Most of us have had the experience of being in a boat or on a ship at one time in our life. I learned the hard way that there is a big difference between a boat and a ship! Once when I was on a cruise liner, we were given a tour of the entire facility. I asked the captain of the ship, “How big is this boat?” He replied in a rather indignant manner, “A boat is what you fish in. This is a ship!” I knew immediately that I had used the wrong word to describe his beloved sea vessel. A sailboat, on the other hand, is a much smaller vessel. Since it is called a sailboat,” I suppose it is qualified to be a boat rather than a ship.
If you have ever been sailing on a sailboat, you will notice that there is a unique occurrence that takes place. When you want to travel to a certain destination, you cannot go in a straight line. You must sail a “zig-zag” pattern. Those of you who are familiar with sailing know that this is called “tacking”. It may be true in geometry that the shortest distance between two points is a straight line However, in sailing, you cannot go the shortest distance in a straight line if you are traveling into a headwind. You have to go in a zig-zag pattern. That is the nature of sailing.
When tacking, you travel to the left for a while, then slow the boat down by letting down the sails, turn the rudder, adjust the sails so that the wind catches them again, and off you go to the right. After traveling in that direction for a period of time, you turn the rudder again and repeat the process, heading in the other direction. It is necessary to continue doing this “back and forth” pattern until you reach your desired upwind destination.
In this series of turns, you must slow down by letting down the sails or waiting until the wind dies down. In that manner, you can turn the sails in a new direction so it does not flip the boat over and you can make a successful turn.
This illustration is important for two reasons: First of all, I have discovered that more than in any other illustration I have ever learned, life is a lot like tacking in a sailboat. We rarely get from where we are to where we want to be in a straight line or a straight pattern. It takes many turns and changes of direction to get to where we want to go. Someone shared that truth with me many years ago and I have seen it to be true over and over again. Life is just not a neat, simple “point A to point B” event. We usually have to go in a zig-zag pattern to reach our destination.
The second thing I have learned, and this is so important, is that when nothing seems to be happening in life and we are frustrated with the journey, we should recognize the fact that it is simply a time when the wind is dying down and it is time to turn our sails. We cannot change the direction of our life while we are going full-speed in one direction. Things need to slow down, the sails have to be adjusted, the rudder must be turned, and we oftentimes have to wait for the wind to start blowing again. However, in time, the winds of life will take us in a new direction. We will begin to see and experience things we had not encountered in the past because we are going in a brand new direction.
I have experienced changes in my own personal life and I know you have as well. For some of us, the change has to do with relationships and for others it has to do with the condition of business. But, whether it has to do with relationships or finances, I can assure you that change will come for all of us at some point. Someone wisely noticed that we are either just getting over a challenge, we are right in the middle of a challenge, or we are heading into a new challenge. I believe that is true!
By keeping the sailboat analogy clear in your mind, I believe it will help you see that, just as the sailboat destination requires us to go in a zig-zag pattern, so does life. It is not meant to frustrate us, but it is meant to help us learn the lessons that we need to learn along the journey so we will know what to do when we get to our desired destination.
Please understand, I am not an expert sailor. There are many who could probably explain this experience far better than I. However, I did want to call this analogy to your attention in case you may want to use it in your own personal life. I hope that this simple illustration of a sailboat ride will help your life go smoother and get you to your desired destination. I know it has often kept my thinking clear and I believe it will help you get to your desired destination with less frustration. Happy sailing!
Tip: If you turn the sailboat too quickly, it will flip over!
Have a great week! God bless you!
Dr. Robert A. Rohm