“The only way to make sense out of change is to plunge into it, move with it, and join the dance.”
― Alan Watts
We’ve all heard it a million times: “go with the flow.”
Or maybe “just, like, go with the flow, man.”
But what exactly does this mean?
For some people it’s taken at face value: take it easy, don’t stress, let things play out how they will.
But if you really want to know how to go with the flow of life it’s a lot more than a feel-good slogan: it’s a deep philosophy that’s much more active and fruitful.
The key to learning how to go with the flow of life is understanding what you can and cannot control and then achieving your full potential in manifesting your talents and gifts for the good of others and yourself.
In terms of step one, it is simply about accepting the reality in which we exist.
Want to learn to go with the flow in life? Follow this 12-step guide and you’ll be applying this deep philosophy at a practical level.
1) Life is a process of change
Everything around us – and we ourselves – are in various processes of growth and decay. It is the nature of existence itself: we exist in time and must accept many things that are outside of our control.
We change physically and emotionally through our experiences, thoughts, and lives, while those around us are also in constant processes of transformation.
Resistance to change backfires. We can go with it or be dragged kicking and screaming, but either way, change is going to happen.
And the good news is that doesn’t have to be a bad thing.
Because in deep acceptance of change we can then begin to reclaim our personal power and agency and learn to become an effective part of life’s ever-moving ecosystem.
2) Plans don’t always work out
It can be hard for some of us to accept the limitations of our own plans and intentions, but it is absolutely crucial.
When we try to curate our life like a precious museum collection or control its events we are doubly impacted by trauma and surprises.
We maximize our finances only to experience a serious health problem.
We achieve excellent physical health only to have a meaningful relationship fall apart through no fault of our own and devastate us for years.
The truth is that our plans often don’t work out.
As the Scottish poet Robert Burns famously wrote, “The best laid schemes o’ Mice an’ Men. Gang aft agley” (“the best laid plans of mice and men, often go awry.”)
When our plans don’t work out we can feel utterly defeated: but there’s still hope.
3) Learn who you are
Many of us have inbuilt assumptions about who we are that have been inherited, taught from childhood, and impressed on us by our culture.
We accept them as a starting framework often for years without really knowing on a deep level who we are.
This is especially true in a physical and literal sense: many of us in the Computer Age live too much in our heads.
We breathe shallowly, our shoulders are hunched and tense, we want instant results.
We have forgotten who we are in both a psychological and physiological sense and drifted into automatic behavior and repetition.
Learning your body and your breath and entering life in a powerful new way is very much possible and doing a self-healing meditation and other practices can aid greatly in beginning to get more in touch with your existence and beginning to intuit how to go with the flow of life on an instinctual, corporeal level as well as the more mental and analytical.
4) How to go with the flow in a new way
Many people misunderstand what the flow state is and how to enter it. There are three key steps to entering the flow state and truly experiencing it that many often overlook.
You may have been told the flow state is about letting go, but in many ways, it’s more about letting go of the unhelpful and confusing baggage in order to grasp on to the crucial and vital.
When we truly enter the flow state we are in a process of deeply intuitive expertise. We lose track of time and become fully absorbed.
It is not so much that we have “let go” as it is that we have become fully enmeshed in life and our activity and are following our passion on a deep level.
When we are truly going with the flow we are an active participant in an interactive and dynamic process of creation.
We work with the creative force of life and our own mind and body and achieve great things.
5) Get in the groove
Like anything, learning how to go with the flow takes practice and sometimes patience.
If you’re used to immediate results or still thinking short-term then learning to apply yourself consistently and work with the changes of life in a positive way can be a challenge.
The greatest part, though, is that the more you work out how to go with the flow of life the more this will self-reinforced and make it easier the next time.
This includes coping with disappointments from job loss to broken relationships to health issues: by going with the flow and doing what you can to respond proactively you will strengthen your entire outlook on life and begin to master new skills and states of being to face even the most difficult challenges you never thought you could face.
Getting in your groove and finding that state of intuitive expertise as well as responding to life’s ups and downs with a flow mentality will improve every aspect of the upsides and downsides of your daily life.
6) One step at a time
Every amazing endeavor and accomplishment took time to build and it’s the same with learning how to go with the flow of life.
It’s not going to happen overnight, and even once you make a lot of progress you will still fall back now and then into reactive and impulsive thinking and emotional states.
And that’s OK.
It’s all about acceptance, patience, and slow and steady work to reclaiming your personal power, achieving prosperity, and becoming a healthy and high-functioning person.
Don’t beat yourself up if you slip up now and then; imperfection is a key part of the journey of learning how to go with the flow of life.
None of us are perfect, and the imperfection is part of the learning process and the challenge that spurs us on and humbles us.
7) Finding the funny side
Along with learning to go with imperfections and bumps – or mountains – in the road, laughing in the face of chaos is a powerful, incredible life hack.
There’s no denying that some situations in life are quite simply annoying as hell: a broken car, a manipulative partner, stress, and nagging at work.
Sometimes the only thing you can do is throw your hands up and laugh your ass off at the absurdity of the situation you’re stuck in.
Just think of how funny it is that you got cut off in traffic by an aggressive man playing heavy metal.
Poor guy must be having a bad hair day.
Think about how you thought you had mastered how to go with the flow of life but then you bought a coffee and asked for sugar only to drive away and find it had none and went into a petty tailspin of resentment that ruined the rest of your day.
How unfortunate, but also in a certain way how hilarious that something so trivial could ruin your day, right?
Laugh it off and take another swing. Tomorrow’s another sugary-coffee day ready to happen.
8) Try out breathing meditation
Meditation is becoming increasingly popular, and if done in a focused way it can be very effective.
Again, though, the secret is to take it easy and appreciate your efforts. You may not become Lao Tzu on your first few tries, but if you stick with it even a short time each day then the prospects for more inner peace are sure to begin appearing.
One of the best meditations you can do is a meditation on your breathing itself.
Learning to follow your inhalation and exhalation and feel the life coursing through you and your own place in the biome can be a powerful experience of integration and healing.
Rebooting your breathing system can be transformative.
Much of our tension, traumas, and negative stories are trapped in our bodies and respiratory system and is best worked through on that level.
9) You can’t please everyone
The more you gain control over yourself and begin directing your energy and attention to healing and constructive acceptance, the more you reclaim your personal power.
The more you focus on how others aren’t meeting your expectations or needs the more you lose your personal power.
This is a key formula to keep in mind as you begin to adapt and master how to go with the flow of life.
You can’t direct others like Steven Spielberg in the director’s chair. You’re you, they’re them.
Sure, you can give advice, you can get mad, you can be happy about their behavior and actions. But you can’t ultimately control them and even if you force one or two decisions or manipulate them from others they will tend to resent you for that and it will often backfire.
Far better to focus on what you can do, your breathing, and your own journey.
10) Don’t take hard times personally
If you’re anything like me then you’ve often sat scowling and thought “why me,” or “nobody understands me.”
You’ve interpreted bad situations and disappointments personally like Zeus reached down from the sky and smacked you with a thunderbolt.
The problem isn’t just that self-pity is counterproductive and doesn’t work, it’s that everyone has felt this way.
Once you fully absorb this emotional knowledge you begin to gain enormous power and the ability to help and communicate with others.
You are not alone and the bad times and challenges of your life were not written in some script to mess with you.
But you can take the big downs and use them to empower you today.
You can become a more compassionate person and accept yourself and others more – in spite of their imperfections or being right or wrong in your eyes – and you will not only gain new friends and overcome the pain of loneliness, but you will also increasingly value finding your purpose and helping others find theirs.
11) Help somebody if you can
I can’t count how many times someone has arrived to help me just in time.
When I was at the absolute end of my rope somebody stepped up in a way I never expected: just several days ago in one of the most stressful situations of my life a new friend helped me in an incredible way to overcome an anxiety-inducing situation.
You can also be that person.
Not for reward, or recognition: because you can.
Try it and you’ll see. The more you help people the better you feel.
It’s selfish in a way: the good kind of selfish.
Of course, you don’t want to expend all your personal energy and time on others: you matter too.
But having an openness and eye to how you can help others will help you go with the flow of life and begin to notice untold opportunities, connections, friendships, and more where previously you only saw boredom, meaninglessness, and isolation.
12) Find your bliss
Finding your bliss is in many ways the epitome of learning how to go with the flow of life.
It doesn’t mean being always happy.
And it doesn’t mean things will be “easy” or effortless.
What it means is that the steps you take will be in the direction of what moves you inside, what inspires you, what makes you feel alive and engaged.
You will enter the flow state, finding your bliss and your mission in your talents and relation to those around you.
You will increasingly see how even the worst times have made you stronger, more compassionate, and more humbled.
You will appreciate things in others you might have never noticed.
You will see value where once you only saw lack.
Let your bliss find you, and go with the flow, working hard every day to think for yourself and be your own person.
In life, we have to be strong and bright enough to face our dark times. Eclipse may come and eclipse may go, nothing should stop our inner strength’s flow
― Munia Khan