Mark and I recently went to New Orleans and did a 2-hour sunset riverboat cruise. It was late spring, so the water was very high. All the snow was melting up north and winding its way down on the Mighty Mississippi river and flowing through New Orleans. The current was strong. Strong enough to see it.
We boarded the steam-driven paddle boat (one of only two of its kind in the US) and first headed downstream. With little to no effort the boat merged into the center of the river and the current took it from there. It was gorgeous. A glass of wine, the wind in our face and setting sun in the sky. We just sat there and watched the shore and the sights go by.
Thirty minutes into the trip, the boat turned around and we headed back up the river. This time we could see New Orleans. The view was equally as beautiful. But this leg of the trip took the remaining 1.5 hours. It took 3 times as long to go the same distance when we were headed against the current. It also took a whole lot more effort on the part of the engine. to get us back. The first part of the trip we were in the flow of the current. The later part of the trip we were paddling up stream and not getting anywhere quickly without a lot of effort.
In today’s podcast, I’m gonna share my thought about living in the flow.
We new age-y kind of people say like to say, “go with the flow”. But what does that really mean? When I talk about flow, I think of living a life that goes with the current, where all the things I want are waiting for me downstream and I can get there easily and effortlessly if I lean in to the current. It means that nothing upstream is an option for me. To me, just like I described earlier about he boat in New Orleans, it means to be going with the current of life.
But how to do you know when you’re in the flow?
It’s simple . . . things are easier! You’re not striving and struggling and reaching and longing. All of these feelings come when we’re aiming for things that are upstream. Instead, when in the flow we generally have feelings that are more positive. We feel excited, confident, relaxed, serene. In a practical way, there are fewer crisis, fewer sleepless nights or fewer disagreements, less illness and few bounced checks. When you’re in the flow and headed downstream you have more clarity about things. Your hair looks better, and your wrinkles are less obvious (if only). Seriously, when we step into the current of life and are going downstream all of the things in our life go smoother.
Before I go further here, it may be best to talk about what it feels like to go against the flow. This might make going with the flow a little clearer.
What does it mean to go against the flow? Like I said earlier, you struggle and strain and reach. Imagine you are in a canoe and trying to go upstream. First of all, you have to constantly paddle the boat, or you will be going backwards. So, your energy and your effort must be constant. Pull your arms in, simply to rest and you will lose all of your good work. When you’re working against the flow, the same thing can happen in your life. (I’m not talking about just agreeing with everything around you not to make wave (see what I did there). That’s another issue. What I’m talking about is deliberately or by default not living life in an easier manner. Having what I call “upstream” thoughts and behaviors.
Here are some upstream examples: Driving to all of your creditors to deliver your payments in person vs paying online. Kind of a silly example but imagine that every 30 days you have to get in y our car, drive all over town, write checks (who does that anymore) and hand deliver your payment. Versus, 10 minutes with on-line banking. A few clicks and you’re done. Downstream behavior. Get the picture?
Here are some more examples of going upstream.
Refusing to change your mind when you have evidence that you might have been wrong earlier.
Doing everything yourself because pride won’t allow you to ask for help.
Walking around clutter everyday instead of dealing with it.
Refusing to accept something as a fact (your husband wants a divorce, you’re not super-model thin, you’re unhappy in your job)
Stubbornness, Denial and procrastination are upstream.
But the biggest example of not living in the flow is not listening to (or worse yet), ignoring your intuition.
I believe our higher selves (our best and wisest part of us) want us to be in the flow. We naturally want to be going downstream with ease. We naturally want a life where we don’t struggle and strive. Its our egos or other shadow parts of us who just don’t pay attention to the wiser parts of ourselves.
Upstream living often means we go along with ideas and actions that aren’t good for us. Actions we know should be different. Thoughts that don’t serve us. In many cases, we don’t even know where these ideas have come from. All of this making our life more challenging.
We ignore our inspirations, our hunches, the pings we get about our life. “I know I should really quit hanging out with so-and-so because they are just so negative . . . but.” PING! “My job is so boring and I’m not very challenged. Maybe I should look for a new one.” PING! “I wonder what it would be like to take a pottery class” PING!
All of those thoughts are really hunches and nudges from Spirit, to my way of thinking. Hoping to get our attention and turn you around so we can float downstream.
The quickest way to be in the flow is to genuinely ask yourself “What do I really want right now?” Or maybe “What is the right thing to do in this situation?” Then listen for the answer. Really listen for the answer.
Sometimes this means abandoning what you thought you should do. More times than not, when you really listen you will be guided toward downstream actions or thoughts rather than the more difficult upstream actions. It might seem more difficult in the moment, but downstream actions ultimately are easier and get us where we want to be much fast and with a lot less effort.
Several years ago, when I was working very hard to build my motivational speaking business, I did a lot of upstream actions. I was constantly watching other people and doing what they were doing. Watching and emulating others is not inherently a bad idea. In fact, it’s a great idea UNLESS those action you’re replicating aren’t in alignment with who you are and what YOU really want.
I spent so much energy trying to make videos like everyone else and follow sales scripts like everyone else, etc. The way I was showing up was a to do very upstream actions accompanied by upstream thoughts and beliefs. I was a hot, exhausted, demotivated, uninspired motivational speaker. You can imagine the results I produced!
This time with Life by Design, I’m doing things very differently (Who says you can’t learn new tricks). I’m very clearly asking myself “How do I want my current coaching business to unfold?” “What are some downstream actions I can take?” Another way to put it is, “What is a fun and easy way for me to reach my goal!” In this case, doing this podcast is one of my downstream actions. I love to talk and make memes!
There are a million things I could do right now to build Life by Design. . . all of them great ideas. . . but they’re not all for me. Some are upstream actions, and some are downstream actions. I do my best to choose the downstream actions. To be in the flow.
While you’ve been listening to this, I bet you’ve had a ping or two about upstream behaviors and thoughts you have. Actions that are taking way too much energy and not giving you the results, you want. I bet you can point to upstream behaviors or thoughts you’re doing right now.
So, imagine you’re in a canoe with that particular behavior or thought. Got it. It’s weird I know, but just go with this. Now ask yourself . . . “What is this behavior or thought trying to accomplish?” Make you healthier, earn you money, keep the peace in your family? So now ask yourself “What could I do that is more fun, or easier and in flow that would accomplish the same thing?
As different ideas pop into your head imagine the canoe either stays pointing upstream or it begin to turn around and head down stream. Use this image of the canoe as a sort of dousing rod as you think about new and different thoughts and behaviors you can take. Does our canoe point upstream or does it head downstream?
If you do this often enough, you can very quickly determine if you’re in the flow or not. You will begin to see the signs that you’re metaphorically paddling really hard and fast and not getting anywhere or you’re effortless making your way to the outcome you really want. You will be in the flow. And it feels great!
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