Realists adjusts their sails

A while back, I was in a meeting with a group of program managers in a typical conference room that was outfitted with the stock table, chairs, and conference phone. I don’t recall the topic of the meeting, but I do remember this particular conference room because in addition to the usual conference-roomy stuff, there was a framed poster hanging on the wall that I faced. It was a sailboat out at sea that was captioned, “The pessimist complains about the wind; the optimist expects it to change; the realist adjusts the sails. (The captioned quote is attributed to William Arthur Ward)” I liked that poster, as I’ve always considered myself something other than either a pessimist or an optimist.

I’d like to think that I adjust to changing circumstances and do what I can to act instead of feel. See, the pessimist feels badly about the wind, while the optimist tries to feel ok with it. The realist doesn’t appear to feel, but actually acts by way of adjusting sails that will harness the wind’s energy for an advantageous purpose. In teaching and writing, I take what most consider a crappy circumstance, Addiction, and try to make it a teaching opportunity.

In my studies and work in the addiction field, I’ve come to see that there is ample material in many aspects of it that can be useful. For example, I’ve come to see that a sense of purpose is necessary for anyone to gain some level of recovery. If there’s no purpose to a life, then it almost can appear better to remain caught in Addiction’s grasp. Also, I’ve learned that there’s a reality to the “zombie apocalypse:” Affinity for and from Addiction creates a whole culture of people whose sole waking objective is to acquire and use their substance or process that’s at the center of their addiction. Really, I don’t like zombie movies, but when I’ve come across one, I can’t help but be reminded of the camps of people in Puerto Rico who group together in pursuit of crack and/or heroin. They look just like the zombie groups shown on Walking Dead. Plus, studying Addiction has taught me (and reinforced the idea) that the need to believe in one’s capabilities is absolutely critical, not only to gaining recovery, but to having a healthy life, period. If a person does not believe him or herself capable of achieving any given goal, then that person is doomed to never even try.

So, before a realist can adjust the sails, he needs to believe that he can, not be handcuffed by feelings, and have a sense of purpose that his actions in adjusting the sails will be meaningful and valuable to him and his shipmates. Otherwise, he’ll just be another chronic feeler too atrophied to actually act…


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