A couple of summers ago my family did a multi-day whitewater rafting trip on the Rogue River in southern Oregon.
The rapids on the Rogue are mostly Class 2 and 3 with a few Class 4s to get your attention. These latter few are the ones where the guides earn their money.
When we approached the most well known of the Rogue’s Class 4 rapids, quaintly known as “Blossom Bar,” our guides “parked” the rafts on the riverbank, climbed up a rock embankment, and spent a few minutes surveying its present condition.
Equipped with the knowledge gained through observation, the guides instructed us on how to proceed, reiterating commands and outlining our timing. It was purposeful and direct, the way it feels when a leader is clear about her intentions and helps her team understand the roles and responsibilities each team member must fulfill.
It was obvious that the whole effort would go sideways – or upside down – if we missed our mark, but it didn’t. We navigated Blossom Bar with smooth precision because of our guide’s preparation and skill and because of our team’s responsiveness in the moment.
What is so important to emphasize here is that once we were in motion on the river that day, we never stopped. Stopping was not an option for us. Our arrival at Blossom Bar and our pause to get our bearings was an exhibition of the good sense that is required to stay in motion. We could have barreled headlong through Blossom Bar and come out in one piece on the other end. We could have, but that didn’t make any sense, given the larger nature of our enterprise (to get to camp, to see more of the river tomorrow, to get home safely).
We stay in motion; we keep our heading, with a resolve that is informed by both our circumstances and our vision. We do it smartly. We build in the pauses and the rests that slow us down to communicate more effectively, to consider our options and to restore and refresh us.
This is what it means to stay in motion once we start. The alternative, once we’ve gathered the courage to push off from the shore, is to take our chances in an unknown that will, sooner or later, have its way with us.