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Always Look in the Direction You Want to Go

It’s been two years since a kayak trip on Elkhorn Creek ended with me ejected from my boat along with my iPhone, keys, driver’s license, credit cards, the passwords to all my accounts, plus a hundred dollars cash. I floated downstream while I yelled for my friend to turn around and come back and scanned the water, without success, for my vanished valuables.

At least the day was warm and I landed in the middle of the stream, well away from the submerged log my boat hit. That helped me float free and avoid getting sucked under it and trapped.

“They call those strainers,” my friend said. I had never heard of a strainer, but I knew I didn’t want to be strained.

The next time we kayaked I felt anxious. I did not want to dump again. As we rounded one bend I saw a menacing stump at the edge of the water.


“Oh no! Look at that stump! I’m going to make sure I miss it,” I yelled to my friend as I began to paddle.

That’s when she gave me a good piece of advice.

“Don’t look at the stump. Your boat goes toward what you look at. Look ahead. Look in the direction you want to go.”

“Isn’t that great life advice?” I shared this insight later with another friend. “That applies to so many things. Focus in the direction you want to go. Don’t look at what you want to avoid, or at things that worry you.”

Photo by Lily Banse on Unsplash

“It’s the same in horseback riding,” she said. “When you jump a fence you’re not supposed to look at the fence. That will steer the horse into the fence. You are always supposed to look on the other side of the fence, toward where you want to land. That helps your horse go up and over.”

How about you? As you face a challenging day, do you get stuck dwelling on the problems, or do you see the outcome you will accomplish? As I think about my business, do I worry about what could go wrong? Or do I picture myself reaching a milestone?

Focus. It amazed me that something small like turning my head in the direction I wanted to go would influence my boat’s trajectory, but it did. On that particular day, I floated around the stump into a clear path downstream.

Kayaking is a metaphor for life. It is more fun and less work when you get in the flow and look in the direction you want to go.

© 2019 Deborah Rankin

4 thoughts on “Always Look in the Direction You Want to Go”

  1. Deborah Rankin, my dear cousin, this so inspires me. Dealing with this stupid disease and what it’s taking from me has been the wrong way to be looking. From the bottom of my heart, thank you.

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