One thing can be said about me – I am not a water-sports-type-of-guy. After nearly drowning as a very young kid, I never learned how to swim until I was in my early 20s, but that is another story…

Navigating Life's Whitewater RapidsWell, this past week I took my two sons whitewater rafting. What a blast! We went down the South Fork American River in California. It was not only a great father-son activity but a wonderful opportunity to face fears and learn from them. From the images and the experiences, there are five lessons that have since flowed through my mind.

Five Life Lessons from Riding the Whitewater Rapids

1. Don’t shrink in, extend out. When I look at the pictures taken during the right photo opportunities, the first part of our 23-mile journey showed me leaning in, trying to get away from the water and the rapids. As we continued, the photos showed me laughing and not shrinking in as much.

There are rough waters in life, and our natural instinct is to huddle in and protect ourselves. Although there is always some protection required, we can go too far and lose the opportunity to reach a little, face our fears a little, and do something a little extraordinary.

Sometimes, we need to extend ourselves in the challenging waters of life and be bolder.

2. Surf the rough water. When we look ahead, the waters look rough, scary. We are unsure if we will be able to hang on to what is coming at us.

After going down one of the higher class whitewater portions, we turned around and went back. We tried to time it, enter in at the right moment, and surf the rapids. It was fun! When I looked down at the water, it was swirling about, yet it did not look that frightening. I was floating on top of it; all seemed fine.

We need to surf through the challenging times, meaning we need to go back and face what may seem challenging or troubling. When we try it again and get on top of it, it doesn’t seem that bad. We can accomplish what we may have thought was an impossible hurdle.

Sometimes, we need to rise up to the challenges, surf them, and go for it!

3. Smile. When all the water is coming at us and the raft fills up, we just need to smile! We cannot always change what is happening. It is not as bad as we think. Join in with others and work together happily.

Sometimes, we just need to laugh a little and smile a lot. It helps everyone get through the obstacles – big and small.

4. Hang on from time-to-time. Yes, sometimes, we just need to hang on. If we don’t want to get thrown out or expelled from the turbulence, then we just need to hold on and ride it through. The important lesson is to know when to let go and begin paddling again. We cannot just hold on forever; we need to take some action.

Sometimes, we just need to get a grip, and then let go at the right time.

5. Look back and see what you have been through. It is always important to continue to look forward; however, from time-to-time, it is important to look back and see what we have been through. Looking back delivers some perspective, much satisfaction, and certain comfort in knowing we have navigated some rough waters successfully. It gives us confidence for what is ahead.

Sometimes, we need to look back and be proud of what we have accomplished. Our past victories give us confidence to face what lies ahead.

As a believer in the fact that life lessons are all around us, if we care to observe and absorb, this is just another. It delivered a nice cool splash in my face, waking me to a valuable perspective.