As part of cadet training, the summer after my first year at the United States Coast Guard Academy, I spent close to a month sailing one of America’s Tall Ships, the Barque Eagle, a 295-foot barque that was built in Germany and used by the pre-world war II German army. As part of the crew during the summer of 1993, I relished the adventure. There was so much to learn!


We had been sailing for over a week when we hit our first storm. Luckily I was on duty. The ship rocked mightily and maintained a steady sloped angle. Cadets were getting sick left and right. It was my job to secure the sick cadets to the railing with harnesses so they didn’t fall overboard when we hit the next wave.


It was my first vivid experience of the importance of focus. If you focus on the rocking of the ship, the bouncing horizon, and how sick it is making you, you will feel awful. On the other hand, instead of focusing on what all is going wrong, you can get to work. Focus on finding a solution. This was my M.O. throughout the 21 day tour across the Atlantic and North Sea. I never got sick, despite more storms. I focused on what needed to be done, whether that be to climb the mast to roll up the sail, chart courses using celestial navigation, scrub the deck or stand watch overnight. My focus was on how I could contribute to making this a successful voyage in any way I could.


You don’t have to be sailing across rough oceans to adjust your focus. Every day you have the opportunity to check yourself. Are you focusing on all that is going wrong? Are you spending time swirling in negativity? When you do that, you close yourself off to possibilities. You have narrowed your focus which shuts out creativity.


When you choose to shift your perspective, seek out a solution, and get to work, negativity loses its hold on you. In that place, you are open to learning, creating, and exploring new possibilities.


Today, when you notice negativity creeping in or you hear yourself complaining, stop and ask yourself, What problem can I solve here? Then get to work right away.


Changing your thought patterns and behaviors takes awareness, action, and consistent practice. You have control over how you choose to see something and how you choose to respond to it.


Which will you choose? Sea-sickness or sturdy sea legs?


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