A sailboat navigates through the open water powered by wind that fills its sails and pushes it forward. So long as the wind is going in the direction you want to go, this system works out great. You glide across the water, skimming the surface, both floating and flying easily towards your destination. But what about when the wind is blowing against you?
If you try to sail straight into the wind, you’ll be pushed backwards, not forward. You can’t sail into the wind head-on. It just doesn’t work. The same forces that propel you forward will take you backwards if you just sit there helpless and at its mercy.
To move forward against the wind, you have to change your strategy and do what is called “tacking,” a zig-zag approach. Instead of facing directly into the wind, tacking involves setting your sails so that the force of the wind takes you diagonally forward, to the left or right of your destination, back and forth, in a zig-zag pattern. You are off course, but moving forward. After you’ve traveled for a bit in one direction, you change to the opposite direction. You’re not headed directly towards your goal, but you are still moving forward. By zigging, then zagging, you are always off course, but always moving forward without getting too far afield of where you ultimately hope to land. Eventually, by shifting your focus back and forth from one side of your destination to the other, you will have serpentined your way forward to where you wanted to go all along. It will take far more time and lots more effort, but you out-wit the winds that were holding you back and get to your goal in the end.
This same principle works for you, too, when you’re trying to move forward against powerful opposing forces that keep holding you back. No matter how hard we work to be our best and make the right choices as we strive forward, the winds of Life are unpredictable. Sometimes they are at your back, helping you along, but other times they are coming straight at you, making each step forward a struggle. You’re not the only one. Steven Spielberg was rejected from film school 3 times. Stephen King’s first novel, Carrie, was rejected 30 times before finding a publisher. Michael Jordan was cut from his high school basketball team, then went home and cried alone. Hugh Jackman was fired from his job at 7-Eleven for talking too much to the customers. Oprah Winfrey was fired from her first job as a TV reporter because she was “unfit for TV,” then kicked off a co-anchor spot on an evening 6 o’clock news program and demoted to morning TV. Walt Disney tried to work for a newspaper, but was fired because “he lacked imagination and had no good ideas.” Do the research, and you’ll discover that everyone who has gone on to achieve great things has had to switch their heading now and then, zig and zag their way into their future.
The key to moving forward in your life is not relying on the winds to carry you along as you hope you get to where you want to be, but in being willing to change directions when conditions on the path straight ahead are holding you back. Is there too much resistance lying in your path? Gale-force winds pinning you in place? Perhaps it’s time to stop forcing your way headlong into the opposition and instead consider new strategies for moving forward. Is this really the job you want? Is this job the only path to your goal? Do you really need to desperately try to marry someone you don’t really love just to have a family when you have the financial resources and supportive network of family and friends to help you go it alone? Is spending the time and money on a college degree really going to get you to a happy, successful career, or should you invest those resources into working for yourself? Is your romance moving forward to marriage and family, or is it time to face your heart in a new direction? Take your eyes off the map you’ve charted and start looking for new routes that can get you around that which is holding you back.
You’re Not Cursed! If staying the course ends up keeping you stuck in the same place, or worse, losing ground, it’s time for some course corrections, maybe several. Stop looking straight ahead and consider going off course, to the left and the right of your goal, zig and zag, so long as it moves you forward!