Imagine you are planning to go canoeing, alone, with a friend, family, or with several friends (or maybe you’re recommending a canoeing trip to a friend-something along those lines). And yes, people still go canoeing. At least I think so. I mean, I did at summer camp. Definitely still happening in Europe.
Anyways…You were dropped off by a taxi, Uber, helicopter, you were skydiving, someone else driving in a plane, car, or train, whatever, so basically wherever you ended up on the river trail, that’s where you have to start. Maybe you walk a little bit further down the river, but ultimately, you have to carry the canoe, so you probably don’t want to travel far, even if you’re Arnold Schwarzenegger, and you’re screaming “GET TO THE RIVER!” (it’s ok, I change quotes from movies frequently in this blog for emphasis-see here)
So, you set up shop so to speak, and it just so happens you start at the perfect place: the water is shallow by the riverbed, and the current is still-easy to get in-either by yourself, with your friends, family, even your dog that tagged along.
For the first twenty minutes it’s a really smooth ride-maybe a few baby rapids here and there, but everything is, well, smooth sailing (canoeing). But then the water starts to get a bit choppier. At first, it’s actually kind of exciting to have the challenge and you feel more professional, but soon the choppiness starts to make things a bit more precarious for you-you find it more difficult to keep your oar steady to send you in the right direction, or avoid the fallen trees and boulders that lay in your path. You may even run off course and straight into the riverbed itself! Or some pesky trout get caught in your oars! Or maybe a log! In order to compensate, you’ve got to put in more energy that you did when you started off in that smooth, easy flowing current. If you’re with your friends, family, and dog, you might have an easier time maneuvering yourself around the various animate and inanimate obstacles, but even then, a lot of that depends on their ability and focus to do so. It’s possible you yourself actually can keep your canoe on track pretty well.
You also start to notice that when you’ve got a clear path ahead in the river, it’s much easy to go with the current, or the flow, to guide you, than to fight against it. Sure, maybe you might crave adventure and want to feel the power and peril of the rapids, or race the trout, or impress the Grizzly bear staring at you from the shore, but ultimately, the safest and most reliable path is going with the flow. Sure, you end up running into some more rapids and misplaced landmasses along your way, but you start to learn the course and some patterns, and soon you literally become, “the captain of [your] ship” and ultimately “the master of [your] soul.”-William Ernest Henley- (from his renowned poem, Invictus.)
I think this river analogy is a great metaphor for our lives. Just as I outlined at the beginning of the journey, we often do not have a choice of where we start our life journey so to speak. Ideally, as I imagined above, we start in a place where it is easy to get comfortable in our proverbial life-canoes and start rowing along. But for many people, they don’t always get this choice, and may start off in the most treacherous of conditions. The thing is, unless you are rowing in a controlled environment where the water is perfectly still, I think inevitably you are going to run into some kind of “life rapid” at some point. But even in the most perilous and stressful of moments, you have choice at times to “go with the flow”-just like the canoe on the river. This can help you ease into whatever life is throwing at you-and to just go with it. Sometimes, though, maybe you need to do what you can to “fight against the flow,” such as when you are working and have the goal of gaining more muscle, getting faster, slimmer, etc. In that case, you have to initially fight hard against what the ordinary flow of your life was. That was definitely the case for me when I decided a few years ago to make fitness and personal health a priority in my life. At first, the “rapids” of really going at an exercise regimen on a consistent basis was hard, even grueling at times (And I thought two years of high school cross-country running and varsity baseball would have prepared me…I thought wrong! Well…the college lifestyle did get in the way too…anyways, back to this post!) Oftentimes, rowing against that tide that was uncomfortable for you to start will build something in you, whether it be strength, stamina, or improvement in form. Inevitably, some type of change will replace your previous experience of rowing in easier water with better stamina, more strength and speed, or, at least a new experience that you can learn from. This applies to everything you do in life as well. There is no wrong or right or right or wrong-simply just doing something will change something. So if you are looking to change something, staying in your comfort zone likely won’t reap results right away, unless you want to depend on luck and if you believe in it, fate. However, if you do something, anything, you will reap some sort of reward, and oftentimes habits tend to pay off over time. (remember the bike analogy from my first post?)
In sum, anyways, I think it is important to determine at which points in your life you either want to go with the flow or go against. I don’t think you can always stick to one, unless you truly feel comfortable with staying the course of whatever you are doing. However, if you are looking for growth and sustainability (without burnout,) I think it is a great idea to think about when to fight those rapids and when to go with the flow! It’s all a balance. Even Grizzly Bear Bob on the shore wants to go with the flow every once in awhile when he isn’t scavenging for berries or clawing at salmon, but when he’s hungry, you bet he’s going against the flow (literally and figuratively in the river-see what I did there?)
So, Keep Rowin’ and Flowin’ Along In Your Proverbial River. #MetaphorsRule
See this article below-applies with my whole “going with the flow” theme in regards to preventing burnout.
Featured photo credit: riveroflifehamilton.com (rolhamilton.org)