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Drift, Drown or Decide


Coach _____________ has asked me to come here today to speak to you about setting goals for yourselves and your team. Aristotle once said, “Like archers we will stand a better chance of hitting the target if we can see it.” Unfortunately, most people randomly shoot and then draw a target where the arrow hits.

I find that many high school students lack a sense of purpose and direction today. A man named Seneca once said, “No wind is favorable to a ship without a destination.” And many times a ship with no destination is a ship of desperation. When we don’t have a sense of purpose we often follow a downward progression something like this:

  • No purpose leads to no direction.
  • No direction leads to aimlessness.
  • Aimlessness leads to conformity.
  • Conformity leads to compromise
  • Compromise leads to mediocrity.
  • Mediocrity leads to a wasted life.
  • A wasted life leads to a lost legacy.

At this point many of us feel like Charlie Brown when Lucy approached him and said, “Charlie Brown, you are a foul ball in the line drive of life.”

I want to talk to you today about getting started on writing a purpose statement, but before then, I want to give you a little illustration to help you remember why having a purpose and goals is so important.

The Drift, Drown, or Decide Principle

Have you ever thought how much time you have in each day to get everything done that you need to do? Well, some quick math will tell you that you have 86,400 seconds each and every day.

The real question is not how much time do we have in each day, because no one has control over that, but we do have control over how we use the time that we have been given. A nationally known time management expert said this concerning time:

“Time is life. It is irreversible and irreplaceable. To waste your time is to waste your life, but to master your time is to master your life and make the most of it.”

– Alan Lakein, How to Get Control of Your Time and Your Life).

It is my experience that each and every high school student would benefit from a very simple principle which I call the “Drift, Drown, or Decide Principle.” Your time is very valuable, and what is going to separate the students who succeed from the students who just survive is the ability to use your time wisely.

1. Hand Exercise

I want everyone to let your hand hang limp by your side. Let all of the tension out of your hand so that you can barely feel anything. How effective is your hand like this?

Next, I want everyone to take your hand and put it in front of you where you can see it. Everyone make a strong fist with your hand. How long do you think you could keep your hand like this? What can you do with your hand in this position?

Finally, I want everyone to put your hand in front of you again, but this time I want you to move your fingers and hand in all different ways, not overly tense but nice and relaxed. What are some of the things that you can do with it now? (Pinch, write, grasp, etc.)

2. Purposes of the Exercise

The purposes of this principle are to help us understand the three ways to control our lives:


Some of us are like the limp hand: lazy, lifeless and bored. If we stay like this we will drift from one activity to the next with no control over our lives.


Others of us are like the first, and we do everything full speed, never stopping, always running from one activity to the next. That is great for a while, but in the not to distant future you will drown under a myriad of schoolwork, athletics, and responsibilities.


Then there are the people who are like the relaxed hand. These people plan out their activities, only doing the ones that are most important to accomplish. They have learned to make the most out of their time by giving 100 percent to their most important activities. These are the people who decided to make the most out of their time. (Adapted from Alan Lakein’s book)

3. The Application

So we can come back to the beginning and ask ourselves this question: Do we want to drift, drown or decide? I think we would all agree that we need to decide, but decide on what?

We need to decide how we want to spend our time and prioritize our activities so we can excel in the areas that are most important to us. We do this by deciding our purpose for being here, and setting goals!

Setting Goals

Setting goals and prioritizing involves Four Main Elements:

1. Purpose Statement

This is a mental image of what I think the future should look like. Remember, we should be future oriented but presently involved.

2. Objectives

These are areas of involvement to see your purpose realized.

3. Goals

They need to be measurable targets to see objectives realized. These are the specific targets that we shoot for.

4. Plans

A calculated program skillfully and artfully directed to accomplish goals and objectives. It’s like the saying, “People don’t plan to fail, they often merely fail to plan.”