Riding The Gentle Waves
I was thinking about going out and renting a rowboat today, perhaps paddle around in a beautiful reservoir that’s about 45 minutes from my house. It has a fairy-tale-feel and in the center of the dam made of beautiful stone is a very Rapunzel-like tower.
But not today. Today it’s stormy. The waves are up, the water’s choppy. There’s the possibility of lightning and thunder. There’s danger on the water.
Being on the water demands responsibility and respect for the natural forces of waves and wind. Those looming thunderheads aren’t going to spare you. You’re in the path of the storm.
What, You Thought This Would Be Simple?
Storms can be quite horrifying. The waves can be deadly. But we’re talking here about your very own ‘life-waves’. Depending on your attitude waves can be little or they can be gigantic Empire-State-Building tall. Huge, Mount Fuji tall. Those waves can take your little boat and smash it like a matchstick. They can lift your boat all the way to the crest and then grind it against the corals.
Or they can gently lap against the sides of the boat until you’re lulled into quiet rest.
What kind of wave can do that?
It’s the wave of conscious choice. It’s a wave of self-generated emotion that either you release and allow or you fight and ride to your doom. Either way, it’s a wave of your own making. The events in your life generate the waves, but you decide their impact.
Waves are power. They change, shape, move, create, destroy. They are an analogy to the periodic happenings in life that propel you, that move you. What few people realize is that the shape of the wave, the frequency, the height – these things are determined by many factors: the depth of the water, the shape of the seabed as the wave moves over it, even the pull of the moon or sun.
People forget that they possess the ‘lay of the land’ that determines their wave’s height; they possess the ability to determine just how powerful that wave of emotions can be.
Big Waves? Small Waves? No Waves?
Making sense out of the buffeting of your waves is no easy task to take on. One of the unfortunate things that waves can do is make you seasick. Very seasick. There’s nothing worse than looking at the wave that’s going to smack you and throwing up all over your rain gear. Okay, maybe it’s better to throw up on your rain gear than your other clothes but nobody likes to vomit. Worse, to vomit out of fear only to have that billion-pound wave beat the heck out of you.
Hmmm, let’s see. Vomiting with crushing waves about to pound you or gentle lapping waves making you sleepy and happy? That’s a no-brainer.
Choosing To Balance On Your Waves
Waves are proportional. They have undeniable power. They can sweep you off your feet when you’re just standing on the beach. What can you do to prevent those mighty waves from sweeping you out to sea?
As my therapist says it, you can do three things: ignore it, change it or accept it.
Wise, very wise. If you ignore the wave, you can be pummeled. If you change the direction of the boat’s prow, you can make it through the wave. If you accept it, then you know the wave is inevitable but you don’t have to like it. And if you don’t like it? Change it. In any case, the choice is yours. The wave is coming whether you like it or not. The wave is big unless you decide it isn’t. The wave is powerful unless you deny it power to affect you. The wave is destructive but only if you accept and allow the destruction.
When we make the decision to change the way we deal with the waves and not the waves themselves, that’s acceptance. That’s realizing that if you know how, you can survive the wave. If you know how, you can change course to avoid the worst of it. If you rob the wave of its power, it cannot make you founder.
And there are ways to make this happen. Of course, it’s a lot of work. Have you ever rowed a boat in choppy water? It’s no easy task but if you work really hard, you’ll get to the dock. If you just sit there in the boat, you could end up in a strange land without a paddle.
You Can’t Make It Alone
It takes someone to help you move the tiller on your boat when you’re in a storm. If you don’t have help, you’re facing overwhelming odds that you’re going to sink the ship, not make it to harbor. If you don’t prepare for storms by learning how to sail, by wearing a life vest, by having your emergency kit ready, then what do you expect to happen?
You’ll be sunk. Davy-Jones’-Locker sort of sunk.
Listen to the people trying to help you. As long as they’re qualified and you’re willing, you can tie yourself to the mast and escape from the sirens.
But you have to have goals, smart goals, goals that mean getting to shore in one piece. Getting the ship into port whole and not in a million splinters.
You can do it.
Here’s The Material For Your Lifeboat
Okay, this is the twenty-first century. You’d think we would come up with a material that’s better than wood with which to make a boat. But wood does something you need a boat to do; it bends.
Those waves push you all over the place. The come at you relentlessly until the storm has passed. And if your little boat is made of glass, it will sink. If it is made of metal, it will sink. If your boat sinks you don’t come home for chowder.
Smart goals are your wood. When you make smart goals, they happen. And bit by bit, just like building a boat, a larger form begins to take shape. Slowly the sides and bottom are completed. Before you know it the mast goes up and then you can lash those beautiful, billowing sails that majestically bring you forward out of the gale and into the safety of port.
And This Is The Checklist To Make Smart Goals
The list is self-explanatory but let me expound on one thing: the single most important element of a smart goal is a goal that is achievable.
This isn’t always clear-cut to people. What is achievable? Truth is, anything you can think of could be possible, but we have to contain ourselves somewhat. An achievable goal is one where the finish line can be reached in a reasonable time and with reasonable effort. And you’d think that’s logical. Yet so many people think I want to be a ship’s captain when the ought to be considering learning to swab the deck first.
Sure, swabbing the deck isn’t very glamorous or romantic but your goals should not be based on drama or glamour, your goals should be one-step-at-a-time relevant goals that bring you toward success. You can’t sing a shanty without learning the words. You can’t tie a captain’s knot without knowing how to tie your shoes.
Being Majestic Is Not About How Many Sails You Have
What’s wrong with being happy? Do a thousand sails in the wind make you happy? Fine. That’s a great thing to work toward. But if you don’t start with a single sail and learn how to master it, what makes you think you’ll be able to handle this kind of ship?
Start off with a small boat. A rowboat is just fine. It isn’t about the grandiose, it’s about enjoying the simple and learning from it before taking saw, rasp and hammer to a forest to make the greatest of sailing ships. Take the time to make small goals happen and you’ll be ready for the next step that you need to make. And when it comes to mental health, those small steps can seem like huge steps. But take it one step at a time. You’ll get there if you do. Before you know it, you’re the captain of your own ship and not scared to death in a rowboat.
That’s how you’ll ride the waves. That’s how you make it through the storm. Change the waves, change the power of the waves, or build a boat. No matter what happens, you’ve got to head for shore and it’s better to sail than to swim.