It is a beautiful summer in the Pacific Northwest, and my family and I have had the opportunity to spend some glorious days boating in the San Juan Islands. With the Labor Day holiday and end of summer quickly approaching, we escaped with my parents to Orcas Island to catch the last hurrah.

The sky was blue, the sun was warm, and there was just enough of a breeze to make everyone happy. Hikes around Mountain Lake, fresh salmon on the BBQ, and card games in the evenings – it was the perfect getaway.

From our vantage point on the docks you could watch the myriad of boats coming and going. As the wind picked up the sail boats would hoist their large sails – a mesmerizing site. It reminded me of a great quote:

“The pessimist complains about the wind. The optimistic expects it to change. The leader adjusts the sails.” John Maxwell

This quote struck me as I consider myself an optimist. I strive to choose the right attitude and best perspective in all circumstances. But like the optimist in this quote, I realize that sometimes I expect things to change for the better, and “hope for the best,” but don’t take any action. Can you relate?

It seems it would be better to be an optimist, but also make changes and adjustments as you can to ensure a positive outcome.

If the wind is the unforeseen troubles that come your way, how are you reacting to them?

Think of a recent difficulty you faced at work or at home – perhaps a problem with a client or coworker, a financial issue, or a disagreement with a friend. It may be a problem you got yourself into, or it may be something you have no control over.

Then ask yourself these questions:

  • What was your initial reaction to the situation?
  • Did you complain about it to whoever would listen or choose a positive perspective?
  • Was there anything you could do to make a difference?

In times of challenge, it is a natural reaction to feel stuck and unsure of what to do next. Often times it is easier to do nothing than to take on the hard work of fixing a situation that has you floundering. Instead –

Recognize when you are stuck. Just this act of self awareness can help you identify the barriers in the way of your success.

Get support. Reach out to a colleague, your leadership coach, or another trusted advisor. You don’t have to do business or life alone.

Evaluate your options. Talk the situation through and write down the pros and cons of various options. Focus on what you can control.

Take the first step. Decide on a step of action. Most of the time you won’t have all of the answers you want, but don’t let that stop you from moving forward.

Next time an unexpected wind comes your way, be prepared to take action. Most of the time there is something you can do to help the situation; you just need a little courage to adjust the sails.