Ships in harbour are safe, but that’s not what ships are built for
I first read this quote in Paulo Coelho’s book “Pilgrimage”. I think it is a lovely image; the ship is safe in the harbour, looking grand, impeccable, perfect, but no…that is not why it was built. That is not its main purpose. Can we relate this image to us mortals? I think we can.
It is “easy”, secure and safe to stay in the harbour; the familiar, well-known routines and situations that we feel comfortable with. Sometimes we might not even feel comfortable and happy with the situation, but at least we know what to expect. We know all the characters and situations involved and all the factors and influencers. We know how we react to certain things and how things will probably proceed. It is predictable, secure, bulletproof. It might not feel that great and we might not be super happy but; The ship isn’t in danger of getting scratched or sunk while it is safe in the harbour. We are ‘safe’ and 'ok'.
Yet, is that what life is about? Is that what will make us truly happy? I am not saying “drop everything and head off into the horizon” – sometimes we choose to stay put for a while, we enjoy the stability and the peace, and that’s totally ok too. However, if your current “harbour” is really creating a false sense of security, like the brig (prison/jail) rather than a free space, maybe it is time to set sails and explore new waters.
At first, it might feel a bit awkward. Where do you start? What’s the end destination? Is it a solo trip or have you a crew with you? There might be many unknown factors for this journey, and that is scary. There is no denying it. It is scary. It is important that you acknowledge this and maybe take some time to digest that. However, don’t let it stop you from moving away.
It may seem like a huge, overwhelming voyage so it can really help to break it down into manageable steps.
Start at the beginning; Security check. Ensure that the vessel (you, in this case) is seaworthy. You might feel a bit battered at the moment, but that is ok, you can take it slow. Are there things you can put in place in your day-to-day to help you feel stronger, healthier and in a better space? Perhaps you have a First Mate on deck to help give you a boost. As in, do you have support and encouragement for this new journey in your life? If not, who can you enlist to your supportive crew?
Secondly, master the navigation. This might be tricky if you are not yet 100% clear on what you want, but an approximate direction is an ok start. You can always adjust as you go along. So set an approximate destination and map out your route from there.
Have you got provisions for the journey? What do you need to get going and what do you need to sustain yourself? This refers to what tools and skills you might need. Have you already got what you need or do you need to up-skill, learn or grow in a particular area? Map it out as part of your journey.
And then - You are now ready for the exhilarating, and yes – slightly terrifying part; cast off!
Now, remember that you can always change and adjust course, you can always take on new or extra crew members, or perhaps dismiss some of the ones you started out with if that becomes necessary. You can always take your ship to port and cast anchor if you need a time out to re-group and re-focus. You are the Captain of this ship (your life!), you are the compass (you get to choose where you go), it is your cruise and you call the shots.
You might also upgrade your vessel along the way! You may have started out in a small sailboat on your own but, maybe over time, it has grown into a sturdier sailboat or even a cruise ship! Don't hold yourself back here - go with the vessel that feels right for you and which serves you best.
Remember also to be prepared for turbulence and storms! You must be on the lookout for dangerous reefs and even mutiny! Take it as it comes, review as you go, and find the next step to move forward towards your end destination.
And also, make sure you enjoy the open water, the sense of freedom, the sunrises and the sundowns, the treasures that you find along the way and all the adventures that you just wouldn’t have experienced if you had stayed in that harbour.
You may get a bit scratched, you may feel like you are sinking sometimes, but you are not alone! Plus, remember that this is what you were built for! You weren’t built for staying in the harbour! So you will absolutely find what you need, when you need it, in order to get to where you want to go. You just need to take that first step.