I have often been asked the “HOW” question.
How did change happen? What did it look like? What steps were taken? How did we know which direction to take? How did the process all begin? It’s great that life changed so dramatically – but what was the PROCESS of that change?
I have lots to say about this particular question. Seriously. There is so much to say. But – I’m going to attempt a response in two blog posts.
This is post one – and I’m going to start with an important metaphor;
I think that life – for most people – is like a life raft.
(Picture one of those life rafts from an old movie: a whole bunch of rough logs, lashed together with thick rope).
Folk on life rafts usually think about one thing: survival. That’s why it’s called a life raft. Without the hunks of wood and bits of rope – you could drown. For many people, the raft has become their only reality. In their mind, there is no bigger-picture – other than to survive. And there are no other options available to them – except life… on the raft.
People on life-rafts speak and think in terms of “surviving”, “getting-by” and “making-do”.
And – importantly – they drift.
Because that’s all a giant plank is able to do on the Sea: drift aimlessly from one place to the next – while the occupants just hold on for dear life and hope they make it through the next storm.
And the people on the life-raft often say things like this:
“Well, at least our life raft is equipped with a water purifier. And at least we have a fishing net. And at least we have a tarpaulin for shelter. Unlike those poor sods over there – straining sea water through tea bags and scraping barnacles off the bottom of their raft for supper!”
And then they say:
“We should be grateful for our lot in life. We ought-not expect more”
But… they’re still on a life-raft!
And if you say to the life-raft folk:
“Well – how about a yacht? Wouldn’t you guys prefer a yacht? Even a small, teeny little yacht? That way – you could chart your own course… instead of just drifting aimlessly? That way you could visit the Pineapple Island. Didn’t you guys say you loved pineapples?”
And, the life-raft folk will say:
“A yacht? Are you insane? Only rich people can afford yachts! Only posh people and special people can afford such luxuries! We don’t have that kind of money and privilege. We’ll be drifting along for the rest of our lives. That’s just the way it is. Our hands are tied. May as well make our peace and accept it!”
And if you had to say to the life-raft folk:
“But what about that big tarpaulin you’re sheltering under? That could become a magnificent sail! With a bit of work and creative thinking, you could transform your raft into a yacht! You could carve a slice off one of those logs and design a rudder! You could learn navigate and you could set sail for the kinds of places you want to visit! Sure – it will take some work and some sacrifice – but it can be done!”
At this point, our life-raft people have a CHOICE laid before them.
A tiny number of them will get that excited glint in their eyes (when the penny-drops and they see something they haven’t seen before)… and they’ll rally the resources – and start plotting ways to convert their raft in to a little yacht.
But many others (dare I say MOST?)… will stare at you blankly for a while. And then, they will proceed to deliver a long list of reasons why it “can’t” be done.
Those reasons look something like this:
- “Impossible! Tarpaulins aren’t meant to be sails! It’ll never work!”
- “My mother was a life-raft person, her grandmother was a life-raft person – who am I to think I’m something else? I’m not better than them. No, I’m staying as we are, thank-you very much”
- “But the tarpaulin will tear if we remove it from it’s current position!”
- “This is a dangerous undertaking! It’s way too risky! What if the wind blows our tarpaulin away entirely? Then we’ll all freeze and die! No, better to stay-safe and keep things exactly as they are”
- “But what will the folk on the other rafts say if they saw us trying to make a sail out of a tarpaulin? We’d be the laughing stock of the entire rafting community!”
You get the picture.
To those people… I honestly have nothing to say.
As the old saying goes: “A man convinced against his will is of the same opinion still”…
So – all I can do, is politely tip my hat – and wish them well.
To the OTHER folk… (the ones who are busy rigging their make-shift sails using scraps of tattered tarpaulin… the ones who are carving their rudders and drawing up maps…) – to those folk, I say this:
- You CAN do it!
- Yes, it’s a process (not a magical fix that happens overnight).
- Yes, it can get frustrating at times.
- Yes, the sail will probably tear (but you can repair it).
- Yes, the sharks may bite off your rudder (but you can carve a new one).
- Yes, it’s risky. And especially when the storms rage and people mock and you feel the cold sting of the rain.
- Yes, you’ll probably question your sanity somewhere along the line (maybe even every day).
Now YOU are in charge.
YOU are charting your OWN course now.
YOU are setting sail to a destination of YOUR choosing.
And yes, there will be storms! And yes, those storms may sometimes blow you off course. But, when the winds have calmed down, you can patch up the rigging and course-correct.
And, when you catch your first glimpse of that distant horizon… that beautiful island you’ve always dreamed of visiting… and when you first set foot in the powdery sand of that shore – and savour the fruits that grow there… you will know – with every fibre of your being – that it was WORTH it.
And then you’ll repair your sails – (and they’ll be stronger than before). And you’ll build an extra cabin, stock up with supplies, reinforce your rudder – and you’ll set sail for your next adventure… your next destination… growing and building your unique yacht with every stop…
… and you’ll experience the deep sense of fulfilment and purpose that can only be understood by those who have chosen to be captains of their own destinies.
“I am the master of my fate, I am the captain of my soul” – (William Henley)