Reaching goals require course changes

Jul 9, 2013 by Rob Gannon

I was speaking with a coaching client recently about attaining goals and persistence. To clarify a point, I stated (as I often do) one of my sailing/life analogies: Sometimes, the nicest harbors can have the most treacherous channels to reach them.

We then proceeded to expand on that concept with a great conversation filled with great analogies and insights. My client stated that this should be one of my columns. So here is some of what we touched on, along with some further thoughts.

In our mind’s eye, we can see a place, a place we want to get to. It can be a physical place, a lifestyle or career goal, or just a place of wellness and contentment. We know this place and have seen it before. We know it awaits us.

However, the way there may be challenging, uncomfortable and unclear. This place is special and it is not meant to be easily accessed. Navigating our lives can be like navigating a twisting, unmarked channel. We may need to slow down and pay closer attention. There may be rocks and coral heads to slip around. There could be some shoaling. So we sharpen our awareness and continue.

Sometimes, it may feel like we’ve run aground in life. If it’s a soft grounding, we can reverse ourselves out of that situation and try another approach. There may be no real damage done so we won’t waste energy feeling bad about it. It’s time to re-focus and look ahead.

If the grounding is hard, however, we may have caused some damage. This is when a further inspection is required. If the damage appears serious, we may need to bring some professional assistance aboard to get us back to operating at full strength. We will have to do what is necessary to make repairs so we can carry on and get back out there.

Your first attempt or approach at getting to that special place may not have gone so well. It may have been painful and costly, but hopefully you took notes and learned some lessons. Now you know where the obstacles are and this time you will steer around them carefully. You have updated your mental map of inner wisdom and experience. You know the territory way better than before.

Persistence and patience are essential for attaining the results we want in life. I hear about and read about examples of this all the time. There is the well documented case of Thomas Edison and his thousands of attempts at inventing the lightbulb. When someone suggested that this effort was a failure, he replied, “On the contrary. I have discovered thousands of ways not to create a lightbulb.”

I heard an interview recently with author and motivational speaker Jack Canfield where he stated that his monster hit book, Chicken Soup for the Soul, was turned down by over a hundred publishers. In the midst of his obvious frustration, a friend reminded him that it will only take one publisher who likes it to get it done. That one very smart person came along and the book sold millions of copies.

The lesson is clear; we can’t give up prematurely on our dreams. There will be setbacks. There will be obstacles and disappointments, but carry on we must. One of my favorite quotes is from Henry David Thoreau: “If one advances confidently in the direction of his dreams, and endeavors to live the life which he has imagined, he will meet with success unexpected in common hours.”

For my client, this statement resonated. He was dealing with a confidence issue. This quote spoke to him. He knew he had to begin advancing confidently.

In other words, you know there could be setbacks. You know things may not always go the way you think they should. So you begin operating from a place of understanding there is less to fear. You develop some comfort with uncertainty. What is certain is the continuation of the voyage. You celebrate your seemingly small advances. You stay focused on the big picture and that dream, that goal, never fades.

So sail on sailor toward those dreams and visions. You can reach your goals, your harbor of contentment. You will figure out the way and when you arrive, enjoy it, feel it, bask in its beauty but always with the knowledge that you can’t stay forever, for other harbors will be calling.

Rob Gannon is a 25-year licensed captain and certified life and wellness coach ( Comments on this column are welcome at