Don’t Paddle Upstream


When I was first learning whitewater kayaking, I was boating with a much more experienced boater and his words on working with the river rang true to me as an overall metaphor for life. “The river is going to put you where the river is going to put you. There is no fighting it.” You can’t paddle upstream.

In a kayak you follow the darker water where the current is and pick your line over drops and around or through other obstacles. The river is already going that way and it will take you with it as long as you don’t fight it.

In life, do you fight the current and paddle upstream or do you go with it and work with the situations, circumstances, and the flow of life as it is presented to you?

What about your thinking? Are your thoughts upstream thoughts or downstream thoughts?

When you have upstream thoughts, you are resisting what is. Most people live their entire lives mostly pointed upstream, with the stream or river pushing downstream against them. But if you just let go of the paddle and turn the bow around then there will be no resistance.

Instead, people work so hard to defend, to justify, to rationalize, to be right, to compare; and all of that defending is holding them in resistance to the current that’s going to take them that way regardless. And the faster the current is moving, and the harder they are paddling upstream, then the greater the frustration, the fatigue, and the loss of joy for life.

How great of a relief would it be if you switched form padding upstream in life and allowed the stream to turn you and take you downstream? Life is just like a river, it knows where it is going and the best way to get there. It will carry you with it as long as you do not fight it.

Here are some examples of upstream/downstream thoughts:

Upstream thought: This is the worst thing that could have ever happened.
Downstream thought: This too will pass.

Upstream thought: Bad things always happen to me.
Downstream thought: There are many great things happening right now.

Just remember that there are two kinds of thoughts. First, the kind that take you upstream, where you are fighting the river, and second, the kind that you downstream, where you are going with the flow and current of life.

Everything you want in life is downstream. When you find yourself feeling your own resistance, and are struggling with where you are, ask yourself if you are thinking upstream or downstream and adjust accordingly.

Andy Wooten M.A. Counseling – A Certified Life Coach In Aspen Colorado

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Photo By Andy Wooten 07 July 1997 (Me, Spikebuck Rapid on the Arkansas River.)

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