Do You Go With The Flow?

The rivers are rising with spring runoff. I’m excited for boating season to start. Our family has been on the river in various incarnations of plastic tubing since my childhood. We purchased inflatable kayaks many years ago and have been creating fun, exciting river memories ever since.

Can we just put our boat in the water and go with the flow? I wish it were that easy.

There are parallels between a river trip and our financial life journey. Both entail knowing what we want to accomplish and how we are going to do it. We align our perspectives and perceptions of what we think it should look like, and head into the water. We live in goal driven culture. But life reminds us, time and time again, that goals can provide guidance, but how we handle what actually happens on the journey will ultimately define a “successful” experience.

As an initiate river rat, one of my goals was to keep my duckie upright, my body and gear safely planted inside of it. After a particularly grueling spring runoff adventure, a dear friend with many rafting trips under his belt shared that getting “dumped” is part of the experience. You have to plan on it, be prepared for what you need to do to recover and God willing, you come out with a great story to share.

Reading the river is not easy, and neither is reading life. We pick our run and get into our boats with a destination take-out downstream. We anticipate a pleasant journey, then hit an unexpected rock, flip, and lose your paddle. Likewise, we start our day, look down the road with enthusiastic anticipation of what we have planned and what we expect to happen. Then our feet touch the ground. We get slammed with economic uncertainty, health challenges, and family dynamics. Our lives can turn on a dime.

Buried in the chaos is both distraction and opportunity. The determining factor is in your personal flexibility and your attitude. We can succumb to the events that thwart our plans, or we can shift our perspectives, look at what needs to be done differently and keep moving forward.

We need to trust the process, not the plan. When I talk to people about what financial life planning is, I start with what it is not. It is not a Map Quest formula, incorporating your starting point and your final destination, spitting out the quickest route. The value in true financial life planning is looking at where you are now, embracing that where you are going is a continuous state of change. Somewhat like shooting a rocket ship off to a distant destination, it is a matter of continuous course corrections to keep you on a trajectory headed towards an ever transforming future.

Adaptability is just as important as preparation. Adaptability has as much to do with our attitudes as it does with our financial tools. The same way we want to have the right gear for whichever river expedition we have planned, you want to have the proper financial tools for your life journey. You need to how they work for you when things are going smoothly. When life happens and changes course, how can they be evaluated, refined, reworked or replaced? Contiguously, it is imperative to be adept at adapting and adjusting our attitude to whatever lies around the bend.

On the river of life, gather your family, friends, and community in your boat, grab the proper gear, get a guidebook and scout the potential rapids. Then, don an attitude of gratitude as your PDF (personal flotation device), perseverance as your paddle, embrace the adventure and enjoy the journey!

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