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  • Martha Engeman

What Does Going with the Flow Mean?

Most of us have experienced those times in life when we feel like Sisyphus pushing a boulder up hill, without making much progress. There are many times in life when real effort is required, but none of us want to see our efforts undone, over and over, as Sisyphus did with his eternal boulder.

To counteract this, we talk about going with the flow. But what does “going with the flow” mean? For me, going with the flow means using my time, talent and effort in a way that is in alignment with the energy of the moment.

This past weekend, Dave and I went to the beach. Over the years, I have learned our patterns for travel and let’s just say they are not exactly aligned. I like to get up early, get on the road and get somewhere with lots of time to enjoy the place. Dave likes to get up later and eventually make it to our destination. 

This trip it dawned on me that we could both get what we wanted if we simply drove in separate cars. I got up early, got on the road, and was able to get to our destination in plenty of time for a nice long walk on the beach. Dave came later, on his own time schedule. Most importantly, we got to the beach with no resentment and animosity toward each other because we had found a way to accommodate what worked for each of us. 

We were able to go with the flow.

Later in the weekend, we decided to try a local takeout restaurant that was highly recommended. When we arrived at the restaurant, it was completely crowded with a long line and no place to park. Dave had to meet some of his band members, so we decided not to wait at the restaurant. We had no Plan B for dinner but trusted that something would work out. Sure enough, when the band members arrived, they found a place for an early dinner and we joined them.

Again, we went with the flow. 

During summer beach time in my childhood, we crossed a brackish water pond to get to the beach. Early in the summer, to reduce the water in the pond, engineers would create a passageway from the pond through the beach to the ocean. The water would rush from the pond to the sea. We used to get in the water closest to the pond and ride the surging water toward the sea. It was great fun to let the water pull us and took lots of effort to try to walk back through the rushing water toward the pond. 

It was much easier and more fun to go with the flow.

Going with the flow doesn’t mean abdicating responsibility, it does mean letting go of expectations and control of the outcome. The irony is that when we do let go of control and are open to possibilities, wonderful experiences can happen. 

Like anything, going with the flow takes practice. Instead of pushing something forward that just isn’t working or doesn’t feel right, we can stop and ask ourselves if this is the right time for it or if there is something else that would be better to do at the moment. It doesn’t mean that we avoid work that may be difficult or unpleasant, but it does mean that we choose to do that work when the time feels best. For example, if I need to work on taxes, I know that choosing a time when I am well rested, have exercised and meditated and am feeling present and calm is going to make the process a lot more enjoyable.

Going with the flow also entails understanding your own energy cycles and patterns. Are you a morning person? If so, then the morning may be a good time to do work that requires more heavy lifting--mentally or physically. Are you a night person? If so, then in the morning you may just want to focus on getting up and getting ready for the day and are better off saving more difficult work for later in the day.

What are your experiences with going with the flow? How does that show up in your life? I look forward to hearing about them in the comments below! 

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