Don't push the river.

personal development Apr 20, 2022

I live very near the New River, which, ironic given its name, is one of the oldest rivers in the world. 

I visit it frequently.

One reason I love it is that it's a contrarian. It flows north instead of the usual south and crosses a mountain range rather than descending from one.

My wife and I picnic by the New on summer weekends. I can feel its ancientness every time I step into it. The waters of the New feel wise and powerful as they swirl around my body.

 A Chinese proverb often springs to mind when I'm on the New.

"Don't push the river. It flows by itself."

This quote also comes to mind when I catch myself getting lost and worn out as I grit and grind my way toward some desire.

I call this "pushing the river" (meaning pushing against the river's current).

Pushing against the river is an exercise in futility and exhaustion. You can't change the direction of a river's flow nor slow it down.

Of course, you can also push with the river's flow.

Pushing with the flow is easier, of course, but it's no more useful. The river was heading that way anyway, and it will not arrive at its ultimate destination any more effectively or efficiently.

Whether you're pushing with or against the river, you're paying attention to something you can't influence, squandering your time, and wasting your effort.

Pushing the river feels like real work. River pushing is a seductive distraction and an impediment to making progress in the difference you're trying to make.

Where are you pushing the river in your endeavor today? What might be a better use of your time, attention, and effort?

Scott Perry, Chief Difference-Maker at Creative on Purpose

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