My brother, Emil, is a genius as well as being an exceptionally talented kayak paddler. Since one of my goals this summer was to learn how to pilot a kayak, it made sense to ask Emil for his help.

Picture this: A sunny, warm day on Crimson Lake in West-central Alberta. There were six student kayakers, bobbing like corks on the waves, eager to hear the words of direction and wisdom from the master of the craft.

Emil’s first three phrases are indelibly imprinted in my mind, with immense life implications for you and me. These gems will keep you successfully on top, regardless of the rapids, changing currents, or tides. They’ll keep you feeling good about yourself and confident in your direction through life. They will help you create powerful, positive results – professionally and personally.

You may be thinking (and so might Emil), “Ah, come-on, Dan. You’ve got slough-water on the brain.”

Please let me explain and then I’d like to know what you think.

Kayak cockpit gems

Imagine the drum-roll of fingers on the hull of my kayak.

1) Every stroke is a correction stroke.

2) It doesn’t need to be pretty; it needs to be effective.

3) Look where you want to go.

Profound, huh?

Let’s take a closer look. And I challenge you to consciously apply these gems in all areas of your life.

1) Every stroke is a correction stroke.

Face the fact: the river of life rarely flows in a straight line, and the currents are continually changing.

Think about it. Is today going exactly the way you wanted it to be, or planned it? Have there been: unexpected surprises and challenges; exhilarations and disappointments; peacefulness and disturbances? Have the recent economic burps caused you to cogitate, detour, or pull back? Have people treated you the way you thought they “should?” And, have you treated every person you encountered in the most effective way?

Here’s the deal. You and I accept millions of bits of stimulus every day through our eyes, ears, nose, mouth, and skin. We may not be able to control the outside stimulus, yet we can always choose our thoughts, words, and actions in response to the stimulus. Our action or reaction determines our result, or our new direction – but not for long because we soon face another group of stimulus that has us correcting again.

Example: Recently, I was the Master of Ceremonies for an event. Part-way through the event, a gentleman approached me and told me how poorly the whole event was organized. In the past, I would have taken that as an attack on me and may have reacted by saying something less than appropriate. This time, I noticed my blood starting to boil, and with the thought,”that’s an interesting response to his words,” I listened attentively, thanked the gentleman for his comments, made some slight corrections, and proceeded with a very successful event.

I’ve been working on becoming more consciously aware of my thoughts at all times. It is like being a fly on the wall, an observer of my life, somewhat removed from my reactionary emotional attachment to situations. As I practice this, I’ve learned that I can choose to think, speak, and act honestly, lovingly, and respectfully toward myself and others, and my general direction through life is easier and more fun.

I continually correct with every stroke. Am I crazy, or do you do it too?

2) It doesn’t need to be pretty; it needs to be effective.

In this dynamic, shifting current, we must be willing to make lightening-fast, effective choices to avoid life-threatening rocks, walls, and waves. It doesn’t matter if you have the most expensive kayak, the best wetsuit, or top-of-the-line paddles sticking out your ying-yang, what matters is that you use your skills and abilities to move effectively.

It works this way when you’re up the creek, and even better yet before you get there.

I make mistakes – and if you’re honest with yourself, so do you. You may call them failures if you want, and that’s OK as long as you recognize that failure is an event, not a person. Mistakes are my greatest teachers because I get to learn what to do next time so I don’t repeat the same mistakes again. Doing that would be ignorance.

Correcting mistakes requires me to become vulnerable, to apologize, and to admit my weakness in that area. These actions may not seem pretty to me, but I’ve learned that they are the quickest and most effective way to get back on stream, build relationships, and surge forward in life.

Many years ago, when Jamie and Brad were little boys, I reacted negatively to something they had done. I yelled, called them “bad boys,” and spanked them both. Yikes! Physical, mental, and emotional abuse all at once. Had I continued with this form of parenting, I doubt they would want anything to do with me now.

Thankfully, I recognized my mistake and was courageous enough do make a correction. It was humbling to gather Jamie and Brad close to me, apologize, and ask for their forgiveness. I remember saying, “I made a big mistake and I’m sorry. I’ve never been a Dad before and I need your help to learn how to be a good one.”

For me, it didn’t feel pretty, but it sure has turned out to be effective.

Where in your life (at work or home) do you react to situations and make mistakes in your interactions with others, but shrug it off as “that’s just the way I am”? Where do you blame others, the economy, or bad luck for your mistakes? It may seem to give you power and make you look good. Yet are these choices effective in your relationships long-term?

3) Look where you want to go.

What you focus on; you attract. It’s true. If I think I’m going to swim in the upcoming rapids (kayak–ectomy), I inevitably will. If I think I’m going to manoeuvre them with ease, I do.

Our minds are extremely powerful. As we think about and focus on something, we tend to attract people and situations which are congruent with our thoughts. This works for things we want – and things we don’t want.

Example: When we work with couples in coaching sessions or at seminars, we ask each of them to describe their ideal relationship. Often, they have a hard time doing this. They want a happy, loving relationship, but what the heck does that mean in specific terms?

They have little peeves about what their partner says or does. They definitely know what they don’t want. They go to their workplace with their grievances and challenges weighing heavily on their hearts and minds. Creativity and productivity are hindered. Their relationships at work suffer too. The more they focus on these undesirables, the more they see. And yet, they are getting exactly what they focus on.

In our 25 years of marriage, we have learned that the more we talk about, and focus on what we want in our relationship, family, and business, the more easily and quickly we create our desires. By making our relationship rock-solid, we are both far more creative and productive in our careers. Our minds are not distracted by home-life polluted thoughts that we experienced in the past. We continue to look where we want to go and we continue to get what we want.

So, my friend, what do you focus on in your life – what you want, or what you don’t want? I encourage you to evaluate your results. They will indicate exactly where you look most of the time. Consciously look where you want to go.

You and I can choose to apply these kayak cockpit gems every day – or not. The waves are big, the current is strong, and there’s lots of learning and fun to be had on this big river of life.

Are you coming along for the ride, or clinging to the mud on the bank?

Author's Bio: 

Author, relationship coach and professional speaker, Dan Ohler, helps thousands of people every year to vastly enhance their professional and personal relationships. Dan gets you thinkin’ outside your barn. Through his books, keynotes, workshops, coaching, and comedy presentations, he challenges you to create flourishing relationships, and in-joy escalating success.

Dan is based near Edmonton, Alberta, Canada, and his unique, grass-roots flair is well-known across the nation.

He and his wife, Carol, provide seminars, relationship recharge retreats, and relationship coaching specifically for couples.

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As a gift for you, a FREE e-sample of his book, “Thinkin’ Outside The Barn And Steppin’ Into Fresh B.S.” is available here