Sailing is such a powerful metaphor. When I was a kid, my dad and I would sail on a lake called Lake Chelan in a boat called a bumblebee. The boat was probably only about 10 fee long, yellow (surprise, with the a name like bumblebee) but it was fun. When the winds would come up, that little boat could really move. My dad loves to sail, and he taught me so much about sailing, the wind, and how to navigate that little boat in the toughest of waters. The boat had a removable keel, or daggerboard. The keel is the wing that stick out through the bottom of sailboats that keep the boat from tipping over when it’s leaning over. While it’s not a rudder (the thing at the back of the boat that steers the boat, it’s function is to keep the boat upright and stable when moving quickly through the water. The challenge with that little boat was that the keel didn’t have anything to keep it down, so when the waters got rougher and the wind got stronger, it would start to float up through the middle of the boat. When that happened, the boat was completely unstable and flipped on us more than once.
I sometimes ask my clients to consider their guiding principles, or the principles that guide them through life. After I ask them to identify them, I’ll often ask them to go to someone that knows them well and ask them what they see as their guiding principles. The funny thing is that the principles we often describe as a those that guide us are often different from the principles that other people see guiding us. Going back to the bumblebee, sometimes our self proclaimed guiding principles are more like the “bumblebee” printed on the side of the sailboat that actual principles. What we print on the side of the boat may look good, but it really doesn’t say much about the stability of the boat itself. The keel, although hidden, is a much better example of the guiding principle of our lives. While it isn’t seen most of the time and doesn’t’ actually tell us anything about where we are going (like the rudder), it is the thing that keeps us upright in the toughest of storms.
What is your keel? What would someone close to you identify as your keel, or your guiding principles? Are they the same. Do your guiding principles keep floating up through the middle of your boat, failing to give you any consistency and stability in tough times. Think about it, your principles are your keel. Getting them firmly in place will help you know where to stand and how to move forward with some consistency and predictability, even when everything else around you might be out of control.
What are your guiding principles, and how did they different from those described by someone else? What did you have in common?