From drifting to steering

I’ve been thinking about that moment when we take control of something in our lives.  Perhaps something we’ve dreamed about for years.  The shift in perspective that occurs when we go from thinking, for example, ‘one day I’d like to write a novel’ to actually sitting down to write the first page.  And the one after that, and the one after that.

The moment when we realise….

‘If I want to make that thing happen then I have to DO something!’

I’m sure this is easy for many people, but for me, I like to dream and think about what I might like to do but I get stuck in the realities of life (earning a living etc) and often I don’t get round to doing what I want to do!

Also I have to write about creating a shift in perspective for one of my coaching assignments, so this is also me mulling over some ideas.   I’d love to know your thoughts.


To drift: to move slowly, especially as a result of outside forces, with no control over direction.

Sometimes we drift through our lives, at the mercy of the currents and winds.  Sharp rocks and shipwrecks may await, or, less dramatically but potentially as serious, a lifetime of drifting into unsatisfactory jobs, or not quite ever getting around to doing what we really want to do.  We follow the currents of other people’s beliefs and values, other people’s ‘shoulds’, never quite getting where we really want to go.  Perhaps not even aware of where we really want to go.

And often we drift with a head full of dreams.  Our body is sitting in an open plan office in front of a computer, our head is filled with possibilities.  ‘Perhaps I’ll become an artist’.  ‘Maybe I could go self-employed’.  ‘Maybe I’ll pack it all in and go and live on a desert island’.  But we never do.

So much of our energy is focused on dreaming, on thinking, on imagining, on future possibilities, but these thoughts don’t turn into action. Looking inward, looking to something that only exists in our minds, talking about it maybe (perhaps talking about it endlessly!) but never doing.  Never changing, never growing, just…stuck in our heads.  And drifting.

And sometimes we drift with no dreams at all.  We plod along a course that we haven’t chosen, frustrated.  Drifting on the currents of life, we see no way out.

And then something happens.  Maybe we get too close to those dangerous rocks.  Perhaps a storm brings a clarifying splash of icy cold water.

Maybe we just can’t face another day at that job.   A significant birthday.  A death.  A birth. A deadline.

A shift in perspective.

This is the moment when we realise….

‘If I want to make change happen then I have to DO something.  Now!’

This is when we take control.

Now we are not drifting, we are steering.

We take the helm.  We take responsibility.

We take our boredom with our current lives seriously.

We take our dreams seriously.

We commit to change.

We take action.

 

To steer a course or path: to take a series of actions, usually of a particular type, carefully and intentionally.

At first, steering may look just like drifting to the outside observer.  Outwardly, nothing may change.  We may still be at the boring job, but unseen by the world we are now making plans, researching, taking action.

We question.  Is this really want I want to do?  What is it that I believe?  Where do I really want to be in 5 years’ time?  What does success look like to me…not to my mother or my work colleagues or society….to me?

We may appear to drift around for a while, trying out new ideas, but the difference is that our movement is purposeful to us.  We are deliberately choosing our direction.

We make goals and we take the steps that we need to make those goals happen.

We go from saying ‘maybe I could do xyz’, or ‘I’d love to do xyz but it’s not possible because….’ To ‘it is possible and I will take the steps I need to take to make it happen.

It might not be easy.  It will probably take courage and determination to make changes.  We might want to give up.  We might need support.

But now we know.  If we want change, we need to take action.

 

How does this shift in perspective happen?

So often the thing that shifts us from drifting to steering comes from outside of us.  For example, a deadline, a divorce, redundancy.  How do we move ourselves from drifting to steering without one of these external influences?

I think there are several ways, including becoming aware that we are drifting through life, that we are doing something we don’t really want to be doing and not taking our dreams seriously.   We could explore our own beliefs and values, to see if they match the life we are living.  A powerful excercise can be to explore our dreams and create a vision of the future that motivates us to make it happen.  We can structure our lives so we can more easily do the thing we want to do (eg set aside time each day to write, if writing a novel is the dream).


What about you?

I’m really interested to know what has moved you from drifting to steering.

Have you had the experience of having some dream that you wanted to do ‘one day’, but that you didn’t ever get round to doing, perhaps because you were too busy, or you didn’t think it was possible?  And then you did start to do it?  What was the thing that made you take action?

Or are you stuck right now, wondering how to steer a course towards your dreams?

Weaving a life

Are you a specialist or a generalist? Can you fit all your interests into one job, or do they spill out over the edges?

It’s a question that interests me because I’ve never been able to fit all of my interests, my personality, my strengths into one job. I always leave something at the office door.

Maybe this is normal, I don’t know.

We start out in life fascinated by so much, little sponges soaking up language and learning, our favourite subjects at school might be as diverse as art, astronomy and cookery, yet we are forced to choose as we get older.

Art versus science, trade versus a degree, adventure versus security, practical work versus academic work, physical movement versus sitting all day at a desk, fresh air versus an open plan office, making a difference in the world versus making money; we cut out options until we are left with one narrow beam of focus leading us into one narrow career and one particular lifestyle.

Maybe some people follow their passions into this narrowing of choices and end up exactly where they want to be. I really hope so, as that’s the way the world seems to be set up.

But what about those people it doesn’t work for? Who follow the rules, do what’s expected, work hard and then find themselves stuck, half way up the career ladder, unable to climb down, not wanting to climb further up, and afraid to jump off. They look around at a landscape of tall ladders, other careers, and none of them are appealing. What then?

Maybe it’s just not possible to fit everything into one job, and a diverse life can be created, leaving plenty of time for hobbies, for family and friends, for volunteering, for exercise, leaving time to just be. But full time work doesn’t leave much time, and a badly fitting job sucks vitality from other parts of life, leaving no energy for anything other than an evening spent in front of the tv.

I’ve tried various approaches, interesting part time jobs that allowed me time to paint, write, go for walks, practise tai chi. Working full time for a while then taking time out to travel or do creative projects. But always I wonder if it’s possible to weave it all together into one coherent whole, to make a difference and to avoid the times when jobs or income are not forthcoming.

And I know it’s not just me that feels this way.

What about you?

How do you weave all your various interests, creative pursuits, employment, family, dreams and adventures into one life? Any tips?