moving forward

navigating through the life that was and moving into the life that is

Setting the Sail of Better Thinking

on June 18, 2012

Living.  Life.  It is your life.  You live your life.  You set the direction. You maneuver the bumps that are inevitable and numerous.  You have to be present in living your life. For what reasons would you let your life live you? You cannot let your life circumstances run you over and make you submissive to them.  They are circumstances. While they are often unfair, challenging, or difficult, they are merely circumstances.  And circumstances change.  Your circumstances do not determine your happiness or satisfaction with your life although many people allow them too. Many people get stuck in their circumstances because they are so focused on what is wrong or what they don’t have, they forget to look for what is right and all the things they do have.  We all have imperfect circumstances. We live in an imperfect world. How you respond to them will be paramount to the direction your life will go.  If you let your circumstances take over you, your life is living you, you are not living your life.  I have known this as I face the circumstances of my life head on, but it was not until a recent conversation with a friend that it all became so much clearer.

The conversation began with me expressing that I was feeling a little lost in what God has planned for me. Following God’s commands since being widowed has felt like more of a challenge because what happened still doesn’t make sense to me on so many levels. At times, I am still grasping for an understanding instead of trusting. In those moments, I sometimes don’t even have the emotional energy to get out of bed.  But I do, every day, some days in a thicker haze than others.  As I press forward, the haze always lifts for moments but I honestly just feel a little lost some days. My friend replied the way I feel like I’m often met when these discussions happen.  He said “your situation is rather unique.  As a matter of fact, I’ve never had such a tragedy happen to someone who I interact with.  If anything, you are certainly the exception to any common wisdom.” And beyond that recognition of the magnitude of what has happened to me, people feel like they don’t have anything to offer because they haven’t been through it.  I completely understand their fear of saying the wrong thing.  But thankfully my friend didn’t stop there! Although he cannot relate specifically, he can relate to having to take charge of your life and not letting the circumstances define you.  Through the teachings of motivational speaker, Jim Rohn, my friend provided me the most amazing illustration of “setting the sail” in your life. He said:

“It’s not what happens that determines your life’s future; it’s what you do about what happens.  All of us are in like a little sailboat and it’s not the blowing of the wind that determines our destination, it’s the set of the sail. The same wind blows on us all.  The wind of disaster, the wind of opportunity, the wind of change, favorable and unfavorable winds, political wind, economic wind, social wind.  The same wind blows on everybody. The difference is attitude and where you arrive next week, next year, tomorrow…the difference in arrival is not the blowing of the wind, but the set of the sail.  This is what learning is all about, to set a better sail than last year.  Sandra, the ability to change is not a law, it’s an opportunity.”

Wow…the set of the sail…I love this illustration for my healing as well as in my daily life.  The confusion in my brain cleared up as I realized this is what I have been attempting to do all along.  Through my grief and healing, I have had my sail set towards progress, towards forward movement, and then the loneliness really fell in and I stopped properly operating my sail.  I left it neglected and just hoped it was going in the right direction.  I can now see that I have to continue in this journey with all the intentionality that I had in the beginning.  The same resolve for better health and a better life.  One of my favorite quotes since I was little has been, “there are no shortcuts to any place worth going.”  And that includes this time in my life.  Although it is uncharted and untraveled, I can see the shortcuts.  As tempting as they may appear at times, they are really just a path to nowhere. A path to immediate needs, not longevity. A path to temporary, not everlasting.

As the conversation continues I begin to realize that God’s working on me. Because the wind is blowing like crazy but God is showing me how to set the sail for His glory and the changes I need to make and I want that opportunity. I want that knowledge not only for myself but for helping others. The bottom line is that no matter what we have been through in our lives, we still have the ability to help others. The ability to say to them, “I can’t fix your circumstances, but I can help you set your sail in a purposeful and intentional matter.  With your sail set, while you’re out there, with the wind blowing, you’ll know where you’re heading.”  And in doing that you have not only encouraged them to set the sail of their actions, but also to set the sail of better thinking.

The Set of the Sail

In the process of living, the winds of circumstances blow on us all in an unending flow that touches each of our lives.…

What guides us to different destinations in life is determined by the way we have chosen to set our sail. The way that each of us thinks makes the major difference in where each of us arrive. The major difference is the set of the sail.

The same circumstances happen to us all. We have disappointments and challenges. We all have reversals and those moments when, in spite of our best plans and efforts, things just seem to fall apart.…In the final analysis, it is not what happens that determines the quality of our lives, it is what we choose to do when we have struggled to set the sail and then discover, after all of our efforts, that the wind has changed directions.

When the winds change, we must change. We must struggle to our feet once more and reset the sail in the manner that will steer us toward the destination of our own deliberate choosing. The set of the sail, how we think and how we respond, has a far greater capacity to destroy our lives than any challenges we face. How quickly and responsibly we react to adversity is far more important than the adversity itself. Once we discipline ourselves to understand this, we will finally and willingly conclude that the great challenge of life is to control the process of our thinking.

Learning to reset the sail with the changing winds rather than permitting ourselves to be blown in a direction we did not purposely choose requires the development of a whole new discipline. It involves going to work on establishing a powerful, personal philosophy that will help to influence in a positive way all that we do and that we think and decide. If we can succeed in this worthy endeavor, the result will be a change in the course of our income, lifestyle and relationships, and in how we feel about the things of value as well as the times of challenge. If we can alter the way we perceive, judge and decide upon the main issues of life, then we can dramatically change our lives.

To Your Success,
Jim Rohn

2 responses to “Setting the Sail of Better Thinking

  1. Sandy,

    Thank you SO much for writing this. I have been struggling a lot lately with finding a job, starting my new life, and trying to be content with the free time I am experiencing. I have started to doubt myself and worry that the past 3 years of effort were for nothing. Then you do what you always do, and you lift me up and inspire me some more. Thank you for being you and for being honest about what you are going through. You are remarkable and I am so thankful that you are my friend.

    Lots of love,


  2. Sandra,

    Your writing is pure. As I read it I am calmed and a clarity is discovered. Setting the sail is the perfect metaphor! Your strength and abilities are supernatural and I am grateful God has connected our families. Be Well. Looking forward to our families next adventure.

    Forward Motion,


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