Burn your boats!

Burn your boats

by Lindsay on January 4, 2011

in Attitude, Inspiration, Intuition, Motivation, Personal Growth

I’m not one for making New Year resolutions. I’m definitely a “to-do list” lover and a goal setter, but not a resolution-maker. Although I am resolution-free, I want to make sure 2011 is a productive year for me both professionally and personally. I am going to make this a year of action — a year of stretching out of my comfort zone and taking my life to new places. A year of growth and expansion. I’m going to live the life I envision for myself because I realize if I get lazy and apathetic now, I can be sure I’ll probably try to coast through the rest of my adult life that very same way. I’ve decided 2011 is going to be my year to burn boats.

Has anyone ever told you to “burn the boats”?

I’ve heard this expression before and knew what it meant, but it wasn’t until I learned the history of the saying that I grew to fully appreciate it. Ancient Greek warriors were both feared and respected by their opponents. The Greeks were ace at “dramatic demonstration” in order to get the best action out of their soldiers. Once the Greek warriors were dropped off onto the enemy’s shore, the Greek commanders would shout out, “burn the boats!” The sight of burning boats removed any possibility of retreat from the hearts and minds of the Greek warriors. Imagine the impact this had on the soldiers – to see their “safe haven” go up in flames. They were left with no choice but to fight to win — the only way back home was through victory.

It’s easy to stand on the sidelines of life and just let it happen to you. It’s safe and pretty darn comfortable, but there’s no chance of growth. In order to change our lives, we need to push ourselves out of our comfort zones. This takes courage and a willingness to stop standing on the sidelines of life. Sometimes, we just need to take a leap of faith and listen to our intuition when it tells us to get uncomfortable and make changes. In other words, we just need to burn the boats.

Need a gentle nudge to burn your boat? Think of these possible missed opportunities:

  • The job interview you passed by because you were comfortable with your current job even though you were no longer really happy there
  • The relationships you didn’t pursue with fantastic people because you were fearful of rejection
  • The friendships you didn’t nurture or attempt to grow because the effort was simply ‘too much’ at the time

How many more of these scenarios do you want in your life?

In order to see change in your life, you need to take a leap of faith and jump away from the status quo and what is comfortable for you. It’s amazing to me how willing we are to maintain our current status even when we’re not truly happy with the way things are, just because we fear the unknown. Safety nets are good – they protect us from pain. But they also prevent us from really moving forward. Now’s the time to ditch the excuses and obstacles standing in your way.

If you’ve had a nagging feeling in your gut about a chance you need to take or a change you need to make, that’s your intuition. It’s time to stop ignoring it and take action. Set fire to your boats and let them sink to the bottom of the proverbial ocean along with your fear of the unknown and new. Look ahead. You’ll get to where you want to go in 2011 without those boats that are keeping you anchored to where you are now.

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Judson January 6, 2011 at 10:13 am

Good advice … good analogy with burning the boats.

I totally agree with the idea that taking leaps of faith is often necessary. Most of what we do in life requires some sort of faith that we're making a sound decision. Deciding to leap or not is probably an agonizing decision for many people. Because I'm deeply spiritual, If I'm thinking clearly … and I try to always think clearly about an important decision … I turn it over to God and wait for guidance. Non-spiritual people would probably just call this letting your conscience be your guide. Either way, it works if you let it.

— Judson

Lindsay January 6, 2011 at 1:46 pm

I think fear is the primary thing that holds anyone back from "burning the boats", so to speak. Whether they are spiritual beings or not, some people just live their lives afraid of change. If someone can get rid of the fear, everything becomes much easier. Or, at least swallow the fear and take the leap anyway.

Megan-Best of Fates January 6, 2011 at 11:45 am

I admit… I was a wee bit disappointed my first reading that you were going to use 2011 to burn your books. Now that I'm pro book burning. I was just interested to read why you were for it. But as a life decision, burning boats is a much better pathway.

Metaphorically, at least.

Lindsay January 6, 2011 at 12:42 pm

I'd never burn books! Books are cool. And really good at collecting dust. And making me look smart.

Irmata March 4, 2011 at 11:05 pm

I have an entire navy’s-worth of boats to burn! I should probably start with the ocean liner I’m currently cruising in…

Lindsay March 4, 2011 at 11:44 pm

You and me both, girl!

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