Don’t Fight the Flow

Geez! Going through life is tough! But the only way to make it through is to keep moving forward. Yet, there are times we fight futilely to flow against gravity; scattering our time, thoughts, and energy. Never getting anywhere! Life keeps pushing us in a direction that isn’t necessarily the one we want right now, we ignore the opportunities that do come our way and fight for something that we actually are not ready for. But if we just opened ourselves up and stop fighting the path that life is putting before us we’ll be able to make our way with much less difficulty. And sometimes if we do that we find ourselves (eventually) in the very destination we were trying to reach! Sometimes, we even find ourselves somewhere better than we imagined! The hardest part for so many of us is letting go of our carefully laid out plans for the future, yet continuing to put out the energy to make forward  movement. For every person who fights tooth and nail to hold onto a path that had been closed to them there are several people who give up all together and stagnate in place. (And then of course there are those who vacillate between the two.)
   So, what is the secret to staying on the path that is currently open to us?
   First and foremost is remembering to take time to review your life. Do you feel like you are always battling some unseen enemy or that life just doesn’t seem to be going your way? If everything is moving along swimmingly then you are fine for the moment. However, if you do feel like life is a constant uphill battle, then you need to look harder. What are the reasons for that? Sometimes the changes we need to make can be as simple as cutting back on excess, removing clutter from our lives or home, or admitting that we can’t do it all/be everything to everyone. Sometimes, though, it is indeed the path we are trying to take is closed to us right now. If you look hard at your difficulties and have to admit that you are trying to push your way through something and nothing is working, it is time to take a step backward and re-evaluate!
   The first important question if that is the case is, what are our needs versus our wants? Sure we might want the big house, schwanky vacations, and our dream job. However, what do you need right in this moment? Would an apartment or smaller home suit better to your cash flow, if not your dreams of grandeur? Is there other work that you can take that would lead to your dream position and is more realistic given your current level of experience? Or is the problem that life is pushing you to take that gamble and chase your dreams, but you’re afraid to and are trying to play-it-safe with a 9-5 that is making your life untenable? Ultimately the ways we can go awry from the path we are intended to take at a given time are nearly endless. It could even be fear or laziness ultimately leading to us putting out even more energy or dealing with more heartache. The key is to be brutally honest with one’s self and refuse to accept or own excuses or frivolities when we analyse why things don’t seem to be “going our way.”
   Once you realise what direction is not working and why, it can be just as difficult for some and more difficult for others to figure out which direction we should be headed in or what changes are needed.
   Growth is a main component in every step we take in life and 9 times out of 10 when we feel blocked, it is due to needing to grow in some way.
   If our dreams are currently unrealistic, we need to learn to set steps for ourselves and not go putting the cart before the horse! We need savings before we can purchase a home or take expensive vacations. We need to gain experience or take an entry level position before we can necessarily leap into that dream job. It might not be a need to change your end goal, but merely to acknowledge that you have steps you need to take to get there. (Though, if your dream is to be a pop-star and you screech like a cat being strangled when you sing…you should probably adjust your end goal.)
   Sometimes life seems to have crazy plans for us, that for us down home thinkers can seem like total pipe dreams! It can feel like life is stripping everything away without offering a feasible replacement. Hard as it can be for those of us who prefer to take a steady and measured path, at times life crumbles the ground beneath our feet to teach us to fly, because we don’t have the faith in ourselves to take that leap until we are forced to. -Or as a woman who found herself in just that situation and soared quite high put it, “I made rock bottom the firm foundation I rebuilt my life on.” That was J.K. Rowling, author of the Harry Potter book series. This can mean going through a period of very tight times before we come out into the light again. (And not everyone gets to become a billionaire when they do.) This means life won’t be suddenly peachy keen, just because you are chasing your dream. This also doesn’t mean that you can’t make life work. If this is really the direction your life is supposed to move in right now you can find a way. Remember, even when we are following the flow life is not all about comfort. There will always be parts of life that are not exactly what we wish. Part of that is our own minds. Once we attain what we once wanted, we will find new goals for ourselves. Our brains are actually hard-wired to do this and it keeps us always striving forward. The key is to recognise it and not allow it to make you miserable.

   To sum things up the key points of action are:

        •Honest Analysis – Look at your life with a discerning eye. Are you beating your head bloody on a door closed to you? Are things crumbling away due to your own fear or laziness (inaction) or because what is being stripped away is that which no longer functioned; much as it might hurt to let go of it? This can be the sort of thing where the sounding board of a diary, best friend, family member, therapist, clergy, or life coach can be very helpful. If reaching out to someone else, I suggest they are someone who you value for their unabashed honesty, how well they know you and your heart, or their clear and well thought out ability to analyse situations.

        •Game Plan – Where should you be headed? What should you be taking care of right now, at this time? You might have a goal for down the road, but you won’t reach it if you don’t take care of the things that are immediate, as well.
        Of which, a solid and practically applicable piece of advice on this point? Paper To-Do-Lists or Goal Lists are our friends. Seriously. They keep you on track, nothing is too small or unrelated to be put on them. They let you see your progress, which can be a huge deal when life is hectic. And you can carry them on your person and add or mark off items at will.
        Never be afraid to make your Major Goal, “figure out what I want to do with my life,” no matter what your age is. Move forward with the day-to-day and stepping stone goals. As long as you remember to keep going back to the first action (Honest Analysis) you and life will get sorted out.

        •Stay Centred, Keep Your Chin Up – Don’t let life’s curve balls throw you for too much of a loop. Do what you need to in order to keep it together and keep moving forward. Find healthy outlets for negative emotions and set a limit on your use of them. Call up someone supportive who is a good listener and give them a ten minute rant, thank them, and get back to life. Game for a given amount of time. (5 minutes of Bejeweled, a round in Call of Duty, a couple matches of Injustice, a quest in your favorite RPG, or a single mission in your MMO. Pick your poison, but make sure it is something that isn’t out of hand. Something simple and sweet. Heck, spend ten minutes grinding on your favourite character! Then get back to life.) Read: a short story, a chapter, or an article; then get back to life. Create! Whether it is baking, art, writing, crafting, etc. Taking a bit of time to put your energy into something physical can be rewarding, useful on multiple levels, and accomplish the same endgame of getting your mind back on track. Then get back to life. (Notice the theme?) Whatever helps you to find your centre again. Just do not abuse it. Once you have finished, handle whatever it is that threw you for the momentary loop. This could be a simple action or series of actions, at other times it might require returning to step one and re-analysing life and reworking your goals. Sometimes this sort of disruption can even be set off by something positive! (A promotion, new job, new relationship, an invitation to move in together, etc.) Yet, it still requires you to re-evaluate life and the path you are taking. Even with something positive take the time to re-centre without letting anything take over and interrupt your life. When not centred it becomes infinitely more difficult to make the sort of mindful decisions one needs to in a curve ball situation.

        •Make Room For Downtime – Everything in life comes down to balance. You will make no forward movement and end up in depression if you take too much downtime, but you will run yourself into the ground if you are always busy, busy, busy! Even if it is with good things. To be clear, what I mean by downtime is some level of stillness of mind and body. Watching a television show, playing a game, or perusing the internet is not what I’m referring to here. Conversely, by downtime, I do not mean that you need to lock yourself in a sensory deprivation tank, either! It will be different for different people and even by your mood or what’s available.
      For example, if you are a parent, particularly if you spend the majority of your day away from your children, downtime might be watching them at their play without your involvement. Downtime might be taking a walk and simply letting your thoughts spool out as you observe the nature or people and architecture around you. It might mean taking the time to sit as you eat your meal and not deal with anything, but the flavours on your tongue for that time. Or it could be sitting and listening to a CD you enjoy, or a few tracks, at least! It can be meditation or day dreaming or anything where you take a few moments to let the hustle and bustle fade out of your mind with your cellphone tucked away on silent. This is needed for life. For maintaining our centeredness. If we don’t allow ourselves this time, we become scattered and overwhelmed. It can lead to exhaustion in some and pulling away from the world and into ourselves in others. While some might find that the agitation and stress they feel will build up until it explodes out at others!
      Engaging in our hobbies aids in staying centred, as well, but the time of entirely unstructured thought is needed.
      Some advise setting aside time everyday for this. Which is certainly ideal, but is not always feasible. Everyone has a crazy, busy day (or week!) sometimes. Don’t allow not having had that time to become a further source of stress. Try to steal these moments as you can, but don’t get bent out of shape of you can’t make your preferred downtime work. There are always alternatives. Your drive to and from work or school you can turn off the radio and play a CD or nothing at all. You could take a few more moments in the shower if you are the type who normally leaps in and out in a flash. Whatever part of your day lends itself to being transformed into downtime. Remember, the most important part is allowing your thoughts to unspool and relax.

        Finally, Rinse and Repeat as Needed!

  Thank you for reading my first article here. So much about taking stock of our current situation in order to move forward seemed the perfect place to begin our journey together!