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Crew Coach: Goals important, but setting a course matters most

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By Capt. Rob Gannon

There is plenty written and spoken about regarding goals, but setting goals and focusing too much on a destination can get in the way of enjoying the journey. This is not to suggest goals are not good or important, but it might be helpful to keep in mind our path to reach them as well.

We can set an intention of the destination and hold fast to it, but out on the open sea, setting our heading and getting back on course when we get pushed off it – that’s where the action is.

I end this column every month with a little reminder to enjoy the voyage. I say reminder because I think most of us get so busy and caught up in the day to day and dealing with what we view as “problems,” we lose sight of the voyage.

It’s a tricky mental dance we go through constantly. The art of accepting and dealing with the now, while at the same time staying on course toward our goal. Today may have been hard; someone may have been difficult to deal with. Hopefully something was learned, and so, we turn the page and continue on our path.

Without the path, we might start asking ourselves, why am I doing this? With no set course, that’s a really good question. In my work as a coach, I sometimes ask people, “What would you like to do?” And the answer is often, “I don’t know, I’m not sure.”

If I ask instead, “Where would you like to be heading?” – that’s when the conversation usually starts to get more interesting and productive. When there is an answer to that question, I say, “OK, let’s start heading there.”

Another interesting aspect of the  journey, and another reason not to focus too much on the end, is that our destination may change somewhere along the way. The first time I went to college, I dropped out after one year. I didn’t know what I was doing there. I didn’t know what major to declare, didn’t know where I was heading.

After a few years of some hard manual labor, I started thinking it might be a good idea to go back and get a degree. However, the question remained – a degree in what? I still had no idea, but I decided to go back and just start taking classes that interested me. That got me in the groove of being a student again. I found a heading and got a degree to be a physical education teacher and coach.

Then the destination changed. Before I could secure a teaching position, I was offered a sweet gig as a captain in the Keys and everything changed. I never taught in our school system, but did end up teaching hundreds of people sailing and seamanship skills over the years.

So were the years getting the college degree a big waste of time? Absolutely not. That experience was so valuable to my growth and development, I wouldn’t change a thing. It got me on a heading. I got my captain’s license during that  same time. I was no longer spinning my wheels and wondering what to do. I just started doing.

I guess the takeaway I’d like to pass along from my own story is, if you’re not sure what to do, just do something. If you’re not sure where you want to head, just start heading somewhere. All courses can be adjusted, all destinations can be changed – but the voyage, the journey, should not be delayed.

There can come a time when you are feeling stuck or at an impasse, but you also know when that time has gone on too long. The direction may  start out a little vague, but head in the general direction of somewhere and put the pieces together as you go.

After talking with people as a captain for over 30 years and as a certified personal coach for over 10 years, I can say that many folks don’t end up where they thought they’d be in life. Their original intended destinations changed.

Let me leave you with this quote from writer and lifelong sailor William Buckley Jr.: “If all difficulties were known at the outset of a long journey, most of us would never start out at all.”

Enjoy the voyage.

Capt. Rob Gannon is a 30-year licensed captain and certified life and wellness coach (yachtcrewcoach.com). Comments are welcome below.

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