Recently, after too much coffee and too many months of bad luck, I bombarded my dear, wise friend Natalie with a barrage of woe-is-mes. In my defense, I’ve recently been downgraded from sleeping in a hammock to sleeping on the plywood floor of a half-renovated boat, and frigid conditions have made the situation less tolerable. Pretty much everything is a disaster at the moment, and it feels like the universe is using my risk-taking as an opportunity to teach me a lesson about the perils of risk-taking.

In return, Natalie sent a three word message that changed my day: Shift your focus.

And so I did. I considered the fact that less than a year ago, I set the intention of becoming a full-time novelist living aboard a sailboat. While the going has been tough, if I shift my focus form the hardship and focus on the bigger picture, I’ve achieved my dream in record time. (I just need to work on clarifying my intentions in the future, like, you know, to include money and a bed to sleep in. I guess I just assumed that was assumed. More on that later.)

Hot coffee in a hammock on a boat on a blustery day. #ilivedangerously

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My personal Instagram account is a pretty good example of how shifting your focus can change your experience of a situation. If you peruse the photos in my feed, you’ll notice that many are close-ups. That’s because if I zoom out, the reality is not nearly so pretty. From a broad view, the Sea Shanti looks less like a sailboat and more like a nautical homage to the Beverly Hillbillies. However, changing what I focus on when I look at our boat helps to make the present situation more bearable. It gives me some control over my story.

Two speckled birds stopped by to inspect the Shanti. #birdsofinstagram #sailboatlife

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It’s easy (and even natural) to focus on the thing that’s giving you the biggest headache at the moment, but shifting your focus can change your entire experience of reality. It may not immediately change conditions, but it can give you more patience and optimism as you work towards transformation.