No Wind, No Sail

Three Ways to Face Your Difficulties that Make You Stronger

I know this to be true in sailing: no wind, no sail. Sailing is all about the challenge of leveraging the wind and seas in order to enjoy the journey and make it to your destination in good time.

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And I know this to be true in life, as well. No wind, no sail. So here are three ways to leverage life’s winds for your benefit.

Reevaluate Your Assumptions About Difficulties

Funny how so many of us complain when the going gets rough – “Why me? Why, God? It’s not fair!”

Our assumption is that life is suppose to be fair – and by fair, we’re usually referring to nothing painful or bad or too difficult happening to us, especially if we’re good people who do all the “right” things, we’re true to our values, we’re kind and decent people.

But what if that assumption is simply wrong? What is life isn’t about “fair” and “unfair?” What if wind is a nonnegotiable for sailing? What if there were actually another way to frame the events and experiences of our lives? Because the truth is, how we think about things impacts what we experience.

Reframe Your Perspectives On Difficulties

This is where sailing has been so helpful to me. As a sailor, I’ve learned that having wind and waves is what challenges me, it reveals my gaps and strengths in learning and skill, it if dealt with well makes me stronger and more adept at facing obstacles, it tests my resolve, and in the end it causes me to appreciate the destination very deeply.

It’s true – being in the midst of heavy winds and seas gets scary at times. I have my moments of feeling intimidated and concerned. My heart beats faster, my palms sweat, my body tenses with every big wind gust and wave that crashes across the boat. High adrenaline, for sure!

But on the other hand, everyone on board becomes completely focused and mobilized. Everyone pitches in at their station. And in fact, in the end, we’re far more bonded to each other having gone through the storm together and weathered it. Our confidence level in our own abilities and our willingness to trust each other have increased exponentially.

You really can’t call yourself a true sailor if you never sail when it’s windy. You’re a motor yachter not a sailor. Sailing, by its very nature, requires wind and seas. And those are what hone your skills, your confidence, and your collaborative abilities.

Relearn How Strong You Really Are

It’s fascinating and instructive to me that whenever I ask my coaching clients to describe a time in their lives when they experienced the most growth and transformation, they almost to a person bring up a time of crisis and difficulty. Many of them say, “I would not be the deep person I am today had I not had that experience. And it taught me that I am stronger than I ever thought I was.”

A successful sailor becomes that way because she learns how to leverage and use the wind and seas to move forward. Rather than running from them or complaining about them or wishing them away, she uses them strategically. She gets to her destination, not in spite of them, but because of them.

That’s a pretty smart way to go through life, too. I’m working on it. And it’s certainly not always easy. I don’t enjoy pain and difficulty any more than the next person–I’m not a masochist. But I’m persisting because it matters to me; and it matters to me because this reframing is giving me new confidence and new abilities; it’s bringing out new sides of me that I like; it’s shaping me into the kind of person I truly want to be and the kind of life I truly want to live. I learn more about myself in the difficult times. And what I do with that new understanding is what determines how I live in the calm times.

In the end, attitude shapes behavior, and behavior shapes experience, and experience shapes your life.