At the risk of sounding more philosophical than I am, let me ask you a question. If you described yourself with one of the following phrases, which of these personality traits would best fit who you are?
- I am strong and steadfast like a rock.
- I am easy going like a breeze.
- I flow through life like the currents of a river.
If you would, please take a moment and answer the question to yourself before you continue reading.
I am by nature or upbringing, a rock. I try to be true to who I am and strong in what I stand for. When I set a goal for myself or for a project, I strive to reach it without compromise. I am a product of my culture and in many ways I am every bosses dream. I am also fifty-six years old and I have learned a few things along the way.
Something I know to be true is, while rocks are great to have on your team, they are rarely the happiest or most fulfilled people on the team. The rock is solid and often immovable, but given time, the currents and the wind will wear the rock down. This is not a negotiable point. It’s a fact of nature.
Rivers flow until a riverbank or waterfall or yes… a rock alters her flow, but she always flows. Breezes roll along through valleys and alleys, through trees and buildings or into our faces and through our hair. Then with little regard for us or the mountains or buildings or anything else, the wind relentlessly moves on down the road.
A rock on the other hand does not move out of the way of the river. Water effortlessly flows around the rock planted firmly in the ground below the surface. A rock does not move for the wind. The wind brushes the surface of the rock without a care and then she blows away. But every time the water laps upon the rock and each time the wind caresses the rock, they take away a micro bit of the surface. Every single time.
People are not all that different than rivers or the wind or the rocks. I find that people who have personalities that flow like rivers or roll along like the breeze, adapt to the challenges of life much better than us rocks. Blowing and flowing it would seem are much easier than standing steadfast.
Reflecting about the flow of life got me thinking and I decided if I could chose to be a river, the wind, or a rock, why couldn’t I decide to be a stick or a branch? If I have a choice, then why not, “Go with the flow” as they say. So I closed my eyes and did what Zen people say to do and I envisioned myself being a stick. It was good at first, Brian the Stick drifted down the river and enjoyed the ride. Then the current picked up and I was tossed all over the place, and slammed into things like rocks. I decided maybe a branch would be a better choice than being a stick. So I closed my eyes and did the Zen thing again and listened as my leaves rustled while soft breezes whispered to me and urged me to gently sway back and forth. But the whisper became a louder voice and then it began screaming at me. Hurricane force winds began to blow and made me creak and crack and strain. It was not a Zen moment.
So where does all this leave me?
Being an immovable object is a daunting task and rarely as rewarding as one might think. And going with the flow sounds great when the flow is cordial, but when life turns into whitewater or a hurricane, suddenly going with the flow seems like a bad idea.
All this leads me back to the currents of the water and the wind. If we want to enjoy “life” and be healthy and productive over the long run, then the answer is not to simply go with the flow. The answer is to be the flow. Or at least be apart of the flow. We are not here to be a bolder, fruitlessly trying to control the currents and the winds of the world. And we are not here to be on a free ride, perpetually going wherever the currents and the winds take us.
Between the mountain peaks and the foothills, there are a thousand ways for the water and wind to reach the valley below. Be part of the flow and accept the journey for what it is. Life.