Wind in your sails

Imagine being on a sailing boat


The direction set

The sails full

The wind in your hair

The sun on your face

The pace feels good

Surfing each and every wave

Enjoying the ups and the downs

Feeling confident, engaged, alive

… because you know it’s taking you where you want to be.



The wind stops

The sails drop

The sun goes in

The boat bobs around on the surface, rudderless

At the mercy of the waves

Feeling frustrated, maybe bored or even a little scared, lost

… because you know it’s taking you nowhere meaningful.


How do we get the wind back in our sails?

I imagine sailing a boat, full steam ahead, feels much like it does when you’re fully engaged with, and aligned to, your values. When your life and work has meaning and purpose; when you’re using your strengths to enable positive change; when you’re in the company of others who value some of the same things, motivating and inspiring you to do more, be more.

When one or more of these things is missing it can feel a little bit like a boat bobbing aimlessly on the water, hoping the next big wave isn’t about to capsize you.

This metaphor works well for me. I’m not a fan of being on the sea, having spent many a family holiday mackerel fishing in small boats that endlessly bob on the water and make you want to heave, with the added bonus that you catch nothing!! Yet when I imagine myself on the beautiful wooden deck of the boat in this picture, surrounded by others in my crew who I trust, sailing towards our destination by mastering the sails, working with the wind and the waves, it feels massively empowering. Why? Because, metaphorically, I’m connecting with what’s important, with what I value most.

How would you describe where you are now? Do you have the wind behind you? Are you bobbing around waiting for the wind to finally catch you? Are you continuing to sail around the same old island because somehow it’s easier that way … at least for now?

The choice point

Russ Harris in his book, ACT Made Simple*, talks about the choice point. The point at which we can decide to either make an away move or a move towards. A move towards what? Where you really want to be.

Sometimes it’s easier to make decisions, or away moves, that make you feel good today or enable a quick win of some kind, or serve someone else better – because you can always do what you wanted to do tomorrow, right? But do they really enable you to live the life of your choosing, or take you towards that place you really want to be?

Living in alignment with your values is an ongoing process, not a predetermined outcome. It sometimes takes courage to honour those values we hold dear and can sometimes feel painful in the moment, which is why we get trapped into making too many away moves and wonder why we’re still bobbing around going nowhere in particular! Values shouldn’t be rules that we obey or restrict us in anyway, but as Russ Harris says if we “pursue values vigorously, yet hold them lightly” we can feel alive, fully engaged and lead a more meaningful life.

*By the way ACT stands for Acceptance and Commitment Therapy. If you’re interested in finding out more about the theory behind this, I have written a chapter about it in my new book, Third Wave Cognitive Behavioural Coaching.  Hope you find it useful.

Anyway, I would love to know what values you’re honouring right now and how it’s working for you. Let me know in the comments below. What are you connecting with that’s important to you? Have you got a big decision coming up but you feel like you’re bobbing around in the ocean not knowing which way is north? If you’d like some help in exploring your values, please get in touch. Being more aware of our values helps us to make more conscious choices and better decisions. Decisions that work for us, rather than against us.

Wishing you a values-based day 😊

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