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Are You Working With or Against the Current?

Sometimes we find ourselves caught up in life’s current drifting into situations and getting results which we had not planned for.  Recently I went with the current and found myself way, way out of my depth…

I took the opportunity to go with my family to Golden Beach on the Sunshine Coast at the weekend to enjoy time out doing absolutely nothing involving any mental activity, except to plough through a Dan Brown novel (or is that an oxymoron?)

Sunday morning was a perfect Queensland spring day, temperature in the high 20’s Celcius, low humidity, and deep blue skies with the occasional wispy cloud.

Checking out the flat calm, almost mill pond, blue water in PumiceStone Passage between Golden Beach and Bribie Island, we decided to hire a catamaran and a kayak and take to the water.

I took the kayak, and went straight out from the shore confident in my abilities on the flat water. I felt like I was paddling on a lake, it was so easy to make progress. I called to my husband on the catamaran, to let him know how easy kayaking is since I was just going with the current and not putting in much effort.  It was so easy, so effortless.  Oh, if I had just listened to what I was actually saying to myself!!

This is a good time to confess that I know precious little about tidal movements, currents and the like.  I am a born land lubber.   I had no idea that the incoming tide was creating a very fast current to the south between the island and the mainland, and what looked like flat calm to me, in the absence of white surf, was in fact hiding a very strong south bound tidal current.

After 5 or so minutes of peaceful drifting, wondering idly if the sun would join up the freckles on my arms, and other important questions on the meaning  of life, I looked at the shore and realised I have indeed drifted easily with the current a long,  long way from my starting point and from my family on their catamaran.

Not being in any way alarmed, and in total blissful ignorance of my real situation, I pointed the kayak north toward my family’s boat and paddled toward them for about 10 minutes.   I was still enjoying the perfect Queensland Sunday.  Looking towards land I realised with dawning horror that my efforts were in vain, I was not moving closer to my family.  In fact, I was paddling hard against a current which seemed to be gaining strength,

Not one to be deterred, I increased my efforts. I concentrated on my paddling technique to improve efficiency of movement and effort and focussed on the goal of reaching my family in the catamaran, now some 150 metres distant.   I started to make slight, very slight, headway.  After 5 more minutes of hard paddling, I was feeling mildly panicked as I realised I was getting more and more tired and I was firmly caught in the current. 

There was no way I was going to get to my family if I kept on doing what I was doing.!!

I was out of my depth with out a life vest on a kayak in deep water!

Thankfully I have good friends who are qualified Surf Life Savers. I remembered a conversation where they explained how many tourist visitors to Australia get caught in rip tides and drown. A rip tide is an invisible (to the untrained eye) trap offshore which unwary swimmers get caught up in and get dragged in the rip away from shore. The swimmers often battle the rip until exhaustion takes over and they drown.   The trick my friend told me is to swim across the rip at 90 degrees to safety - never to swim against the rip.

Remembering this conversation, and hoping the current was indeed a channel, like a rip, I turned the kayak through 90 degrees and headed west across the current to shore.  I changed my point of focus from reaching my family to getting myself to safety.

A few more minutes of effort took me out of the current channel into safe waters.  After this slight detour I redirected the kayak north and paddled toward my family sailing in blissful unawareness on their catamaran.

I like to take the lessons from difficult situations and to see the life metaphors as well.

Sometimes in life we drift along easily and effortlessly riding the current of life to where it takes us, only to find we have drifted over the years to a long, long way from where we had planned to be.

Sometimes too, we struggle towards a goal which we have a strong emotional investment in, only to find that in the struggle we are making no progress and simply exhausting ourselves getting nowhere. The current we are struggling against is just too strong for us.

And sometimes too, when we take stock of our situation,  we find that focussing on a different short term goal will get us much closer to our long term goal with a lot less effort and a lot less risk.

If you are in a position where you find yourself a long way from where you wanted to beScience Articles, or if you take stock and find that you are putting in a lot of work and effort not getting anywhere then I suggest you take timeout to look at what current you are drifting in or fighting against.

Coaching is a simple way to review where you are and to assist you to refocus on the goal which is most likely to get you to where you really want to be. Coaching helps you put to your energies into heading in the direction which will take you to your long term goal with the least effort.

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Liz Cassidy, founder of Third Sigma International is an author, Speaker, Trainer and Executive and Performance Coach dedicated to facilitating results in the businesses, professional and personal lives of her clients. For more information

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