Embarking. The very word conjures up a transatlantic steamer packed with passengers waving goodbye to loved ones. Sailing into the unknown still carries the anticipation of starting something new. Perhaps it’s a job, a relationship, life in a new home, or a French cooking class. These moments are especially ripe with expectation.
When we embark, we intend to arrive at a certain place, whether it’s work satisfaction, a blissful partnership, or the world’s best crème brulée. But when our destination is not quite what we expected it’s hard to loosen our grip on the outcome. Have you ever hung on to a goal for dear life refusing to accept that it may not be the right one? It’s disappointing, perplexing and even downright hurtful when your hopes are dashed.
That new job was supposed to be secure, that certain love match tanked after a month and the crème brulée was burnt no matter how many times you followed the recipe. By its very nature getting attached to an outcome is a set-up for disappointment. When things go wrong we berate ourselves for being foolish or naïve or unprepared. Sometimes, through a veil of tears, we’ll ask, “How could I not have seen this coming?!” It’s also easy to blame others for their incompetence or selfishness. Worst of all, when things go wrong, we give up and deprive ourselves of the opportunity to be curious and envision an outcome beyond our description.
So, how can we embolden our trust and confidence so our ship can leave the harbour and sail into uncharted waters? The simple answer is be prepared and welcome all that arises. Before you embark, pack these three things to ensure safe passage:
What do you want? Dust off your crystal ball if you have to, this is a place of dreaming. Identify how you want to feel, who you’ll be with, what you’ll be doing. For example, “I want to work in a modern office with coworkers who make me laugh and clients who pay me good money to be creative.” Or, “I want to live in a house near a dog park.” “I want to make a crème brulée so delicious I’ll win awards for it.” There’s no need at this stage to judge or diminish your precious, fragile intentions. Just go with it. Write it down, draw it out, tell someone you absolutely trust.
What do you need to know to make that intention a reality? Do your research. Fact check. Ask yourself, “Is what I want possible?” “What kind of creative work am I trained to do?” “What do I need to learn?” “How will I learn it?” “Are there any Starbucks near a dog park?” “Is there actually a French dessert competition in Canada?” Determine how viable your intention is. If it’s not, adjust it, if it is, then start moving. Draw up your itinerary, review your nautical charts and set sail. Yes, it’s risky but rest assured that you’ve got all you need to embark on the voyage.
Now that you’ve left dry land, back off. Don’t react. Know to adjust your sails as needed because the weather is unpredictable. Simply watch and listen for clues of where you’ll drop anchor. If you’ve started training as a French baker and realize you’re better at making Belgian waffles, you’ll still be an expert cook. If your new home is near a boardwalk instead of a park, your dog will still get ample exercise and you’ll enjoy the view. Pay attention to how your destination materializes when control drops away and imagination takes over. Maybe you’ll fall in love with someone who’s never been your type or find a perfect job in an unfamiliar field. Detach from judgment and be receptive.
Letting go of an outcome allows you to take the scenic route on your journey. It makes the trip more meaningful and gives you the space to discover. Be an explorer. Trust that you have all you need to fulfill your flexible intention. Believe in the mystery and have faith that you’ll recognize the destination when it comes your way.
Wave good-bye to expectations as if they were standing on the shore wishing you a Bon Voyage.