Going with the flow is a statement that is thrown around easily.
We’ve all been told to do it, but is it the best piece of advice?
Whilst it may appear to be harmless, there’s a lot more to the old saying.
From damaging relationships to missing out on career opportunities, going with the flow can lead you to ruin your life.
And the worst part is, you might not even realize it. We’ve become so used to using the expression in many situations, so much so that we’ve stopped actively thinking about how dangerous this way of life can be.
At this point, you might be thinking that I’m being overly dramatic, but once you’ve read the 10 points below it’ll be interesting to see if any of them resonate with your life in the same way that they did with mine.
Why going with the flow isn’t a good idea
Going with the flow means doing what others do and agreeing with what others think.
It’s often seen as a way to take the easy route and give up responsibility when it comes to life’s hardships.
Being carefree and easygoing isn’t always a bad thing, but if there isn’t a balance between taking control over your life and responsibilities it can lead to failed opportunities and many experiences being missed.
In my article, ‘What it means to go with the flow in a relationship’, I explain a different concept of going with the flow. One that includes being the leader of your own life and taking charge of what matters the most to you.
But in this article, we’re going to focus on how the general concept of going with the flow can ruin your life.
So how can it have such a detrimental impact on your life?
In ways which you might not first realize, this laidback approach can, directly and indirectly, change the course of your life.
It may seem like a casual expression – just relax and go with it – but when you think about it deeply, what impact does this have on you as a person?
Does it encourage growth or perseverance? Or does it give you an easy way to opt-out of facing challenges and stepping up to the plate?
In most cases, it’s the latter. Many people use going with the flow as a way to avoid taking responsibility, whether it’s with their work or relationships.
And if this is sustained over years and years, it starts to become so ingrained that it’s hard to transition back from.
Eventually, years will pass without the person realizing that they were never really in control of what happened to them.
They never chased that opportunity which could have changed their life. They never pursued that partner who would have stood by them during tough times.
Read on to find out more about how this seemingly innocent expression can have huge consequences for your life.
10 Ways that going with the flow can hold you back in life
1. You stop being in control of your life
If you take the stance that you want to go with the flow in life and accept everything that comes your way, you’re essentially giving up some if not all of your control.
This laid-back attitude might work sometimes when you need to de-stress and accept a tough situation, but when it comes to big life decisions it isn’t the best way forward.
Not only can it affect areas in your life like work or relationships, but you could end up at a point in your life without realizing how you got there in the first place.
Imagine being on a boat which is sailing down a river. You have oars to control the boat, but since you take this approach in life, you let the boat meander whichever way the water directs it.
Eventually, the boat will end up somewhere, but it won’t be a place chosen by you.
You might like the destination, or you might hate it. Either way, you can’t do much about it because you chose not to take control of the oars.
I think of life in similar terms. When it comes to jobs, relationships, and personal achievements, we all have a responsibility to take control of our lives.
Leaving it up to the universe might not always take you to the destination you want or need.
2. Ignorance isn’t always bliss
Ignorance certainly can feel like bliss, but does it add real value to your life?
If you aren’t aware and engaged with the world around you, are you living to your full potential and purpose?
Let’s use the example of a relationship.
You and your significant other have your rhythm and pace in life set out. But, signs have started popping up that all might not be going as well as you think it is.
Do you continue and ignore the signs? Or do you address the issue and go from there?
To live a complete, happy, and fulfilling life, ignoring the problem isn’t the solution. And quite often, the things we ignore have a habit of building up and expanding until we can no longer turn a blind eye to them.
If you’re too busy going with the flow, there’s the possibility that you’re living in ignorance when it comes to certain parts of your life.
3. You stop taking responsibility for yourself
To learn, grow, and thrive, it’s important that we first begin by taking responsibility for ourselves.
This means taking responsibility when it comes to how we interact with others, how we work and what impact we leave on the world.
If going with the flow means giving up all sense of responsibility, does that mean you give up all sense of self?
Taking the view that whatever happens, happens, means that you’re detaching yourself from your role in your life.
This can be a tricky place to be in.
On one hand, you might not feel down bogged down by the weight of the world on your shoulders (which, let’s face it, can be nice from time to time), but on the other hand, you’re not taking accountability for your actions.
4. Motivation can dwindle
Even if you have a job you love, finding the motivation sometimes can be tough.
In the past, when I’ve taken the route of going with the flow, I found that my motivation plummeted massively.
Because I was waiting for life to happen to me, rather than taking control myself, I stopped searching for the inner enthusiasm which motivated me to get on with life.
And it’s not just with jobs, keeping friends and pursuing hobbies both need some level of motivation too.
Looking back, this approach cost me what could have been some great opportunities.
There was the friend who I would wait to hear from rather than reach out to myself. The university assignments which could have been better if I hadn’t just ‘let it flow’.
It’s a lesson I’ve since learned from, but I can’t help but wonder if just going with the flow was an easy way out of motivating myself.
Sometimes motivation can be hard to find, but if you take control over your life and take responsibility (as listed in the points above) you can easily create it.
5. A loss of self-achievement
Have you ever worked hard for something and felt a sense of pride after?
It’s this sense of achievement which then drives us to attempt the next obstacle.
Without those feel-good feelings, we probably wouldn’t attempt to do things that are tough and challenging.
When you decide to go along with the flow, many opportunities that you could have had become lost.
The wonderful, addictive feeling of self-achievement starts to dwindle, and it can be hard to get it back without making some drastic, tough changes to your outlook on life.
If I compare the times I was handed something without working for it as opposed to when I’ve put a real effort into it, the latter is what gave me a true feeling of pride and self-worth.
6. You become used to taking the easy route
When it comes to taking the easy route, I’m no stranger.
But as I’ve learned over the years, the easy route doesn’t always get me to where I need to be in life.
It’s something we all do from time to time, and occasionally taking the easy route is the best option, especially if it contributes to mental health and wellbeing (I’m thinking back to times where a warm bath and a glass of wine was chosen over my exercise class).
But not as a way of life. When you see a successful person or a couple who have been together happily for many years, they didn’t get there by taking the easy route.
Anything worth having in life comes with a little graft and perseverance, so always going with the flow can mean that you never truly get what you want out of life if you’re not willing to work for it.
7. Life’s challenges become harder to accept
As a former primary school teacher, I made a point of making challenges something to be celebrated and embraced, rather than feared.
I’d often explain to the children how challenges force us to grow, confront our fears and bring on new and exciting possibilities. It builds resilience which can be used in all areas of life.
But it’s also natural to fear challenges. Staying in the comfort zone feels safe, steady and reliable.
But nothing magnificent comes out of the comfort zone. People don’t achieve their life dreams from their comfort zone.
And the more you stay in that zone, the harder it is to step out of it.
Those who meet challenges head-on or search for ways to be challenged often succeed more easily.
This is because they’ve built up resilience.
And with each challenge they conquer, their sense of self-worth and confidence only increases.
It’d be a shame to lose out on all of that by always staying in your safe place and never really finding out what a world of accomplishment lies waiting for you.
8. You’ll be at the mercy of others
This point links in very well with giving up control.
When it comes to working, you’ll be at the mercy of your bosses. In relationships, you’ll be at the mercy of your partner.
Since you’re not taking charge over your life, they naturally will.
Pretty soon, that boat we talked about will have meandered into someone else’s river, and your life path will seem less and less clear.
It’s an easy situation to get into. You take a step back and let fate decide what happens.
But quite often, fate is in the form of other people. An example of this comes in the form of a good friend of mine.
Instead of thinking about what she wanted out of a relationship and a partner, she preferred to go with the flow and just see what happens (with every guy she met).
At first, it was exciting, but years down the line she’s realized that by not taking control of the flow of her life, she’s allowed it to be directed by guys who aren’t right for her.
We call it a life lesson to ease the sting, but it’s glaringly obvious that if she had stood up for what she wanted, she might not have wasted as much time on people who didn’t suit her or her needs.
9. It can cause relationship problems
Relationships take a lot of effort and hard work.
For a relationship to succeed, both partners need to actively commit to each other.
Some days that’s in the form of being kind to your partner even when you don’t feel like it, and other times it’s much bigger, like supporting their goals or dreams.
Whatever it is, it’s a decision that requires patience and a lot of understanding.
If you take a step back from this and just go with the flow, are you investing the time into your relationship that it needs/deserves?
There have been times where I’ve not put as much effort into my relationship because I couldn’t be bothered and I wanted to just see what would happen.
It didn’t go down well, as you can imagine.
I learned that not only was it unfair to my partner, it also made me feel like I was letting the team down.
I wasn’t putting in as much effort as I should have, and I quickly realized that my partner might start to resent me unless I changed my ways.
This can happen in all types of relationships, whether it’s with a best friend, a parent or a sibling.
There will be times where going with the flow means avoiding conflict or arguments over petty things, like which restaurant to eat at.
But if you start to go with the flow and use it as an excuse to not give your relationship the love and time it needs, it might hurt those closest to you.
10. You can end up wasting a lot of time
When you combine the previous points, what they all have in common is that a lot of time gets wasted.
Time at work, time with friends or partners, opportunities and more all pass by, without being embraced and utilized.
This is where just going with the flow can be dangerous.
Days turn into years, and before you’ve even realized it, you haven’t achieved anything that you once dreamed of.
I might sound a little dramatic here, but I’ve seen first hand what going with the flow can do when it’s taken to the extreme.
Ultimately, after giving up your control, responsibility, sense of self-worth and achievement, what you have left is a life path which doesn’t resemble the outcome you once imagined.
Taking the ‘flow state’ approach
As mentioned at the start of this article, there are other ways in which ‘the flow’ can be beneficial to your life.
Entering the flow state allows you to use your intuitive expertise to work productively and creatively.
This doesn’t happen overnight; it should come from working on your skills, pushing your limits, and ultimately grafting for what you love and believe in.
But many people often perceive going with the flow as aimlessly accepting whatever comes to them.
Instead of setting goals, working hard, and finding their rhythmic flow thanks to practicing their skills over and over, they wait for opportunities to land in front of them.
Entering the flow state is a whole different ball game. It differs from ‘going with the flow’ because it’s about taking responsibility and flowing in a way that gets your creative juices pumping.
To learn more about the flow state, check out this video by Justin Brown, the founder of Ideapod.
In the video, Brown explains how entering the flow state can truly be achieved with three steps, and what it means to be part of a collective flow state.
Doing anything to the extreme can have a big impact on your life, and it’s no different when it comes to going with the flow.
In small measures, when it’s done with purpose and to relieve stress, going with the flow can be a great skill to have.
But, when it comes to living your life based on not being in control, it can often lead to a lot of frustration and regret.
If you feel like you have lost some of your personal power and control, I highly recommend checking out this free masterclass on Personal Power, by world-famous shaman Rudá Iandê.
During this masterclass, I learned how to manage my frustrations and take back control over how I wanted my life journey to progress.
It helped me see different areas of my life with much more clarity, and whilst I may still go with the flow occasionally, I definitely won’t be giving up my personal power or life goals again.
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