“Going with the flow is responding to cues from the universe. When you go with the flow, you’re surfing Life force. It’s about wakeful trust and total collaboration with what’s showing up for you.”
– Danielle LaPorte
What does it mean to go with the flow? When many people hear this term they think of “taking it easy” or just accepting everything that happens.
But it actually means a lot more than that. Going with the flow is deeper than just “chilling.” It’s about becoming a co-creator of your life by working on what you can change and accepting what you can’t.
Going with the flow is about excelling and contributing your gifts to the world. It’s about being active not passive. Going with the flow means working with life and with yourself instead of against life and against yourself.
It sounds simple, but it can be a challenge for those of us who’ve become habituated to certain ways of getting through life. I’m far from perfect myself, but I have learned a few things about how to go with the flow.
After watching the video by Ideapod Justin Brown on entering the flow state, I decided to put together 9 key life lessons about going with the flow.
1. Know Yourself
This advice is going to sound obvious – it was written on the Temple of Delphi thousands of years ago in Ancient Greece – but it’s so key.
You have to get to know yourself before you can go with the flow. Take a look at your thoughts and keep track of the patterns you engage in that create resistance and rejection to the reality around you.
Focus on what it is about you and your relationship to yourself that leads in this direction of resistance to the present moment.
2. Feel It In the Air (Tonight or Anytime)
The importance of breathing can’t be overstated. Not only does breath give us the oxygen that keeps us alive, it brings us back to the present moment.
Breathe in and then breathe out. Feel your existence in the present and let go of the analysis and need to control. Let go of the need to let go of needing to control. Be in your happy place, or your sad place.
Stop trying to demand of yourself or life to change or be other than you are.
Let it be. Just breathe.
3. Big Picture
When something goes wrong in life it can sometimes seem like the end of the world. Usually, though, it’s just you failing to see the big picture.
Plus, even the end of the world could be the start of something far greater than any of us can imagine.
You buy apples at the store and they turn out to be mushy. Why can’t the apples just be crisp goddamnit?
Is that too much to ask?
You try to open up to your spouse and they give you a grunt. Is talking really that hard?
Yes, these things suck. But look at the big picture. In the long-run are daily frustrations going to define your life? Let it go and go with the flow. Accept the disappointment or anger and let it be.
4. Practice Makes Perfect
The whole point of going with the flow in life is to stop trying and just be. In order to be perfect you must accept being imperfect.
In order to practice you must stop demanding yourself or life to be different.
Drop your set of conditions on life and see what it’s putting in front of you. Even if it’s really bad or unacceptable, consider what you can do to change it.
If there’s nothing you can do then practice acceptance and self-mastery.
If – and when – you fail, accept that and keep breathing.
5. Take It Step By Step
Many of us – myself included – have deeply ingrained habits of resistance to the present and to things we can’t control.
Even when we accept and go with the flow there’s that part of us (sometimes a pretty big part) that still wants veto power.
There’s that part of us that is fine with going with the flow as long as we still get what we want in the end.
That’s the mindset and habit that will take time to slowly fade. As you release expectations and demands on life and learn to see what it’s showing you this will begin to lose its grip.
Accept the parts of your experience that bother you a little and work your way up to the harder issues. Give yourself patience for those blocks that continue to persist.
Take the journey step by step. You never know how far the path might take you.
6. Laughter is the Best Medicine
It really is. So much of what drives us nuts and frustrates us could be seen as funny in a larger context.
Got cut off in the line at the store? How hilarious that a big man with a mustache was so frantic to buy his corn nuts.
Waiting at the doctor’s office for a diagnosis you’re worried about? Didn’t you ever just laugh at how stupid so many of the magazines in doctor’s lobbies are? Who chooses those things? Do they make their money just off doctor and dentist subscriptions? Are they written to be vacuous crap on purpose?
Just laugh. Laugh in the face of chaos. You’ll be surprised at how it loosens things up even in the face of seemingly insurmountable situations.
7. Write It Down
There’s just something about writing words down on a page that’s healing and clarifying.
Note down the steps of your journey on going with the flow.
Be easy on yourself, but also be accurate.
What’s still triggering you? What’s in the way of going with the flow and could you learn to let it be in the way and go with the flow-through acceptance of moving at your own speed?
8. Turn Inward
I highly recommend trying out meditation. I especially recommend this guided self-healing meditation from the shaman Rudá Iandê.
It’s amazing what turning inward and letting your body and mind heal itself can do.
To let your breath flow in and out and observe how you’re interacting with yourself and with life.
9. Resign as Director
Imagine life is a movie and you’re sitting in the director’s chair. You’re yelling out orders and suggestions but nobody is listening.
The set is falling apart and your lead actor is laughing his ass off with another actress. You feel enraged. Aren’t you in charge here?
It’s time to walk away. You can’t control others and the more you try to do so the more disempowered you will become and bitter and locked up in resistance.
Let others walk their journey and live their truth. If it’s your significant other, best friend or family member it’s going to be tough.
And it’s perfectly fine to be honest with those around you and tell them your hopes and perceptions. But you need to draw the line at actually trying to pressure and control their behavior and decisions.
You can’t, and you shouldn’t.
You are in charge of yourself, so resign as director.
Concluding thoughts …
There are three vital steps to entering the flow state, but many people get them wrong. When we’re deep in something we’re passionate about and coming from a place of acceptance and vitality it’s a lot different than just letting things slide …
Going with the flow doesn’t mean being passive, it means being actively accepting and deeply engaged with what is instead of with what isn’t.
Life is always changing and flowing onward like a river. It’s never going to be perfect and even the best things end.
But there’s beauty in the sadness and there’s wisdom in the changes.
Go with the flow.
“Sometimes, what’s so right turns out to be wrong. And sometimes what’s so wrong turns out to be right. Did you ever think it may be time to just go with the flow?”
– Charles Glassman
Putting yourself first
What’s your number one goal at the moment?
Is it to buy that car you’ve been saving up for?
To finally start that side-hustle that’ll hopefully help you quit your 9-5 one day?
Or to take the leap and finally ask your partner to move in?
Whatever your goals are, there’s a hidden trap in how you set them.
The trap is this:
You’ll only experience genuine life satisfaction when your goals are aligned with your values.
Because when values and goals are aligned, you enjoy the journey much more. And this makes achieving your goals much more likely.
If you find it hard to articulate your deeper life values, I suggest downloading the free values exercise by career coach Jeanette Brown.
It takes only a couple of minutes and will reveal a number of powerful insights about your underlying values.