September, October / 2017

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Going with the Flow


Do You Need to Be In Control?

Most people think they need a good strategic plan to achieve their goals.  Although I planned strategically during many years of business, I don’t do much long-term planning anymore.  Instead, I like to go with the flow.

We probably assume that the most successful people we know have mapped out their entire lives. Everything they do seems premeditated, and they appear to be calm, and in control. In fact, we find it comforting to assume that there are people out there who always know what they’re doing. But, according to Psychology Today, this is true only some of the time. Most of the time successful people are just winging it.

Life is too random and dynamic to be prepared 100% of the time. World leaders don’t have a response outlined for every international incident, and business executives can’t predict every financial crisis.

In the same way, we don’t know what’s going to come up for us today, this week or this month.  The challenges we face in life are almost always unexpected. Overthinking and overdoing can cause us to stumble and fall in these situations, and it’s very stressful.

Yet we all know people who try to control events in their lives. And as the years go by, they become more and more rigid because they’re afraid to lose control. The result is that they are unable to cope when things don’t go their way. A stiff pole cannot bend!

Wu Wei: The Art of Going with the Flow

Lionel Messi of Argentina is one of the best soccer players in the world. It is almost magical what he can do with the ball. His style of play seems as effortless as breathing.  Does he plan his moves?  Does he visualize where the ball is going to go?  Apparently not! He once stated, “I never think about the play or visualize anything. I do what comes to me at that moment. Instinct. It has always been that way.”

It would seem that Messi embodies the Chinese notion of wu wei (ooo-way) which means effortless action. It’s a concept derived from Taoism, an ancient philosophical tradition that originated 2000 years ago.

Wu wei is a concept that is perhaps best explained by describing a stream flowing down a mountain. The stream is not consciously trying to do anything, but it is still active. Even when the stream encounters obstacles, it adjusts effortlessly and keeps flowing forward. If we can be like the mountain stream, then we will find that life is decidedly less stressful.

There are many ways to flow in life, and reap the benefits.  Planning a perfect romantic dinner?  Leave some of it to chance! Organizing a special trip to Europe? Make sure there is room to improvise and be spontaneous.  Who knows what you’ll find when you get there?  Preparing a business presentation?  Instead of nailing everything down, spend some time in meditation and your inspiration will come to you on the spot.

Learn to go with the flow, and allow your joyful moments to expand when you find them.

By Agneta Dyck, author of Why I Cancelled My Health Insurance. All rights reserved.