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Wind Change

by Sharon Teitelbaum

My daughters are sailors. (This is one of many clues indicating a rich gene pool.) They have taught me the concept of wind change, which I find gorgeously useful as a metaphor for dynamics that show up in everyone's life.

Here's how it manifests in sailing, as described by an entrenched landlubber. You're tearing through the water like nobody's business, knowing what you're doing, and feeling totally on top of things. You're doing some of the best sailing you've ever done. Life is grand. But now, suddenly, you've slowed down to a pathetic little crawl, and none of the brilliant maneuvers you've been wielding all afternoon are making any difference at all. "Huh??" you ask. [This is the tip-off -- this "Huh??" -- that you may be in that personal and cosmological experience of wind change.] The wind's been taken out of your sails, and not just for the moment - for the day. But you're so preoccupied with trying to CATCH that wind at you don't really get it. It's time to shift your expectations and sail differently. Even the best skippers, my daughters tell me, sometimes need to hear it from their crew: "The wind changed."

How does this look outside of sailing? It happens when your context environment changes, but you're so entrenched in day-to-day activity that you don't notice the big picture change. The shift might be something as large scale as international economic conditions or as personal and individual as your own physical state, or anything in between.

I once worked with a client who owned a recruiting company that had been extremely successful but was now foundering. This dynamic entrepreneur had been working extremely hard to turn it around, using all the strategies and methodologies that had worked for her in the past, but to no avail. "Huh?" she was asking, "I just don't get it." She was disheartened, exhausted, and felt like a failure. She was like a sailor who keeps trying to catch the wind, but there isn't any wind!

She had learned her business and brought it to success during years when there was very high unemployment both in her geographic region and in the industry where she concentrated. Over the years, the economy had shifted - there was now virtually no unemployment in that industry or in her region. The wind had changed. Her market had altered dramatically, and her business would have to change dramatically in response if she was to succeed. She hadn't seen this larger context because she was so preoccupied with her day-to-day challenges. Grasping that the wind had changed allowed her to shift her approach.

One of the ways wind change impacts me is in the context of my physical state. When I enter into a period of flow in my work, I just let her rip - I open up all my biggest sails, and let that energy propel me. I love that state. When I am in it, I might only need to adjust WHAT I'm working on at any given time (client work? writing? organizing?) or WHERE I'm doing it (keyboard? phone? Staples? meeting?) in order to stay in flow. But inevitably, one morning when I start in again, I'm ineffective and disconnected. In fact, I'm feeling downright lazy! I try different maneuvers, but I remain relatively useless and woefully unmotivated. I berate myself for my inclination to sloth. And then I get it: I'm exhausted. My brain is fried. I'm toasted - used up. The wind has changed! The flow is not flowing any more! This round is over.

At this point, I am learning, I need to scrutinize my schedule to see where I can cut myself some slack. I need to find ways to rest and re-nourish after this wonderful period of exertion. And with any luck, I'll be out again when the next great wind comes along. I am still very much in learning mode when it comes to identifying a wind change, but the results are very motivating!

Here are some other examples of wind change in people's lives:

1. Your "little children" have "adolesced", and the parenting style that has worked so well for so many years just doesn't cut it any more.

2. Your professional reputation and your organization have grown - and you are flooded with more business than you can handle the way you’re handling it.

3. Your marriage, which has been "on hold" for a few years while you and your spouse focused on kids and profession, needs some real attention.

4. The market where you have been targeting your business has migrated into another sector.

5. You don't bounce back from sports injuries as quickly as you used to - you no longer have the body of a 25-year old.

So what's the drill? How can you effectively deal with a wind change? The hardest part is recognizing it. Notice when you hear yourself saying "Huh??" Look around for evidence of some kind of wind change. Once you recognize it, what's called for is extremely simple, but not necessarily easy:

-- Get over it.
-- Make a course correction based on the new information.
-- Get back into action.

One final point about wind change: don't process it alone. Pick up the phone, call one of your fans, and get some help understanding what's true now that wasn't true before, owning your emotions, and figuring out what to do. The universe rewards action, so the sooner you can get over being stunned by this, change course, and get going again, the better off you are.

COPYRIGHT 2001, Sharon Teitelbaum. All rights reserved.

Sharon Teitelbaum may be contacted at

Sharon Teitelbaum,, a Master Certified Work-Life and Career Coach, works with high achievers, people at mid-career, and professionals seeking greater career satisfaction and work-life balance. She coaches by phone and in person in Boston. Her newsletter, Strategies For Change, offers practical tips for work-life success. Getting Unstuck Without Coming Unglued: Restoring Work-Life Balance is Sharon's most recent book. Sharon also also delivers keynotes & workshops on work-life issues. Clients include Children’s Hospital Boston, Merrill Lynch, Arnold Worldwide, professional organizations and alumni groups. She's been featured in national publications including The New York Times,, and Working Mother Magazine. Married for 30 years, she is the mother of two amazing young women


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