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Self-Correcting When Life Takes You Off Course

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My husband and I loved to sail. We moved to Washington so we would have more opportunity to cruise the beautiful San Juan Islands.

If you plan on doing serious sailing or cruising, you need to learn the “rules of the road,” must be able to read charts and navigate the waters to avoid hidden reefs and shipping lanes. What is the significance of the different sizes and shapes of buoys? How do we chart a course from here to there while taking advantage of prevailing winds, tides and currents? Without these basics it is easy to get into trouble.

Sailing requires adjusting your sails to the weather and water conditions. The wind is the energy source that propels you through the water and as the wind shifts, your sails need adjusting to maximize power. Sometimes that means zig-zagging a course in order to move forward. When the weather and wind is steady and consistent, you can set your sails and relax. But you need to be alert to changes and be ready to take the helm.

When we cruised using the engine, we would chart a course and activate the automatic pilot. While the automatic pilot could self-correct within a limited predetermined set path, it couldn’t anticipate the unexpected. Although you could relax, you never left the cockpit. You continued to monitor the water and where you were and were ready to take control of the helm when necessary.

Cruising Through Life

Self-Correcting When Life Takes You Off Course | FocusWithMarlene.comWhile there are times when we can put our lives on automatic pilot, we need to take control of the helm to navigate through waters of personal development, careers, raising our families and planning for the future. We need to know where the rip tides are and be able to avoid submerged rocks to find safe passages.

As with boating, life requires knowing where we want to go and how to get there. But it also involves how to prepare ourselves for the journey. We can make our goals and develop a course of action. But if we don’t chart a manageable course, we won’t make it. When the winds of life whip of waves of adversity, we need to know what to do and how to do it.

Life is a series of ongoing problem-solving. Problems are like the wind changing direction or increasing in velocity. We need to slow down, identify difficulties so we can adjust, resolve, move through and beyond.

Anticipating the Unexpected

In boating you learn what to do in anticipation of the unexpected. Unless you are in immediate danger of running aground, crashing into a barrier reef, or being run over by a large ship, correcting the boat’s course usually takes only a small action.

Do the situations in your life require drastic action or some minor adjustments?

If you have panicked in the past when faced with unexpected changes, your first response to any perceived or real danger in the present will be the same. While fear and panic can motivate us to take immediate emergency action, if the situation doesn’t warrant such action you will overcorrect and overcompensate. You become reactive to anything you are not prepared for. Becoming proactive requires changing that first reactive response into a thoughtful evaluation and resolution of the problem.

5 ways to change impulsive reaction to proactive assessment and evaluation

  1. First, know yourself. How have you handled catastrophes in the past? What is your typical first reaction? What worked? What didn’t work? What made it more difficult to take charge of your situation?
  2. Our first response to catastrophes is panic and fear. Resist the impulse to think about how bad it is. Instead, take a slow deep breath and tell yourself, “I am capable of meeting this demand. I will be okay. I will remain calm as I think through options.”
  3. Put in place some basic, simple strategies to use the next time you are faced with a challenge or unexpected tragedy, such as affirming you can handle it no matter what. Reminding yourself, Yes, I can. Who can you call to get some non-emotional feedback and clarification? Will he/she brainstorm options or possible solutions with you?
  4. Look at uninvited challenges as a way to grow and develop your reasoning skills. Refuse to remain in a reactive mode. Focus on the details of the problem. Write down all the parts or characteristics of it. Does this involve a minor correction in your life or potentially a whole new change of direction?
  5. Do whatever is necessary to stabilize your position while you work on finding a long-term solution. After evaluating your options, decide on a course of action and try it out. Remember if it doesn’t work, you can try another approach.

There will be times when you can run on automatic pilot. Just be prepared to take back the helm and correct or change directions when needed.

Marlene Anderson

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