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Inspiration From The Ocean

Inspiration from the ocean

I am returning to last weeks topic because so many people contacted me asking for more information about our thoughts. Thank you to Jim, Brian, Jill, Alice and all who contacted me.

Leah said to me last week: “I often feel like I am rowing a rickety boat across an ocean of sticky muck, especially in this pandemic. And, no matter how hard I row, I keep getting sucked deeper and deeper into the mud.
Deep down I know if anything is going to change, I have to get out of the boat. Yet, there is a sense of security in the boat. After all, it’s solid, gives me some protection, it seems to be moving, even if it’s only in a circle.”

Leah found that what she thought was security is actually an anchor pulling her deeper and deeper into despair, at worst, or she was just existing, at best. Yet when you try to change it feels hard and what many of you do is get back into the boat where you were comfortable before even if it is denying you your dreams or goals and then the merry go round of life continues again.

What seems like a lifetime ago on the West coast of Ireland, where I am originally from, I was strolling along the beach by the ocean. It was a stormy day, the wind was strong and the waves were just rolling in.

After walking for a little I came upon an old monk who was standing gazing at the ocean in a trance like manner. As a young Catholic boy, we were taught that we must respect priests and monks were more scary godlike surreal figures than priests. So, I tried avoidance. He obviously noticed me because he said:

“Why do you think that choppy, restless water reminds me so much of people’s minds?”

Thinking it was a trick questions I mumbled I don’t know. I expected response of “stupid boy” but he kindly said: “All human minds are full of noise, they are basically a swirling gibberish mass of restless thoughts”.

Trying to sound intelligent I said “Why do you say that?”. The old monk said: “How we think is what matters the most. We are what our thoughts have made us. So, take care about what you think. Thoughts live, they travel far.”

I pondered for a moment and thought I should ask the monk an intelligent question, so I asked: “Why do thoughts matter?” and the monk smiled and said: “The average person has about 60,000 thoughts per day, 80% are negative, and 95% are exactly the same repetitive thoughts as the day before. You can see that the mind focuses on the negative more and ‘plays the same songs’ over and over again.”

The monk said: “You must think of thoughts as guests, very special guests. You must be so careful what thoughts you allow in and entertain, and which ones you show the door the moment they turn up.”

We both stood there looking at the ocean. Just then the wind increased and the waves got bigger I said – “I wouldn’t want to be on a boat in the middle of that ocean, in a storm like this.”

The monk said: “You are there all the time in this storm in your mind. Most people’s minds are like a rudderless boat in the middle of a choppy ocean, even if they do not realise it. Most people minds are very restless. Thoughts of all kinds come and go incessantly, agitating the mind like the ocean’s waves. You don’t calm the ocean by holding the water and not letting it move. What is necessary is to stop the wind. Your thoughts, desires and fears are like the wind, and you need to calm them down, and not let them rule your life. As you grow you must learn to control your thoughts by controlling your attention and focus, and then the ocean of your mind will become calm.”

In the years that followed I researched and studied behaviour and thinking and one of the big lessons of life for me is that whatever you hold in your mind on a consistent basis is exactly what you will experience in your life.

What I want people to understand today is that thoughts are just thoughts and the good news is:

  • You can change your thoughts.
  • You can destroy the images they create
  • You can bin historic unsettling thoughts
  • You can change the emotions they cause
  • You can create new, empowering thoughts.

The thing is, the world – your world – is made up of thoughts, your thoughts. Once you understand that and accept it, you’re well and truly on the road to creating real and lasting change in your life.

The trouble is, many people never, ever get it. They never understand that their world is created by them. Created by the way they think.

They feel like they have no control over their thoughts which in turn means they have no control over their life. And then life controls them.

First, learn to calm down the wind and the ocean in your mind. For fast-acting relief try calming your mind with: breathing, meditation, acceptance, being present, distancing, labelling.

When you believe in yourself more and believe on your capabilities you will have more control of your life. However, don’t focus on changing the outside world. Focus on changing and calming your inner world.

If you realised just how powerful your thoughts are, you would never think a negative thought.

It is remarkable how liberating it feels to be able to see that your thoughts are just thoughts and that they are not ‘you’ or ‘ your reality.


I can take you to success. I coach ordinary people every day to do extra-ordinary things. I coach extra-ordinary people to do extra-ordinary things. The difference is those who have a dream, and are prepared to follow said dream, are extraordinary, and just need a structure and support system to kick off that journey, which will finish with them sliding in fast sideways to the grave, totally worn out from the relentless living of their dreams, screaming out loudly “Wow holy sh*t, what a ride!”

If that is you – start today! If you are looking for coaching on change for yourself or your organisation, or would like more information on the work we do on Personal, Professional, or Organisational Change, please contact us on

About Dr Maurice Duffy

Irish. Author, Professor, Coach and Business strategist. The person Australian Captain Steve Smith credited with helping him back from his cricket ban. Coach to two Ashes wins. Coach to CEOs, Politicians and some of the best know international sports starts including Olympians. BBC ‘Thought for the Week’. Coached business leaders and organizations in 80 countries. Works with charities to do with Mental Health. Lives in North East England with his wife and 11-year-old son.