A 2,000 Mile Canoe Trip to Your Destiny

If you’ve read much of my work, you know one of the recurrent themes is my transition from a shiny, perfect-seeming life to follow the calling of my heart and spirit toward something more. Not more stuff, not more degrees, not more accolades. Lord knows, I spent the first 30-some-odd years of my life focusing solely on those things.

Frankly, I wasn’t even sure what the “something more” would be when I heeded that call, which made it all the more difficult to leave the safety and over-the-top comfort of my old life. But in the words of Anais Nin, “the day came when the risk to remain tight in a bud was more painful than the risk it took to blossom.” So leave and blossom I did.

As a coach, that’s typically what I assist my clients in doing, as well. And although I am happy to share my own story as encouragement, I find it far more inspiring to tell my clients about the Polynesians. They are, in my mind anyway, the most wonderful illustration of taking the ultimate risk to find something more.

So why are the Polynesians my go-to example? Because they were the original inhabitants of a little island chain you might have heard of called Hawaii. At first blush, this may not sound so exciting. However, let me tell you this was no ordinary feat, as Hawaii is one of the most remote places on earth. The time was around 300 – 600 A.D., and the Polynesians were living on the Marquesas Islands, which are located over 2,000 miles from the Hawaiian Islands.

To get there, the Polynesians had no fancy equipment or maps to chart their course. Instead, they used a method of navigation called “wayfinding,” which relies solely on natural signs, such as the direction of the waves, the position of certain stars, and the formation of clouds (combined with a healthy dose of human intuition). Their primary voyaging craft was simply a double canoe made of two hulls connected by lashed crossbeams.

Oh, and one more teensy detail: When they set sail, the Polynesians did not actually have solid proof that the Hawaiian Islands even existed – just a hunch, based on watching certain bird species migrate to and from the islands the Polynesians called home. And although various theories have been thrown about to explain why on earth the Polynesians would have undertaken such a journey, I agree with those who say it was motivated by a spirit of adventure inherent to their culture.

So to sum it all up, the Polynesians basically found a little needle of an island chain in a vast 10-million square mile haystack of sea. And they weren’t sure that little needle was even there when they left the comfort of their home. How’s that for confidence to follow your something more??

Now maybe you don’t want to match the crazy, courageous seafaring ways of the Polynesians, and that’s okay. Chances are, following your “something more” will not require quite the same level of risk and commitment.

But risk can be relative, and following your heart and spirit may feel pretty damn scary. In those moments, just call upon that same wayfinding spirit of the Polynesians, and channel your inner Polynesian to navigate toward what beckons you from the horizon.

Just imagine how amazing it must have felt for those travelers after a month or more at sea to finally spot the land they intuitively knew would be waiting for them. And now imagine in your own life how incredible it would feel to set foot on your very own Hawaii (metaphorically, of course). I encourage you to carry this vision with you as you ready your boat and set sail for the something more you know is waiting for you.

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