"If you do not change direction, you may end up where you are heading."
- Lao Tzu
Sailing was a favorite pastime when I was younger. I crossed the channel between Long Beach and Santa Catalina Island - in daylight and moonlight, in smooth seas and bad weather. Letting the wind carry me always took longer than riding the commercial power boats that pushed through the waves at high speed, but I enjoyed the company of friends and the more intimate connection with the ocean. As a teenager, I learned basic navigation skills and took my turn at the helm (or rudder) to keep the boat on course so that we'd make it to our destination whether it was Avalon, Moonstone Beach, or the Isthmus. It wasn't difficult using a compass, but staying on course required vigilance and experience handling the boat to maintain our direction despite the push and pull of the wind and water. It was even more important to stick to our charted heading at night when both the mainland and the island would disappear from sight as we cruised through the darkness of a cloudy winter night on the Pacific.
My life has required the same vigilance in terms of staying on course. I've had to remember that I'm at the helm - the one with the power to make small course corrections that keep me moving in the direction of my dreams, or to take my hands off the wheel and let life carry me where it will. There is nothing wrong with either choice. It's just that when I let myself get too far off course, I get frustrated by the extra time it takes to get where I'm going.
Celebrating Valentines Day this weekend reminded me how grateful I am for my Beloved and how critical it is to constantly make course corrections to keep our relationship moving in the direction we want to. I sank two marriages by not paying attention to my heading and steering into treacherous waters; there was no longer enough time to turn around and only enough time for us to jump ship. I learned a couple of things from these earlier "shipwrecks". First, is simply to be sure that my partner and I are actually navigating to the same place. It's heartbreaking to find out you've been travelling together to different destinations and that neither wants the same things from life or relationship. Just as important is to stay at the wheel - making course corrections by communicating, nurturing, and paying attention. Most of us (myself included) have been guilty of putting our relationship on "auto pilot" so that we could do other things. When we return to the helm, we find that we're miles away from where we intended to be and that it's going to take a lot of time and effort just to get back to where we started so that we can move forward again.
The principal of staying on course applies to every aspect of my life - health, finances, writing. It's so much simpler to get where I'm going when I take responsibility for getting myself there, one day at a time, instead of constantly circling around trying to get my bearings. So I'm committed to paying attention this year and making small course corrections so I arrive at the places I want to visit in the months and years ahead. I'm writing. I'm coaching. I'm learning. I'm teaching. I'm taking care of myself. And I have a lover who takes the helm when I need to rest and is as committed to the same journey I am.
What destination(s) are you headed for right now? What small things can you do consistently to keep yourself on course so that you don't have to turn back or make a major course correction later on? Are you letting anyone else take the helm and steer you away from your dreams?