Tuesday, January 25, 2011

Going with the Flow

We all want things. You want things. I want things. Whatever position now you have in life, you want to improve it. Whoever you are, there are goals that you want realized because you think they will bring you greater happiness.

For example, you might want a better job doing more of the things you enjoy doing and fewer of the things you hate. Or you might want more money, because you're tired of struggling to pay the bills. Whoever you are, you have problems right now that you would like not to worry about in the future. Maybe you want to move yourself into a position where you can use more of your talents or get more recognition.

I don't know what you want from life; that's for you to decide. But once you decide on your goal, how do you go about getting it?

The stock answer is you fight for it! You set your sights on the goal, and you drive relentlessly toward it, overcoming any obstacles in your path.

Unfortunately, that's not always the best answer. Between you and your goal, there will be barriers, some of them unexpected and extremely costly. If you drive directly for them, then you aren't taking the most efficient route, and if the costs add up, you might not reach your destination at all.

The opposite philosophy is: don't try to seek your goals at all! Just let things happen as they may. Whatever will be, will be!

In that case, you are never going to attain your goal because you are never even going to head in that direction. Frankly, this is the method used by most people. They dream of great things, but they never even make the first step toward realizing them. They usually figure it is something they will do later, but as long as it remains in the future, they never start moving in the present and the goal is never achieved.

This corresponds roughly to many Eastern philosophies, like Taoism. One should not actively seek happiness but merely seek to free oneself of want. Go with the flow of the universe, wherever its currents may carry you.

Bull! If you're going to be like that—merely a piece of driftwood on the ocean of life—then there's not much point in living at all. Existence is exerting your will in the world. It is a quest for SOMETHING, even if you don't know exactly what. If you're not going to at least try to do something, then why are you wasting space on this planet?

It is good to have the motivation to change yourself and improve your lot in life. All I'm saying is there is such a thing as trying too hard and driving too directly for your goal.

The good message of Taoism is that you shouldn't fight the currents of life when you can avoid it. "Go with the flow" is a very good philosophy when the currents are going in the same general direction you are. BUT YOU STILL HAVE TO CHOOSE A DIRECTION.

You don't want to be a piece of driftwood bobbing helplessly in the sea. You want to be a sailing ship! As captain of the ship, you have to understand and respect the ocean. You can fight the currents, but it is very costly. It is much better to recognize the way the water is moving and use it to your advantage.

But above all, it is your responsibility to STEER the ship, not let it drift aimlessly. If one current doesn't do what you want it to, then you take control of the rudder and change currents! Sometimes, you have to fight rough waters to get where you want to go. Sometimes the crew will grumble. But as the captain, it is your responsibility to choose the best route for the ship.

The trouble with those hard-driving people who head directly for the goal is that they ignore the currents. They are more like a powerboat than a sailing ship, ploughing through the water regardless of the circumstances. Unfortunately, that takes a lot of energy, and their fuel may run out before they get there.

Sailing is the way to go! Certainly, you should know the direction you want to go, but you must also pay attention to the winds and waves. If the sea "wants" you to go in a certain direction, it may be a good idea to listen to it.

But you are the captain, not a victim of the waves. It is your responsibility to plot a wise course to the best of your ability as far ahead as you can reasonably see. The only problem is that it is hard to see ahead sometimes, so you often have to deal with circumstances as you find them.

It is good to have goals, but once you leave port, you must listen to the sea.