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Sometimes There's Just No Way to Hold Back the River

March 30, 2017



I just finished listening to the audio book The Alchemist by Paulo Coelho. The book is about the journey of a shepherd boy in pursuit of fulfilling his personal legend. My one line take away from the book is, the universe rewards those of us who have the courage to pursue our dreams and the challenges we face and adversity we experience are opportunities for growth and part of our journey. Click on the book cover to order your copy from Amazon.


I don't know if I love the way the book ended, but there were lots of nuggets if wisdom throughout the book that made me hit pause and think a little deeper. The title of this blog post was one of those nuggets of wisdom.



"Sometimes there's just no way to hold back the river.”


I turn 40 in September and though I typically advocate against age based / date based / event based goal setting and decision making, I must admit that turning 40 has me looking in the mirror a little closer and seeing the world a little different. I think my goal for my 40s is to learn how to give up my need for control, relax and go with the flow more. The first 20 years of my life were chaotic and the past 20 years were very controlled and pragmatic; which has served me very well for the most part, but I feel like the universe has been trying to send me a message the past 18 months. The message: Stop trying to control everything.



"Sometimes there is just no way to hold back the river."


Like a river, there are somethings in life that can't be controlled. We can build dams and levees to try to contain and slow the river. We can dig trenches to try to reroute the river. We can decide to avoid the river all together. But, no matter how peaceful or chaotically it flows, we will never, ever stop it. Sometimes the best we can do is try to manage and adapt; and we need to be OK with that. If you are like me, that can be hard to do.



Many times, I find myself somewhere between passionately caring about something to being an observer; sitting in awe of the human experience. When I passionately care about something I take it personally, both positively and negatively. I want to grab control and adjust, move or fix. I set expectations and perceive that I have the power and I can create the change I desire. When I sit in awe of the human experience, I don't take things personally, I have no expectations and I could care less about control. I appreciate everything for what it is and what it is not; I appreciate people for who they are and who they are not. I flow.


The reality is there are somethings in life that require us to passionately care, take personally and maintain some control to move it forward in the right direction; our health, finances, children and career. Likewise, there are many things we shouldn't take personally and simply can't control. There are people and situations that don't deserve our time and attention. Our quality of life will largely be determined by figuring all of this out and moving forward accordingly.


In my 16 years of studying personal, professional and leadership development, the best way I've learned to sort all this out is by making self-awareness and emotional intelligence a priority; what I consider to be today's survival of the fittest. By making these a priority you make the commitment to understand your . . .

  • Purpose

  • Values

  • Standards

  • Passions

  • Security/confidence needs

  • Stress triggers

  • Impact you want to make

  • Legacy you want to leave

For how daunting and/or fluffy these may seem, making an effort to better understand these things will help you organize and prioritize your world and sort out who and what deserves your time, attention and emotion. They will help you focus on the right things for the right reasons and avoid things and people who are a deterrent from you living the life you deserve. It's not always easy, but just because we can't stop the river, doesn't mean we have to let it pull us under and sweep us away.


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