My coworkers and I were sharing traffic horror stories this week. It seemed like if any of us were in a time crunch to get somewhere, we hit every red light or got stuck in a sea of cars. We all had differing, yet similar, experiences watching the drivers in the cars around us. There are some drivers that are convinced there is another better, faster route that they can find, so they weave in and out of the cars around them. There are others that accept the traffic and start multi-tasking by putting on make-up or playing on their phone. And then there are those that follow so closely behind you that you are convinced they are going to end up hitting you. We use the phrase “stuck in traffic”, but few people accept the fact that they are literally stuck. Instead they believe if they do more there is a way to get out of it faster.
This discussion made me think about a book I’ve been reading by Esther and Jerry Hicks. In this book they talk about your thoughts and actions either going upstream or going downstream. If we use the example of traffic, upstream thoughts include worrying about being late to an appointment, getting angry with the drivers around you or letting frustration get the best of you as you sit and stew about being stuck. On the other hand downstream thoughts include accepting the fact that you are moving as fast as you can, realizing you are powerless in the situation and that stressing out about it will not do you any good. The authors give multiple examples to explain that the upstream/downstream concept relates to every life situation we face. If we feel like we are struggling, whether at work, at home, with a friend, spouse, family member or child, we are paddling upstream. Sometimes we believe that fighting our way through is the only way to get what we want, but they disagree. They explain the only way to move forward is to reframe the situation and start moving downstream. This does not mean that you have to just blindly accept the situation by giving in. It means you take the struggle out of the equation. The smallest shift in perspective can make a big difference. Using the traffic example, instead of being frustrated about how long it is taking, you use the time to enjoy listening to music or a book or catching up with a friend you haven’t talked to in a while. You’ll arrive at your destination with a much different attitude than if you sat in traffic worrying the entire time.
When we start riding downstream we’re happier, more relaxed, less stressed and have more energy to spend on things that we enjoy. Is there something in your life right now where you feel like you are trying to paddle upstream? What would it take for you to start turning that boat around?
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I started writing this blog because I wanted to have deeper conversations beyond "How are you?", "Busy", with other parents. Over the years I've shared personal stories, articles, authors and topics to facilitate conversations with parents about the joys and the challenges of parenting.