7 Life Lessons Learned From Whitewater Rafting

There's no other recreational sport quite as exciting, yet humbling, as whitewater rafting. It's one of those activities that takes the non-adventurous person completely out of their comfort zone from the moment they step into the raft until the moment they pull the boat safely back to the shore.

On a recent trip to North Carolina, near the Great Smoky Mountains, my family and I set out to tackle the mighty Nantahala River. If you've ever paddled this eight mile trip, you know the temperature of the river hovers near 50-year round and feels just like ice water.

When we pay attention, we can glean great lessons through every experience, and whitewater rafting is no exception. In fact, whitewater rafting has provided some of the greatest lessons on life I may not have learned otherwise. Here are the top 7.

1. Stay afloat. Try to always keep your head above water. When you go under, you are no longer in control of your situation. You are quickly carried downstream by the current and are at risk of being pulled down by the undertow. Hopefully, there will be someone nearby who can help you; but there may be times when there won't always be someone available to pull you out.

2. Roll with the current. The best way to paddle a river and live life is to go with the flow. If you try to swim upstream against the current, you have to put forth ten times the effort you would normally to make any progress. Going with the flow gives you momentum and keeps you propelling forward.

3. Realize there will be obstacles in your way. Just as a river is full of large rocks that appear to come from nowhere and snag your boat, life too has obstacles that show up when you're not expecting them. Understanding that there will always be obstacles to navigate will keep you flexible, adaptable, and ready when the unexpected happens.

4. Keep on paddling. When going through rough and rapid waters, it's vitally important to keep paddling the boat in order to maintain stability. It's the same for life. When things get difficult and hard to manage, it's more important than ever to keep moving forward. Otherwise, it's easy to lose your direction.

5. Know you won't always be comfortable. To attain any lofty goal you set for yourself, it's important to know you'll endure some discomfort along the way. Although it may not be ice-cold water splashing you in the face, discomfort is unavoidable. In order to move beyond the current status quo, you must be prepared to leave your comfort zone, even if it makes you shiver.

6. Be willing to take a risk. Achieving success requires stepping out and taking chances, which can sometimes be frightening. There are no guarantees that you'll stay safe and dry, but you'll never know if you fail to try. Taking the biggest risks can yield the greatest rewards.

7. Have fun. Enjoy yourself. Take in the scenery along the way. Enjoy the twists and turns that life has to offer, and spend it with the people you care about the most. You work hard, so why not play hard too?

Our rafting trip concluded with the exhilarating, yet challenging, class III rapid known as the Nantahala Falls. This was our greatly anticipated reward at the end of a long journey. Did we do it perfectly? Not at all. It was far from perfect. In fact, we went down the waterfall backwards. The point is, we went for it and gave it our all, and that's what success in life is all about.

Grace Bluerock blogs about success principles and creating a better life through discovering and doing work you love.