If you’ve done any white water rafting, you know how exciting it can be. On the first rapid of my first trip I remember the guide yelling, “Row. Row! Row fast!!!” But I did not want to go fast. I wanted to slow down, I preferred to try passing through the rapid “nice and easy.”

That was a mistake. We spun and bounced and nearly capsized. On the next rapid, I dug in with my paddle and rowed like mad. We shot through like an arrow.

I learned the hard way that if you travel down a river at or below the speed of the river’s current, you have no control over where you’re going. You can see the rocks and whirlpools ahead but you have no say as to whether you hit them or go around. Plus, it takes more energy to slow your boat than to speed up. By going slower than the current, you might get through the rapids unscathed but you will feel as significant as a leaf in the wind and know, “I was lucky that time.” By exceeding the speed of the current, the person operating the rudder can give direction to the raft and make sure the raft takes the safest route through the rapids. I remember after that first run, we gave each other “high fives” like a bunch of kids. We were proud and excited, not merely lucky.

That’s called taking control of your life. Your direction. Your destiny. We are only victims if we choose to be. Everyone encounters rocks, rapids, and whirlpools. It’s a fact of life. The choice is to work with the power of the river to make our own path, to exhaust ourselves resisting the flow, or to let it toss us randomly. I prefer to add my own preferences and efforts to the circumstances.

I may not control the outcome but I do have a role.