There was a woman who lived on the shores of an enormous lake. It was almost 100 miles across, surrounded by beautiful forests and communities. One day, she decided that she wanted to sail to the other side of the lake, so she jumped in her boat, brought some water and sandwiches, put on her life preserver, and set out.
She was happily sailing along, the wind filling the sails, and the little boat picked up some nice momentum in the direction of the shores she intended to reach. About halfway across the lake, the wind died down, and the boat slowed to a stop, bobbing on the waves. She leaned back against the ship's mast, enjoying the warm sunshine and the beautiful scenery as she ate her lunch, waiting out the lull in the wind.
She finished her lunch, and an hour passed with no wind. Occasional gusts would pick up, but in no consistent direction, so the boat was meandering aimlessly. She started to get frustrated, roughly winching in the sails, letting them out again, swinging the boom from one side to the other, trying to catch any wind. "If I can just get these sails filled and get some momentum again, I'll be back on track!" she thought to herself.
She struggled with the sails for another 30 minutes, cursing them and handling them too roughly. She was starting to feel nauseated, as the waves were causing the boat to bob and lean from side to side. She pinched one of her hands in the main sail's ropes, and that was the last straw. She started yelling, "This stupid boat! What a total waste of time! It can't even make it across a lake! The sails are useless! The ropes are completely unmanageable! What a piece of junk!" She ranted and raged on, and finally, in sweaty exasperation, she plopped down on the deck, accepted the fact that she wasn't going to make it to the other shores as planned.
As if right on cue, the winds picked back up, filled the sails, and brought her and her chastised boat right back to the shores she started off from. She tied up the boat at the dock, questioning why she even tried in the first place. "I'm not a sailor, that lake is way too big for me to cross. All that effort, all that time and energy, I should've just stayed here. What was I thinking? What a dumb idea." She arrived home, showered and made herself some dinner, headed to bed for the evening, and gave up the idea of ever trying to cross the lake again.
So many of us have "boat" stories of our own.
We feel inspired to go after something, we work up the courage to dive in, and then something happens, or we run into an obstacle, and we lose the wind in our sails. And then we start to blame the boat. Blame the circumstances, stack up all the reasons why what we wanted isn't happening.
The amazing thing is that EVEN IF the wind isn't blowing your way, and EVEN IF your sails aren't behaving the way you would prefer them to behave, you still can reach the shores you're after.
The story about the woman and the boat is a tragedy. She gave up on her dreams because in her mind, there was only one way to reach the shores on the other side, using the boat she had. She gave up on her dreams before realizing that getting to the shores on the other side would require MORE than what currently was. She never entertained the question of "How do I need to do things differently to arrive at my desired destination?" She never asked the question, so she never arrived at the ideas of taking sailing lessons, purchasing a motor, hiring a captain, driving around the lake instead of sailing across, hitching a ride on a neighbor's boat, and so on.
To achieve X outcome, she thought it would have to happen through Y action. Y didn't work, so she gave up on X. How often do we all do this in our own lives?
It is not about the circumstances we are in that determine whether we lead fulfilling, impactful lives. It is about the version of our Selves that we grow into as we learn to steer the boat, becoming more skilled, knowing sailors. This requires time, energy, focus, intention, discipline, study, determination and singlemindedness.
Most people, however, never step into the boat because they have somehow convinced themselves that the shores are either inaccessible or that they are undeserving of reaching those shores.
I encourage you to consider what your "shores on the other side of the lake" are for you. What kind of life would you love to sail over into? What would you love to see, to do, to be over on those shores?
Those are the most important questions. Define what shores you want to aim your boat at first, don't worry about your sails filling if you don't have a direction just yet.