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Sailboats and Winds

March 4, 2012

I recently posted on social media that I kept a goal list and visited and revised it regularly. After a bit, a reader responded and said that, although he was embarrassed, he didn’t know how to do this and wondered if I would share.

Just from talking with others through the years, I knew that a lot of our frustrations in life come from not following through with those things we know we should or are called to do. It is only more recently that I’ve also learned that a good percentage of the frustration results from paralysis. Some really don’t know how to start so they don’t. And there they are.


I love to sail. I’m still quite new at it, but I do love it. There is a beauty in the movement, in working with the sails and the tiller, in the heel, or tilt of the boat, away from the breezes. And I continue to learn the skill of sailing. It is a moving meditation for me.

Wind is enigmatic. You can feel it, but you can’t see it. You see the effects of it. Tree limbs sway, leaves blow across the yard, your hair is whipped about.

This is how a lot of us move through life. When the winds blow, we are taken along in their flow, moved about at their whim. When they change direction, so do we. And sometimes they are still and we catch our breath.

When you learn to sail, you discover that while the winds are your engine, your power, they are not determinative of your direction. Of course the wind must be factored into everything you do. But you determine your destination, set your course, and then work with the sails and the rudder to end up where you set your sights. If the winds are right, you might be able to sail a straight course. More often than not, then winds are not blowing in your ideal direction or at the desired speed. A good sailor will sail in one direction across the winds, then change directions, in a zig zag fashion, tacking back in forth, sailing indirectly against the wind. Yes, the wind powers the sailboat, but doesn’t control it.

In goal setting, we generally do things backwards. We treat goals like New Year’s resolutions in which we hurriedly sit down and make a to do list before midnight hits. And then we bemoan our lack of discipline come March when the list is mostly unaccomplished and lies dormant until the next December 31st.

In goal setting, you first search yourself and determine your core values. What are the things about which you are the most passionate? How often do we think about these things? Can you list yours?

If not, then the winds just carry you along.

After you know your core values, what are your priorities in life? I’m talking about the major priorities of your life. Literally list them. Now, compare your priorities with your core values and you should find that your priorities are extensions of your core values. If not, then you need to reexamine both lists and see which needs to be revised. You see, your priorities in life should match up with who you really are, what you’re really about, and what you are called to do.

Core values and priorities matched up? Good.

Now you can begin to daydream and scribble down what it is you should be doing in life. And what you should be doing should be in alignment with your core values and your priorities.

If not, then the winds just carry you along.

What kinds of winds? Financial winds. Relationship winds. Career winds. Artistic winds. Spiritual winds. All sorts of winds. If we don’t have a grasp of our own core values and priorities, how can we choose a significant other or a vocation or decide what to paint or write? We chase a dollar or an unhealthy relationship at the first breeze. We become a chameleon, allowing the whims of the world to determine our colors.

See, it is only after you know your core values and your major priorities that you can begin to figure out how to live in accordance with them. YOU determine these things rather than having them imposed upon you. You determine which things and people align with your values and priorities.

This is when you begin to make your goals. Which, of course, take you in a direction consistent with your values, priorities and choices.

It is very much like sailing. You determine where it is you wish to end up, develop the skills and experience to maneuver with and against the winds, tacking and jibing, trimming the sails as needed, always keeping an eye on the ultimate goal. Otherwise, you just let the winds take you where they will and you spend days upon days just hoping that by some chance you’ll either end up where you’re supposed to be or at least some place you can be content.

And just like sailing, you revisit your values, priorities and goals to make sure still heading in the right direction. Sometimes goals are accomplished and new ones are set. Sometimes as we grow and mature our goals and priorities are modified. Sometimes storms blow in and we have to deal with emergencies that change our values and priorities. But we don’t abandon ship.

And one of the beauties of this is that you can start right this minute. You can begin your voyage on this particular day at this particular time. Daydream. Muse. Ponder. Wonder. Dream big, as big as you are. Find your life, fulfill your life, live your destiny. Let’s set sail.

Tip of the Week – One of the best pieces of advice for artists, creatives, and spirituals I’ve heard is to get up early enough in the morning to have your time before you give your time away to the world. Poet extrordinaire, Molly Peacock, said that your email and social media and electronics can wait until 10 a.m. I know this sounds crazy in our rabidly connected world but it’s true. Get up and have quiet time to put words on a page while the sleepy subconscious still has some control of your reins. Meditate. Pray. Make notes on your core values and priorities. Just get centered before you begin the day and give your time to others.

Quote of the week – “Twenty years from now you will be more disappointed by the things that you didn’t do than by the ones you did do. So throw off the bowlines. Sail away from the safe harbor. Catch the trade winds in your sails. Explore. Dream. Discover.” Mark Twain

Need help or a partner to get your creative juices going, or someone to help you with your writing or to review your drafts? Work with Terry Price at

Coming up in March and April –
March 30th – Finding your Story and Writing It, a three hour event with Terry
Willow Oak Center for Arts in Education
Springfield, Tennessee

Need an artistic or life retreat?
April 19th through 22nd – MagicTime, A WriterSpace Retreat with Terry and Carolyn Flynn (
Penuel Ridge Retreat Center
Ashland City, Tennessee

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