5 Powerful Life Lessons from the River


What’s your relationship with the river like? Are you applying the lessons from the river to your life? If not, you may be missing out on big time opportunities for powerful living.

Experiencing the river through kayaking has taught me so much about myself and how to lead a fun, powerful, passionate and adventurous life. Here are 5 life lessons from the river that contribute to powerful living.

Be Here Now

Yes, the adrenaline rush, being outside and being active is really fun, but what about that present moment awareness? That’s the real juice that whitewater kayaking provides!

I remember one late afternoon on the New River Gorge when the sun was low and the whole Gorge was bathed in beautiful golden light. 

As I approached Double Z and looked up at Ramshead cliff, a feeling of deep gratitude and beauty swept over me.  I felt a joyful connection with the river, the gorge, the trees, the stones.  It was a feeling of oneness, a merging with the natural world around me.  I felt that in that moment I had everything I needed in life and that I didn’t want to be anywhere else but right here, right now. Wow!

Feeling that sense of connection and happiness is what life is all about (IMO).  

I decided to let the river and kayaking be my present moment guides to living a powerful, fun and adventurous life, and I’ve never turned back.

Tell Yourself a Powerful Story

The river is a teacher with many faces:  Soft, easy, playful and gentle as well as scary, pushy, powerful and intimidating.  

anna levesque at the bottom of 10 ft falls on Wilson Creek

If you misjudge the timing, read the water wrong or make a bad move the river will let you know immediately.  If you take a swim, or miss a wave or mess up a move it’s not because the river is out to get you.  I’ve heard paddlers try to blame the river before.  It makes them feel better, but it doesn’t fool anyone else!

It also doesn’t mean that you’re a sucky kayaker or that you don’t belong on the river. Those are stories you tell yourself about what happened.

When you stick to the facts of what happened you drop the drama and see the river, your life and your choices for what they are.

One day you may see the river as scary, while on a different day you may see the river as your friend. If the water levels haven’t changed, then all that has changed is the story you’re telling yourself about the river.

As my friend Michelle once said, if you’re going to tell yourself a story, you may as well make it a powerful one.

Look Where You Want to Go

Most paddlers have experienced what happens when you stare at that big rock that you’re trying to avoid – you paddle right into it!

On the other hand, if you focus on the current that flows beside the rock you’ll avoid it.  When kayaking, looking where you want to go is key to making it down a rapid successfully. 

In life, looking where you want to go is key to achieving your goals.

You don’t always know if your moves will work out exactly how you thought, but when you know what you want, and keep your vision focused on where you want to go, you set yourself up for success.

Gratitude Over Fear

Your mind can’t focus on gratitude and fear at the same time. Try it and see for yourself.

When I’m paddling a tough river I take time at the beginning of the run to express gratitude for the river, for my paddling friends, for my skills, for the sunshine and for whatever else comes to mind.  Doing this gets me into a positive mindset and takes power away from my fears.

When I wake up in the morning the first thing I do is express gratitude for my life.  I do this especially on the days when I wake up feeling down or stressed. It doesn’t mean that the negative feelings go away for the rest of the day, but it does get my day started with a dose of remembering that life is a miracle. It interrupts negative thoughts and gets me motivated to live my life according to what’s important to me.

Sometimes you just need a moment of mindset shift to take the next step or paddle stroke. That’s good enough to get the momentum going in the direction you want.

Build a supportive team

The paddlers you surround yourself with contribute to your comfort, confidence and joy on the river.

I’m picky about who I paddle with, especially when I’m paddling a river that challenges me. I choose folks who support me in being myself and who hold me up to my highest potential.

That means that they support me, and it also means that they may tell me things I don’t want to hear.

A supportive team is a team of folks who have earned your trust and leave you feeling inspired and powerful after paddling, working or hanging out with them.

If you flip over, roll up and keep going

The biggest breakthroughs are born out of breakdowns.

There is opportunity in every experience if you are courageous enough to not label the experience as bad or good. It’s simply an experience you can learn from to help you on your way. So, when you flip over, roll up and keep paddling.

Don’t beat yourself up for flipping. Instead acknowledge yourself for hitting your combat roll and carrying on. It shows courage, resilience and skill.

If you want to live more powerfully, courageously and confidently, take these 5 lessons and apply them on and off the water.

Want to become a more confident, skilled and powerful paddler in Class III? Join me and a group of powerful women for Find Your Flow Week July 7 – 13th. Uplevel your paddling skills and your mental agility in a small group. I’ve got 1 spot left in the week – is it yous?! Click Here to learn more and register!