by Catherine DeAngelis
“It matters not how strait the gate, how charged with punishments the scroll, I am the master of my fate, I am the captain of my soul.”
– from the poem “Invictus” by William Ernest Henley
What would it be like if we were to imagine ourselves steering our way through life, setting goals as if we were a captain at the helm of a ship? We could control and navigate the ship across ocean or sea waters skilled at facing from mild and calm, severe and harsh to wet and cold weather. Some might say we can do this travelling alone or have done it alone, but even a captain needs help with actions and tasks before setting out onto open waters.
We have read story books about ships that sailed the many seas around the world and heard the myths and legends built famous on superstition.
With a sea map in hand, the captain’s duty is to make it across waters safe and with smooth operation, securing the ships seaworthiness, meeting conditions even those potentially hazardous.
Think about our life map and how prepared we are to adjust and meet head on the task or situation that tests our abilities whatever life throws at us.
What is a Life Steering Act?
A Life Steering Act is about being the captain at the wheel of our ship in life. As captain, we are in charge of the movement of the ship’s rudder and the direction in which it is going. Similar to life, we address our life map regularly and make a commitment to plot our goals in such a way to get us a desired result in our daily life.
Keeping track of goals is never an easy momentum to maintain. We can reinforce the skill of steering in the direction we want to go by relying on either mechanical equipment or the tools to aid us.
The values we live by are important to help us understand what we deserve, especially to know our worth and usefulness and where all the stuff of life we are needing or wanting is coherent with our values. Also, to live and learn is by managing what we want or what we need and aim for the most important to us based on what are our life’s priorities.
A ship’s construct differs significantly from a human body. However, casually liken a human skeleton to a ship’s parts and connect them both as requiring a skill to operate that offers a miraculous ability to manage or guide someone or something.
Our physical form for example is the mechanism that gets us to sit or stand, walk backwards or forwards. A ship has its various sizes but able to float on some of the deepest ocean waters. It too has its various structural components to get it to do what it does – float and, as humans we move.
Someone has to be present with the knowledge on how to reach a place or get something. And to get our brain and physical body in motion to steer into the channel to act the way we want to, can be a feat in itself.
Our Will In Action
Victorian Poet, William Ernest Henley aptly writes in his last line of his poem Invictus, “I am the captain of my Soul.” This poem was life affirming for Nelson Mandela. He used it to keep himself alive during his 27 years in prison. Mandela suffered incarceration. He lived with tuberculosis and during this period of solitude he had to grieve being unable to attend his son’s funeral. All this took place before becoming South Africa’s president. His force of reckoning got him to leading a nation out of apartheid and into democracy.
Another person with a will-in-action-of-another-kind is high-wire performer Nikolas Wallenda, the first accomplished aerialist who performed a tightrope walk over a 1,500-Foot Grand Canyon Gorge. Who would plan and scheme for such a feat let alone imagine ever doing it but instead succeeding at it non-fatalistically.
Curiosity leads us to think what does it take to undertake such an astounding task. Wallenda is master of the all pervading emotion “fear” and he appeals to the crowd’s obsessiveness: how does he obliterate fear from knocking out his knees?
What might have been the optimism pumping through Mandela’s blood which gave him the fortitude to prevail over the depravity he felt in his prison: within the walls and within himself?
As captains of our soul, we ensure our vessel has prudent conduct and does what is needed to adhere to the discipline and stand by go in the path that is most compelling in us to get us there.
Our Getting Unstuck
We do not need a brand new year to get ourselves revved up, ready to contemplate the list of goals for what we need and what we want. The crunch comes when we think and feel and dig deep into the essence of who we are and to who we know ourselves to truly be. Go ahead and pull out the pieces of our own scheming, whatever these may be, and add them to the list.
Get ready to boot-camp ourselves into realizing goals and making it a time of completion.
- Who will make the changes in us whatever we think are the most important at work, at home, emotionally, physically or spiritually?
- What is it we need and what is it we want that will bring us to a place to take better care of ourselves?
- Why do we avoid that dreaded state of non-functioning and delay the leap to make changes without or with help?
- When do we know it is time to get started on the almighty task list of wants and needs and succeed at attaining them?
In answer to these, we may find ourselves overcome by a whirlwind of thoughts that bring us to a full stop and get nothing done. The scenario replays itself over and over in our head and we anoint ourselves number one procrastinator and stay stuck there.
How to be Captain of Our Soul?
These things we are trying to get done or balance out, whatever we define them to be, are they calling out from under the despair of procrastination or from a depression creating a behavior to prevent us from achieving our aim?
Dr. Timothy A. Pyschyl explains the relation of Depression and Procrastination in his article of the same, that these are two common problems or experiences that people share – depression and procrastination — and that they are related. And, he teaches us that procrastination is the avoidance of doing a task which “needs” to be accomplished. We get into this mode of procrastination because we prefer to be doing the more pleasing things in place of ones that are not so pleasing or are easier to tackle.
It is vital to ask ourselves what is in the way of meeting our needs and our wants and how come we are not the captain of our soul, the captain of steering our own life map?
Our human vessel is sensitive during times of e.g. loss of a parent or a child, being fired or laid off from a job, uncommunicative relationships or physical illness. The body and mind shuts us down and emotional exhaustion tears away at the tendons; exercise or practice of some sort to get to the bull’s eye of the matter of identifying these needs and wants becomes just another four letter word in our minds.
Psychologists report procrastination and depression are related. And, if we are poised for awareness of these, then we can apply managing tools so that we can feel better. At the same time, we can zero-in and identify what are the priorities, the goals we want and need to set for ourselves, and steer toward it all within our choosing based on our values that matter to us the most.
Taking action to steer our life in the way we want it to go is to know what it is we need or want simple as that. True, maybe we already know like Mandela knew or Wallenda knows (true captains of their souls). Maybe we need or want specific things we haven’t yet been able to navigate onto the right course to bring to us what exactly we need or want right here, right now.
For us to make it a time of completion, i.e. a time of letting go of procrastination, talking to a doctor and getting assessed for depression is a magnanimous move forward to where we need to start off for a restored life map.
Taking a Life Steering Action
Find a quiet place to sit or take a a meditative walk to think about what are the things in life that are a want or a need and matter the most?
Write a list down of the multitude things that need to get done or want to get done – just write it down and hold yourself back for shoving this task aside.
Answer below truthfully:
- What is I WANT now? – to have a desire to have or do (something); wish for.”I want an apple” synonyms: desire, wish for, hope for, aspire to, fancy, care for, like. Explore the WHAT? HOW? WHY? WHO?
- What is it I NEED now? – to require (something) because it is essential or very important. “I need help now” synonyms: require, be in need of, have need of, want; WHAT? Start off by working off Deviations: regroup/ replenish/restore and look at real issues that have made you deviate from getting things done or simply procrastinating and feeling less than.
- What are my Life Steering ACTION Goals? – To get us to identify what we need and what we want within the realm of our Life Steering Action Goals we may check our life skills and how comfortable we are with our emotional; physical; spiritual, financial, relationships and work life. We prioritize the identified wants and needs in these areas and place them in the order of our choosing to gather them into our life – we may ask if we are effectively balancing these life skills.
- HOW? – Change Environment/perspective – e.g. Change Beliefs – better nutrition, more exercise, develop meditative/spiritual Practice, play and have more fun.
- WHY? Embrace/expand Strengths – e.g. Lesson learned and opportunities or any violation to your values that may have been experienced.
- WHO? Partnerships/collaborate – e.g. do I need further tools, more training/education, need to go for a routine check up or ask a family member, or friend for a shoulder to lean on? Are you a lone wolf?
A Life Steering Act Worksheet – Download this Worksheet for easy use for a quick and easy getting started tool. This will help set you off to a start or continuum in defining needs and wants.
Many services are available for people to work on setting life goals and support for overcoming the debilitating affects of depression.
Everyone is different! We are our own captain steering our own life-ship.
Life coaching is available to give supportive listening — without attempts to repair but help resolve some strong feelings that may arise in the writing of our list. A life coach offers strategies to help map out a life plan and work together on creating a renewed method of managing life skills. Other helping professionals are available e.g.: social worker, psychologist or psychotherapists. Talk to a family doctor to work through if any concerns about mental well being. Giving up is never an option and seeking self-love and understanding; find support to uplift and build a life map which declares “…I am the master of my fate, I am the captain of my soul.”
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