A Dinghy Ride Gives a Lesson

As we are coming into the harbour in our 34 foot sailboat, with 4 adults and 3 kids aboard, my husband suggests that I take the dinghy ahead of the sailboat to the dock. The dinghy–named Dongseo–is our small, outboard motor boat. It trails behind the sailboat attached to a long line and we use it to go to the beach and back when the sailboat is anchored. The conditions are windy and wavy and it is a pain to get the dinghy into the dock slip on a calm day. Neither of us are excited to maneuver the dinghy into the dock slip and then dock the boat without the wind pushing us into the neighbouring boat. If I went ahead in the dinghy, it would also mean that I would be at the dock and ready to catch them. I know that it is the best plan.

However, I have not been in the dinghy yet this season (David usually drives it) and I am not a seasoned dinghy driver. My brain says “I am not comfortable with this” and I say it out loud to David. He tries to encourage me but my brain is not having it. Our brains have evolved to keep us safe and comfortable (originally to avoid lions and tigers and bears). Now, however, if we are always safe, it just means that we stay exactly where we are and we do not grow or learn or change. This feeling of discomfort has become a flag for me; I need to assess the actual risk and whether it’s okay to push myself a little, as well as ask what I want and don’t want and then consciously choose what my decision will be.

In this case, I knew it was the best plan to get us docked with ease. I wanted to be an active part of our team and for David to know that he could count on me or at least that I would try. I wanted the girls to see me push myself and make mistakes and see that it was ok. On the other hand, I didn’t want to make mistakes, seem foolish or flounder. I didn’t want others to see just how poor my dinghy skills are. All of those thoughts were my brain keeping me safe and comfortable. When I considered it, there wasn’t really much bad that could happen and I decided to push myself a little.

And boy, did I make mistakes. David gave me a quick refresher on how to start the engine and maneuver the boat. As I pushed off the stern and began to move forward, I nearly crashed into the sailboat. I got myself turned around and then headed towards…the shoreline of rocks. I kept trying different ways of turning the motor and going faster or slower but I kept drifting towards the rocks. I came very close but I kept trying and  I cleared the rocks and headed towards our dock and then into our slip. I just kept telling myself, “I just need to make it to the dock — it doesn’t matter how or if it’s perfect”. And you know what? I did and it sure wasn’t a straight line (that I so love) but I made it.

I docked the dinghy at our slip and was ready to receive the bowline and pull the sailboat in for a smooth and successful docking. I was invigorated and full of energy. “I did it!” I exclaimed to David. “See? I knew you could do it.” “Thanks for pushing me.” I said.

When something comes up and your brain says “That makes me uncomfortable”, try noticing it as a flag to take a closer look and ask yourself:

  1. What is the actual risk here?
  2. What do I want? What don’t I want?
  3. What am I going to consciously decide to do?

Practising pushing ourselves a little to move through discomfort could be one of the most important thing we do as writers, and individuals for that matter. The more we practise a willingness to be uncomfortable, the easier writing will become. Sometimes when we are writing discomfort comes up as overwhelm or our inner critic. What if we didn’t try to stop these thoughts but just move through the discomfort of them. Imagine if we just got used to being uncomfortable, where it would lead.

Pushing myself by getting into that dinghy let me practise being willing to be uncomfortable and it gave me a chance to grow. Seek these moments out, move through them and you will begin to feel unstoppable.

Do you have a story where you pushed yourself to accomplish something imperfectly and grow? I would love to continue the conversation with you – please share your story with me by emailing me at

So many thanks to my virtual mentor Brooke Castillo who pointed out to me the importance of getting comfortable with being uncomfortable. Listen to episode #222 Discomfort on Purpose

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