Learning to Adjust Your Sails to the Winds of Life

Word Count: 1087

Estimated Reading Time: 8.4 minutes

The effect of sailing is produced by a judicious arrangement of the sails to the direction of the wind.” – William Falconer

In sailing, a basic technique called changing the tack or coming about is applied when the wind changes direction. Tacking involves adjusting the sails slightly and often to improve maneuverability when the wind changes direction. Tacking keeps the boat moving to its intended destination.

Winds at sea are similar to the winds of life. Sometimes, we experience tailwinds. When things seem to go our way and the wind is in our favor. Then, there are times we go through headwinds. When things don’t go as planned, or we go through setbacks and the winds seem to be against us. Headwinds aim to stall our progress by killing our momentum. It’s not for lack of a plan or purpose that most people fail to reach their destiny, but because they have not learned to adjust their sails to the winds of life.

By learning to adjust our sails, which also involves developing a sense of mental and emotional agility, headwinds, just like tailwinds can act in our favor. Jim Rohn said, “It’s not the blowing of the winds that determine our destination but the set of the sails.” The two tacks I share in today’s post will keep you heading in the direction of your destiny, in spite of the winds you face.

1. See through the wind

I heard it said, “Seeing is believing.” I would counter that with, “believing is the optimum way of seeing.” Winds, though invisible, have a way of obstructing our view. Headwinds cause us to question what we believe, the truth we are grounded in, and can blur the path to our destiny.

On the other hand, winds can serve to deepen our resolve. How?  

First, by focusing more on our purpose than the shift or severity of the wind. Remind yourself of your destiny. Replay your itinerary often. Winds are meant to destabilize and topple us, but the focus is your asset to keep you emotionally and mentally steady. In short, excessive wind observation leads to life stagnation.

Second, view the wind as a friend, not an enemy. In a post last year titled, Risking Rejection…Growing in Confidence, I chronicled the personal lessons I learned from the headwind of rejection. It was a sharpening experiencing! The rejection I feared helped me become a better person.

Lewis Howes had the hope of success as a professional player in the NFL. But the winds shifted, and he ended up with a broken wrist. He was broke financially as well. This was at the height of the 2008 recession. Down on his luck, he ended up living with his sister and sleeping on her couch. He still believed he could be successful. He adjusted his sails. He began doing webinars on LinkedIn which took off. Eventually, he started writing books (he is a best-selling author). Currently, he is on the U.S. men’s handball Olympic team and has one of the highest rated podcasts, School of Greatness. By seeing through the winds, he pivoted and stayed afloat.

2. Learn to Pivot

A pivot is a shift in perspective or outlook. These two are crucial pivots to adjusting our sails in the course of our lives:

  • Me to We

This adjustment moves us from living for ourselves to the higher platform of living to benefit others. An old proverb says:

                         “Two are better than one; because they have a good reward

                          for their labor. If one falls, the other can reach out and help.

                         But someone who falls alone is in real trouble.”

                         It goes on to say,

                       “A person standing alone can be attacked and defeated, but two

                        can stand back-to-back and conquer. Three are even better,

                       for a triple-braided cord is not easily broken.”

The strength of a rope is in the combination of braids it has. Our lives, especially when facing headwinds, are strengthened by the cords of community we have formed. It is a sad state of life to work hard, not knowing what or who it is for. It is meaningless and depressing, like chasing the wind. As we live our lives to serve others, to be givers instead of takers, contributors instead of just consumers, we face the headwinds of life with enthusiasm not defeat. Because we have given our lives to a cause greater than ourselves.

  • Fault to responsibility

This shift may sound inconsequential to the quality of life. I can assure you, the stakes are never higher. From the beginning of mankind, shifting the blame has always been an oft-used self-preservation technique. The victimization of ourselves by faulting others may cause relief in the interim but its long-term detriment to our lives is damaging. Taking responsibility is facing the reality of the moment. Choosing an active not a passive approach to life. Not relinquishing our lives to the winds of circumstance or predicament. While assigning blame is fear based, taking responsibility is courage based.  

We all have the capacity to blame something or someone. But each time we grab the low hanging fruit of fault or blame, our fabric of responsibility is frayed. Until it is beyond repair. It is a hard reality but one that requires our undivided attention. Without it, we risk running our lives aground or worse, sinking it. Taking responsibility shifts us to grow past the negative and into the positive. 

I have benefited immensely from this adjustment. Especially,  in headwind conditions. Instead of washing my hands from a problem by shifting blame (which is very tempting), my outlook is, “It may not be my fault, but it is my responsibility.” It has changed my focus to finding solutions instead of compounding the problem. I am learning that “You can only change what you take responsibility for.”   

These pivots, done consistently through our daily habits, carry the potential to not only add value to us and others but set an example worth following. As Winston Churchill said, “The price of greatness is responsibility.”

Final thought: Common sense may say, “Fight the wind.” Fear may scream, “Succumb and go back to shore!” But insight whispers, “Adjust your sails to the wind and use it to catapult you forward.” As William Ward put it, “The pessimists complain about the wind, the optimists hope it will change, but the realists adjust their sails.” You cannot control the wind, but you can choose to tack or adjust your sails.

Keep on Keeping on!


  1. Excellent blog Brother David, thanks! Will continue adjusting the sails and believing. Have a good evening, God bless!


  2. “believing is the optimum way of seeing.” How true! Learning how to adjust in life is one of the most powerful tool to progress.
    Thank you for providing us with very practical steps of adjusting the sail in life.


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s