Is it possible for explorers to get stuck in the doldrums? You bet, especially when life’s waters are calm. Yet the doldrums give us us a peaceful opportunity to ask ourselves an important question, “Do I really want to persevere?”
Under the sea there may be churning, disruption, tension and change, but nothing looks different on the surface. On top, things look still, and there’s no outward movement.
Sometimes change and opportunity happens through the apparent absence of change and opportunity.
When people ask me about exploration they hear about my curiosity, they hear about the fun times and they hear about the travel and discovery. All that happens of course, but I don’t often start my most exciting stories with the doldrums. Perhaps I should?
Ancient mariners knew the doldrums well. They were the times when the ship did not move. It was peaceful, but nothing was happening.
Today in businesses there are times where the
re is not much happening. The doldrums are a time for a different kind of discovery. During these times we can find what is deeply in us, what is going on in our heads, what disturbs us.
And if I’m bold enough, I can ponder the deeper question, “Why am I doing this, and could this be done differently?” The why questions are tough ones. They push us. We ask questions like, “Why is this difficult?” and, “Why can't I move forward?”
If I had my choice, I would always prefer wind in my sails. It's much more enjoyable and easier.
But I am trying to learn from and be thankful for the doldrums. There are depths to be plumbed. The doldrums allow us to understand what's deep inside. Perhaps there are problems that are systematic. A person or an organization may need big change.
What are the implications of embracing the doldrums? Here are three.
1. The Doldrums are not to be avoided. I believe doldrums allow us a quiet plateau to discover what's deep inside. They give us a place to move from when the time is right.
2. The fastest line to the next point is not always the straight line. The fastest line is the line of learning that picks up what you need to know along the way so that you have all the resources for what's next. Big learning is not defined only by the month or the quarter. Sometimes it is the long journey over years, or even decades which allows the next thing to emerge.
3. There will be ups and downs. In order to be prepared for the fullest tomorrow it may take a journey which allows us to go through times that are both pleasant and unpleasant. We experience the joy and depression that is necessary for what's next.
I don't want to be stuck in the doldrums anymore than the ancient mariners did, but sometimes it's necessary when we're going from here to there. The bad times allow us to search what is deep inside us that we care about. For this we can be eternally thankful.