Knowing When to Change Course

Last weekend, my husband and I visited the H. L. Hunley museum in Charleston, South Carolina. For those of you not versed in Civil War history, Hunley was the first combat submarine. We were presented with a number of interesting facts during the tour. Many proved wrong my knowledge about the Hunley, including learning that the Hunley sank two times before its final sinking and 13 men, including the craft’s namesake, lost their lives in those first two trial runs.

Our guide gave a little chuckle when he talked about recruiting the eight men for the final Hunley excursion, indicating that only fools would risk their lives on a vessel that had already sunk twice and resulted in deaths.

Whether in business or our personal lives, we sometimes miss the clues that it is time for us to change course. Often we keep doing the same things over and over thinking they will have a different outcome and are surprised when we get the same results.

Following are some thoughts on knowing when to change course:

Review Motives

Horrace L. Hunley, one of the men who came up with the idea for a submersible, and those who invested in the project, had motivation beyond helping the Confederate war effort. They knew that if they were successful in breaking the Union blockade on Charleston harbor, a hefty purse awaited. Perhaps they also anticipated selling the plans for their craft to naval forces of other countries, but whatever their thoughts, motives were far-reaching and propelled them to keep trying despite devastating consequences.

When we continue on the same path toward the same goal and repeatedly encounter the same obstacles and unsatisfying results, we usually have a another motive that pushes continued attempts. What are your motives? Career advancement? To prove to yourself or someone else that you can do what seems impossible?

Honestly review motives and decide if they are worthy. If your motivation is skewed, you probably need to regroup. Forward motion doesn’t mean progress if you repeatedly end up with a negative outcome.

Address Fears

The reason we continue to act or think in a specific manner instead of making a change can often be attributed to fear. But doing or thinking in the same manner and expecting a different outcome is pointless. For example, if you expect a difficult person to suddenly respond to you differently, your expectations are unrealistic and negated by your past experience with that person. Instead, find the courage to bypass these encounters, change your direction, and find other ways to accomplish your goal.

You don’t have to continue following the same path because it’s familiar and feels easier than making a change. And don’t what-if and second guess yourself into inaction. Make a decision and move forward. You can make course corrections later.

Assess Risks

While fear can be a deterrent, it’s also wise to assess risks vs. rewards.

I suppose the Hunley captain and crew felt the rewards justified the risks in making a third voyage. While they accomplished the goal of sinking one of the blockage ships, the USS Housatonic, they also lost their lives.

As you contemplate changes, take time to assess risks and balance those against the rewards. If change leaves you financially strapped, physically exhausted, or emotionally wrecked, the risks are too great and now might not be the right time.

And don’t forget to factor in the spiritual side, something many ignore. Take time to present your plan of change for course correction to God and wait for his input. He will make it clear to you through scripture, trusted friends, unexpected opportunities, or even through a dream, if your plan is within this will. Then you can move forward with confidence, knowing the timing and changes come together in the right order.

“I will instruct you (says the Lord) and guide you along the best pathway for your life; I will advise you and watch your progress.” Psalm 32:8 TLB


Candy Arrington is a writer, blogger, speaker, and freelance editor. She often writes on tough topics with a focus on moving beyond difficult life circumstances. Candy has written hundreds of articles, stories, and devotionals published by numerous outlets including:,,,,, Focus on the Family,,, and Writer’s Digest. Candy’s books include When Your Aging Parent Needs Care (Harvest House) and AFTERSHOCK: Help, Hope, and Healing in the Wake of Suicide (B&H Publishing Group).

To receive Candy’s blog, Forward Motion, via email, go to and scroll to the bottom of the page to sign up.


You may also like

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.