Navigating the white water of life


Life has continued to feel like water rapids for me as 2021 unfolds. After adapting so brilliantly (we all did, right?) to the pandemic last year, what I thought would happen this year has not transpired. Life has handed me something else to adapt to now. And I believe that is the way it’s going to be for us all, in different ways, as we move forward.

But I have noticed some plusses about living in (rather than talking about) this new world that is more volatile and uncertain. What I have learned is that are some simple ways of navigating this ambiguity.

If you have read my book, you will recognise a couple of these lessons – and a few new ones that are serving me well, and may help you too. I’ve broken these down into “Five C’s”, because who doesn’t love some alliteration?

Control (Relinquish it!)

The first is to give up a desire for high levels of personal control. Now, we all want to some control in our lives – there is nothing wrong with that. But traditional organisations are rife with subtle and not so subtle forms of power over others – and if we layer over that, your personal need for control, then your team members are getting a double dose. And unlike the Pfizer vaccine, it’s not doing them good. (See Chapter 5 in my book Big Little Shifts for more about this.)


Connect to others and seek emergent answers to moving forward from a synthesis of all their different perspectives. This sounds like common sense – but think about and really observe your own behaviours. Is this something you really do? Especially at work. Or do you succumb to the expectation that you (and others) may have of yourself that you should supply the answers? “That’s what I get paid the big bucks for!” you tell yourself. Is there a dissonance between what you think you do and what you actually do?


Knowing what to do is not as simple as being able to predict the future. That’s how we in our modern western society often interpret the term ‘know what to do.’ But there are different forms of knowing. We have access to a vast range of data through the sense of our body. Taking notice of how we feel and where is another form of knowing. Using this knowledge can help us ‘feel our way forward’ in complex and uncertain circumstances.

To be clear, reacting to emotions is not what I am referring to here. I am suggesting a more reflective and reflexive approach in noticing how you contribute to outcomes. Which in turn enables you to assess yourself as a system and your place within the greater system. Perhaps answering questions such as ‘what is my unique contribution here?’ And ‘what is most important now?’ Imagine finding responses to these questions that you can check within your body, feeling the right thing to try now. That’s the form of knowing I am referring to – a way of accessing wisdom.


In times of significant change, conditions can feel chaotic. And that is what I have been reliving recently. The emerging circumstances have placed constraints on what I can and can’t do. And strangely – that has been helpful. Although initially upsetting, it has eventually helped me be clear about what is most important. And because my resources are more limited than previously, I have had to make clear choices about what I can and can’t do. Rather than railing against circumstances, I recommend accepting what you can’t change (difficult for an activist at heart) and working within your constraints.


Within those constraints, dig deep into your resources to find a more creative response. Just because things aren’t the way you hoped, and you accept what is, it doesn’t mean you need to be passive. Your innate creativity will provide the way forward. Where are the tendrils of the future that already exist in the present? How can you develop and nurture them?

So there they are! Five considerations in C’s for navigating the white water.

Are you also in white water? Or preparing your team for a future with some upcoming rapids?  Please contact me. I’d love to chat!