blowing winds of disappointment, despair and heartbreak. Why is it that some people seem to come through these stormy experiences stronger and more empowered, while others suffer varying degrees of damage? What specific life skills will better equip us to deal with these challenging situations?
3 Keys to smoother sailing on the sea of life
1. Life skills and adaptability. When the winds of life change, we need the skill and adaptability to change with them. And we need to be able to do this while maintaining our balance and presence of mind. Like a sailor on a stormy sea, our mastery of advanced life skills will determine how well we fare during times of adversity. The higher our skill level, the more comfortable and confident we will be when circumstances become more challenging.
A slight difference in heading and sail set can make a huge difference when it comes to successfully navigating through stormy conditions. Even a small storm can cause a lot of damage if you have too much sail up. In life, small changes in sail set and direction can either make things a lot smoother or a lot rougher. Life skills and adaptability are what will make the difference.
2. Awareness and foresight. A skilled sailor doesn’t just benefit from his experience and proficiency when conditions change unexpectedly. He also develops a greater sense of awareness that allows him to read conditions and recognize the potential for danger. When he senses that conditions are becoming less favorable, he exercises his foresight to seek the shelter of a safe harbor.
If we are paying attention, our life experiences will allow us to develop a similar sense of awareness and foresight. We will learn to read circumstances and conditions that have the potential to blow us off course or complicate our lives unnecessarily. How much better it is to use our life skills to sidestep a problem when possible, rather than having to deal with adversity that that could have been avoided.
3. An adventurer’s spirit. Every sailor I have ever met has a spirit of adventure. They like to feel the force of the wind (within reason) and they like to pit their skills against changing conditions. Sailing is an exciting activity and that is one of the reasons so many people love doing it. It’s exhilarating to harness the power of the wind.
When we view life with a spirit of adventure and look for the excitement that comes with change, it predisposes us to love life with its endless variety of thrills and challenges. Life is fluid like the sea and the life skills with which we set our sails will have an enormous influence on the quality of our experience.
Facing the storm
The first day of my month long sailing adventure was one I will never forget. We left mainland Mexico at daybreak so we would have plenty of time for the crossing to Baja. Later in the morning, the skipper went below and I took the wheel. I found out just how fast the weather can change once you are beyond the point where you can see land.
The sky grew dark and funnel clouds began to spring up everywhere. These mini cyclones where actually sucking sea water up into the clouds. The wind was getting gusty and the swells where growing. When I woke the skipper up and asked if he had ever seen anything like it before, he took a moment and then said “yeah, but only in books.”
Needless to say, things got very crazy for several hours, and at times we even had waves covering the entire length of our deck. But he was a skilled and experienced sailor and we had a successful crossing with an extremely high level of excitement. After the storm cleared, the rest of my month long sailing adventure was marked by warm days, calm seas, and gentle breezes.
Storms are a fact of life
We all deal with disappointments and challenges. We all have reversals and times when, in spite of our best plans and efforts, things just seem to fall apart. Challenging circumstances are not reserved for any particular group, nor is anyone immune. The rich and the poor have marital problems. The rich and the poor have the same challenges that can lead to financial ruin and personal despair.
In the final analysis, it is not the changing circumstances that will determine the quality of our lives, but rather how skillfully we meet those challenges. If we develop the life skills needed to navigate through life’s storms, we will be in the best possible place to enjoy all the beauty, joy, and excitement that comes with those warm days, calm seas and gentle breezes that life has to offer.
What kind of seas are you sailing on?
What life skills help keep you on course?
The lines are open!
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