“Go With the Flow” What does that even mean? Before you go thinking this is hippy philosophy, please let me assure you that it’s much more practical than that. I aim to make it practical and usable in your daily life. How do we keep going when life throws a very real rock in the river/flow?
Life happens. We get interrupted constantly, life takes a turn, even when we set the best of intentions. What keeps us going in the right direction? How do we stay on course? Persistence.
There is a pattern I’ve noticed in my life, and maybe this has happened to you too. You resolve or set an intention that this time it’s going to be different. You have a goal and a plan and NOTHING is going to get in your way! Let’s Go!! Full of passion you head out. In the story below, imagine you’re in a boat going downstream.
Act #1: The Beginning.
There you are in the stream of life. You’ve just started and feeling optimistic. Excited for the adventure. You’re going along smoothly and enjoying the ride. Suddenly, there’s a rock in the middle of the stream threatening to throw you out of the boat just as you’re getting started. Not sure if you should change direction, because this is the way you want to go you stay the course. You smash into it and your stuck. Do try to back up and get back in the water? Do you pull yourself over and potentially damage the boat? You’re just sitting there wondering what to do next. Stuck. Eventually, after wasting a bunch of time, you make a decision.
Act #2: Trying again.
You’re getting back in that boat to head downstream. You’ve made that decision and trying again. You step into the boat, it shifts, you lose your balance, and you fall fully into the water. You are drenched from head to toe. And this time you’ve gotten scraped up on the rocks. Rather than get back in the boat to try again, you simply drag it back to shore and give up. Humiliated and scraped up. It doesn’t feel like it should be this hard!
Life and entrepreneurship can be just as frustrating. Leaving the metaphors behind, here’s what this looked like in my own life when I just “went with the flow.”
1. My plans have gone astray. I resolve to do things differently and stick to my plan no matter what!
Whether it’s realistic or not, I double down on stubbornness. I’m going to MAKE IT HAPPEN this time, usually by working in the same way that didn’t work before. I tell myself “the circumstances of my life are different now, this time it will work for sure!” For example, getting the blog edited for this week.
2. The universe throws a rock in my flow.
True story, my daughter got sick and I had 3 nights in a row of 6-7 hours of sleep plus a night where she woke up twice. When it came time for me to edit the blog post I was so tired I knew it wasn’t going to happen. (More of that story is below.)
3a. The OLD pattern. I’d give up and throw all ideas and aspirations out the window.
When I didn’t have support at home during the week my daughter, the house, and everything else would take priority over my work. Work was optional, a hobby. I was the primary caregiver during the day so priority #1 was my daughter. If something came up, she was my focus and a week or months after I’d made a decision I’d return an idea and find it disorganized, fragmented, or the idea would be lost. So I would let it go. “It wasn’t meant to be.” Oh well.
3b. The new paradigm is persistence!
That is no longer the case. My daughter goes to school full time so there are no longer “reasonable reasons” to quit. I know things will come up, but the majority of the time I am in control of my schedule. In my old life, I would have given up at the first rock in the stream. It would have thrown me off. NO MORE!
As an entrepreneur, I don’t have any other option. If I’m going to have a business, I have to do the work. It’s early days and it’s on me. I have to be persistent. This year has taught me that there will be time to rest and time to act. Everything in moderation. I’m not a lunatic or a “progress at all costs” type of person. My barometer is happiness. If I’m feeling anxious, it’s time to back off.
It’s been an interesting week. (Warning: Personal health stories.) In addition to my daughter getting sick off and on for a solid week, I grated my heel on a concrete step of our front porch, burned my wrist on the oven, and had wicked allergies. To top all that off it was my time of the month. All this in a week with very little solid sleep meant I was out for the count, for a little while.
The miracle of this story is that I kept trying to work during all of that!
Unfortunately, I got it wrong. I was stubborn! I kept trying to edit the blog I’ve been promising for a couple of months but it just wasn’t coming. So I let go for a couple of days. It was the weekend, my daughter was sick, and I was wiped out. I took a break. Do you know what happened on Monday? I STILL had no interest in working on that blog.
Instead of being productive energy, it was a full-on resistance temper tantrum. A “You can’t make me!” mood. So I stopped and listened to myself. I asked, “What am I resisting and why? How can I fix it?”
Finally, I remembered, in my world, sometimes resistance is there to remind me to stop being stubborn and change direction. Can you relate?
THE LESSON: WITH PERSISTENCE COMES FLEXIBILITY
I had to accept the fact that it’s not the right time for that blog. I had been trying to force it out even though I wasn’t feeling it at all. It felt like drudgery so I left it be. I realized it’s more suited as a book chapter than a blog. Had I promised that I would get it posted? Yeah. Does it need to happen this week? Nope. I honestly don’t think anyone’s been anxiously waiting for it. My ego was doubling down and saying “I have to.”
Did it feel better to let go and write something else? HELL YES! Going with the flow writing this post feels so GOOD! It poured out of me so quickly that it didn’t feel like work. Exactly how I want to feel. In the Flow. It turns out, going with the flow and being persistent go beautifully hand in hand.
IF AT FIRST YOU DON’T SUCCEED, TRY…SOMETHING ELSE
How does this work in real life? If you are feeling stuck in one way, try ANOTHER way. If you’re being blocked in one way, it doesn’t mean that you should quit, stay stuck or struggle. STOP BEING STUBBORN! Try something else. Take a different approach. Take a break, as needed, but start again.
Ask, “What other ways are there around this problem?”
When I wrote the “other” blog post, I was totally in the flow. So well, that it’s enough content for a book chapter. I could chop it down to 3 or 4 posts but, in this moment, it’s not in my flow. I still wanted to get a blog post out so that’s what I’m doing. It’s not what I planned to post this week but I’m getting it done. That’s persistence.
WHAT HAPPENS WHEN YOU STUMBLE?
Persistence is important but so is flexibility. A kayaker goes downstream with the flow of the river. There will be rapids and rocks. In a moment you have to evaluate whether it’s better to be stubborn and go straight, running into the rocks or safer and wiser to go around it.
In everyday life, being stubborn can get you hurt. It can hurt you mentally, physically, and emotionally. From the quality of your work to the happiness in your home and your relationships.
Persistence and Stubbornness can look very similar. Persistence needs flexibility in order to stay aligned with happiness. If you’re bull-headed you could crash and end up hurting yourself in the end.
My recommendation is, be persistent AND flexible. This is not an either-or scenario. You can be both.
What’s working? What’s not working? Are you being stubborn or persistent? Acting like a bull in a china shop and hurting everyone including yourself or being flexible and going with the flow?
When necessary, rest and reassess. If you keep trying the same thing in the same way and it’s not working, adapt and evolve.
PRACTICAL LIFE ADVICE
If it’s something you just “have to” get done and don’t love doing, like laundry, find a way to add some fun to the process. Listening to music or a podcast really helps the time fly. Setting a timer works wonders too. Make a game out of it to see how fast you can get things done. My Flylady friends know all about this!
The lesson I’ve learned in all of this is to be gentle with myself. You can’t force happiness and that is my compass. If it’s not making me happy, why do it? Be Persistent and Flexible and you will easily go with the flow. It’s a much smoother ride.
WHAT ARE YOUR THOUGHTS?
I’d love to hear your comments on how you struggle or succeed with persistence and going with the flow. Or just tell me what made you happy today. Leave a comment and let’s start a conversation.