Going Against the Flow

going against flow

In life, we’re often told to “go with the flow.” Meaning, the flow of energy, the flow of events as they unfold. The implication here is that we shouldn’t struggle against forces beyond our control. To do so is to expend valuable energy that’s better exerted elsewhere.

Lately, I’ve been thinking about this going with the flow business, and what it all means.

It’s my feeling that people who are passive accepters will always go with the flow, no matter what. And that’s the majority of people. But then you have the other brand of personality – the movers and shakers. They’re fewer and farther between, sure. These people seem to have that killer gut instinct telling them when it’s right to go against the flow.

Why would you ever want to go against the flow? Why, when your whole life, everyone’s told you to roll with it, go with it, flow with it, and don’t rock the boat?

You’d want to go against the flow when it’s time to instigate change. Change is inevitable, yes. But don’t think for a minute that humans don’t have control over it, because we do. As the species in charge of this earth, we are artisans of change. Just look at what Al Gore has undertaken in the name of extending the life on our planet. Just look at how far the human race has come.

Change happens so gradually, we almost don’t notice it. It ripples outward in a series of connected events. One day we wake up, look around, and no longer recognize what we thought to be true. That’s change in effect.

Change will still happen, even if we sit in the passenger’s seat of life and let other people or events manipulate our outcomes for us. But it will happen more to our liking, if we become actively involved and responsible for what’s occurring. That may mean going against the flow and against the grain, in some areas of your life.

When is it time to go against the flow?

  • When policies and procedures feel painful and onerous instead of pleasurable and effortless
  • When you realize that what worked five years ago isn’t working today
  • When “your people” seem to be drifting in a direction that you don’t want to go
  • When you look in the mirror and the person staring back at you is nearly a stranger
  • When something (or everything) is different, and not in a good way
  • When neglect begins to negatively impact people and situations
  • When “it’s time somebody did something” (why not you?)

Questions to ask yourself

  • What direction are things flowing in your life? Your work? How about with your family, neighborhood, or even your local government?
  • What can you do to shift the tides?
  • How do you think this will affect your life for the long term?
  • How will it impact those around you?
  • What ways can you go against the flow, in a good way?

Do you have any stories of going against the flow? What happened? Please share them in the comment below.

11 thoughts on “Going Against the Flow”

  1. Peter:

    I like this post. I’m always in support of people finding their own path rather than “going with the flow.” This “flow” would include what I call the inhibitors of self-awareness (language, social convention, media noise, false rewards, and inertia).

    I would add that we should find our own “flow” and go with it, whether it goes against the “flow” of social convention or not…

    “You cannot tread the Path before you become the Path yourself.” ~ Zen Proverb

    Thanks for the post…


  2. Going against the flow can be effective – it all depends on what ‘the flow’ is and what you are trying to achieve. The Taoist ideal of Wu Wei is not just passive acceptance of whatever comes along, but working with the grain of things to effect positive and profound change. To quote from A A Milne,

    “Just How do you do it, Pooh?”
    “Do What?” asked Pooh.
    “Become so Effortless.”
    “I don’t do much of anything,” he said.
    “But all those things of yours get done.”
    “They just sort of happen,” he said”

  3. Great article which gives a lot of insight into the importance of when change is needed and when it’s not. Sometimes, for us “movers and shakers” we often have to go against the flow and fight for what we want not matter how many extrinsic (or intrinsic factors) may get in our way.

    Other times, it very important to go with the flow and take some belief in fate so that you don’t drive your stress levels up a 100 notches! :)

    Thank you for giving me a lot to think about here.

    I hope you might read my website and blog at:


    There you will find several links on the home page to get to my blog. Let me know what you think. We have similar thinking and perhaps can do a link exchange to help each other’s readers. That would be nice.

    Dr. KC

  4. I think for many of us we are here to go against the flow. We see the potential for positive change and we are willing to stick our necks out and becomes the agents. It’s what makes life worth living. Of course there isn’t a lot of sleep or piece of mind a lot of the time because we basically inventors. But I would not have it any other way. Sometimes the secret of effective change is to implement new concepts and while honoring the undeniable laws of human nature. I attempt to write about this in my blog. Great post, thanks.


    Lesters last blog post..INDY 500 !!!!! Yea baby, it’s on

  5. Wonderful post. As I read it, I started reflecting on my own life, and I came to realise that all I am doing with my life is going with the flow. Even though I don’t like where it is headed. After reading though, I feel truly inspired to go against the flow and do something about it.


  6. Hi,

    Very nice post.
    If every one is going with the flow,there won’t be any Bill Gates or Richard Bronson or Michael Dell.
    Going against the flow in any field is very tough,but if you stick to your goal,inching towards it step by step,you can make it.

    Thanks for sharing.By the way,Happy Birthday Peter,you are doing a wonderful job.

    Best Wishes,
    Kannan Viswagandhi

  7. I guess I think in terms of gong with my own flow, rather than the flow around me. Then the question becomes how much do we “go with the flow”, and how much do we try to control outcomes.

    One way of looking at it is like we are riding in a canoe down the river of own own flow—we go with the flow of the river, but can still steer. And many times our own river will take us into unchartered areas.

    Cheers – Robin

    Robins last blog post..The Fountain of Youth

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