Navigating the river of life – grab a kayak!

Life has been compared to a river that flows from our inception to the sea of our destiny. In this life River journey, we are one of 3 kinds of travelers – a drifter without a life preserver, a rafter, or a kayaker.












The drifter stays barely afloat, struggling against the currents just to keep their head above water, bumping into logs and debris as the current takes them where it will, or against their will. It is a route of moving from one problem to the next. And they are so focused on the obstacles, they can’t even enjoy the journey.

The rafter has an easier time staying afloat and has protection from the debris and cold water. But he can still only go where the current takes him, and if there is no current that he is stuck in some aimless pool, making no forward motion.

The kayaker directs her own craft and can go wherever she wants, even upstream or to a new tributary. She utilizes the current to her advantage, but isn’t dependent on it for propulsion. She is at one with the river, enjoying the journey, including the obstacles. And if the obstacles or rapids are too great, she can lift her craft out and portage to a new entry point. She is not in control of the river or the obstacles, but she is directing her own course, reactions, and decisions relative to the conditions of the river.

So, which traveler are you-  a drifter, a rafter, or a kayaker? Do you feel that you even have a choice?

If you are a kayaker, you know it and you are affirmed in this metaphor and believe that you are in control of many aspects of your life destiny and your happiness. You’re focused on your goals and what you can control, not what you don’t control.  you see obstacles not  as problems, but as challenges that make your life better and your journey more interesting. You see life as a grand adventure and yourself as an active participant, the author of your own life story. You are an optimist and believe that there are exciting opportunities just around the next bend. nothing can stop you from achieving your destination.

If you are a drifter or rafter, it’s not too late. You can choose to be a kayaker, to be the captain of your vessel and the author of your story. But you must choose, and quickly. Do not defer this decision to the external forces of the river.  the river and time keep moving, whether you do or not. Sir Isaac Newton said that an object in motion will continue in that motion until interrupted by another force. So if you do nothing, then you will stay in the  same current and the same mode you are now. You need to choose a new vessel and tap a new force to counterbalance  the friction and gravity which will pull you down.

And that force is God’s gift to man- self-mastery, self-will, and self-determination. God gave each of us free will, the ability to decide key frameworks for ourselves. We can choose to believe in him or not. we can choose to love or not. we can choose our life purpose or not. We can choose to make a difference or not. We can choose to be an active participant and author in our story, or be a passive spectator and have our story written for us.

But when asked, 80+ percent of humans from all countries say that they feel out of control and not living their desired purpose and self vision.  they either don’t believe they have a choice in the matter or they aren’t sure what choice to make to interrupt their current aimless course. Here are 5 tips to help you make that choice and start your new journey, a journey of excitement and purpose.

  1. Recognize where you are right now - it may be hard to acknowledge that you are a drifter or rafter. But an honest assessment is the 1st step to self-awareness and doing something about it. much like someone who finally sees themselves in the mirror as overweight and then decides to take control of their diet to become the shape they envision.
  2. Take responsibility- you have to take ownership of your past and present if you want to take charge of your vessel in future. You can’t blame anyone, your past, your bad luck, or your parents. You are where you are because of the choices, or lack thereof, throughout your life. The good Captain makes things happen and uses elements to his advantage. He doesn’t blame the weather, the River, or the other drifters and rafters in the water.
  3. then let it go, Drop the baggage -  once you take accountability for the past, let it go.   Drop the bag of rocks, fears, and excuses you been  carrying all your life. Lighten your load for the journey ahead.
  4. pick a new course- you’ve been too busy looking down,  at the rocks and problems of today, with no clear  aiming point. Choose some dreams and goals  that fire your soul and are congruent with your identity and purpose. And that may mean leaving some old habits, people, and jobs behind. To choose something new, we must leave behind the unhelpful  habits and ideas of the old.
  5. Master the art of a kayaker -  just like any new skill, one is not a master kayaker the moment you step into the vessel. In fact, it is likely that you will struggle with controlling the nuances of his craft in the beginning. You might even get frustrated with the work it takes or if it flips over. You might then think of giving up and returning to the comfort of the raft. But stick with it and see that this is the key step in self-mastery and of taking control of your life.  be the captain of your life, not a  helpless passenger blown by every wind and current  or derailed by some false eddy.

And enjoy the journey. You never know what’s around the next bend!

Question: are you ready to take  a new craft and put the work into master your life?

Quote of the day: 1) Originality is unexplored territory. You get there by carrying a  canoe… You can’t take a taxi. ….Alan Alda ( from his excellent Whitewater movie “White mile”)

2)  love many, trust a few, but always paddle your own canoe ( anonymous)

I would love to hear your comments and experiences as a kayaker…


3 Responses to “Navigating the river of life – grab a kayak!”

  1. Evelyne July 25, 2012 at 1:49 am #

    Wow Mike…well said and so true on all counts! It was in fact, my two employers and good friends, Harry and Philip who taught me how to kayak and invited me to join there team because they believed me to be the “kayaker”. 17 years later and still looking forward to the journey.

  2. Judy Hayes July 25, 2012 at 1:50 am #

    Well put Captain!

  3. Ingrid July 25, 2012 at 2:32 am #

    Mike, Well written as always. Glad you’re back… love the metaphors. I can surely relate to that “River of Life”! LOL I’ve been through the turbulence and stuck in the eddies or having to “portage” around to get back on course. Sometimes that has been most difficult. I agree that it is important to have goals. I recently introduced that concept to my 13 year old granddaughter. At the beginning of the summer I asked, what do you have planned? – The answer was… “Uh, I don’t know… I think it’s going to be really boring.” That was the wrong thing to say to this Omi! – I gave her a tablet and asked her to write down all the things she would like to do… Never mind, time cost or obstacles such as how to get there… Within 15 minutes she had two and a half pages filled…. When I saw her last week end and inquired how her summer was shaping up … the answer was GREAT! – Did the list help? “Yes, Omi… I’ve done over half of what I want to do this summer.”
    Personally, I like the rapids best. It is a huge thrill when I’m going faster than I think I safely should go… Not sure of exactly what’s around the bend. But, knowing that the planning and ground work shows a good likely hood of a safe trip. Yes, self-mastery, self-will and self-determination are all gifts that God gives to man. However, the wise man (or woman) knows that it is God’s gift of Salvation and of His Son that really free us to choose our destiny. He ultimately has a higher purpose for His children and to those that are sensitive to this purpose the “River” is His purpose. We can struggle trying to go against the current, or take advantage of the rapids and fly through the white water and rest in the arms of the sheltered eddies. The River flows with us or without us… We can sit in a chair and watch life or we can be an active participant. I choose to be the captain of my kayak, with new water shoes and an updated river map! Looking forward to the spray and the bumps! Thanks for sharing…