Just about any situation can provide life lessons if we’re open to them. This week I had plenty of time to think about three life-changing lessons we can learn from water.

My family and I were on vacation in Hershey, Pennsylvania. It rained our entire 4-hour drive down from Syracuse. We were stuck in the car anyway, so it wasn’t the worst thing in the world, but it also wasn’t the most relaxing drive.

Maybe it was the consistent pounding of raindrops on the minivan or the rhythmic sloshing of the wipers, or maybe it was the delirium caused by the long drive. Whatever the cause, I spent a good part of it thinking. And some of that thought was devoted to the effect water plays in our lives.

It’s a little random, I know. But after that drive, I’m convinced water carries some interesting metaphors about life. Before you start wondering if I’ve lost my mind, here are three life-changing lessons water can teach us.

1. Moderation is Crucial

All living things need water to survive. Plants, animals, humans. If we don’t get enough, we die. But if we get too much, we will die from that too. Somewhere on a scale of dying of thirst and drowning is a spot that represents just the right amount of water. 

Our experiences in life are the same way. Staying out late can be fun. A piece of chocolate cake is delicious. Skipping one class isn’t going to make you fail. But one night out a week easily becomes three. One piece of cake becomes the whole thing. And who only skips class once?

The trick isn’t to never go out or avoid all desserts. Just like we can’t completely go without water, we shouldn’t cut all the things that bring us joy. Instead, we need to understand that overindulgence is tempting and troublesome. Somewhere in the middle is where we need to be.

2. Persistence Brings Progress

Six million years ago the Colorado River started carving out a path through what is now known as the Grand Canyon. At that time the Canyon didn’t look anything close to what it looks like now. But day after day, year after year, the river runs against the walls, eroding a little bit more. 

The naked eye can’t notice a change between the canyon of today and when the first humans inhabited it thousands of years ago. In other words, the Colorado River has been doing its thing, every single minute of every day for centuries. And at the end of every year, there’s very little visual progress to show for it.

That’s how life goes too. Sure, we don’t have thousands of years to make progress but think about any goal you might be working on. Losing weight. Building muscle. Writing a book. If you eat a little bit less today, nobody notices. But do that every day for three months and the before and after photos will tell a different story. 

Same with lifting weights. One workout won’t show much of a change. But fifty will. Writing a few paragraphs every day seems like only a few paragraphs. But when you string them all together, you’ve got a book. There are very few meaningful things in life that can happen all at once. Most require the same methodical, continuous persistence we see in the Colorado River.

3. Life Can Take Whatever Shape We Need

Water is complex. In its liquid state, it can erode the walls of the Grand Canyon or sustain (or take) life. But it can also transform into a solid and preserve things that would otherwise perish. And, if that magic trick isn’t enough, it can also become a gas and power a locomotive or a boat. 

Water is powerful. But it’s also malleable. It conforms to the shape it is most needed in. Life is no different. We are in control of the state our life takes on. And we hold the power to change it when necessary. 

It’s easy to get caught up in the everyday stress of life and think there aren’t things we can do to affect change. But our state of mind is well within our control. And, like water, a subtle change in our state can dramatically improve how equipped we are to handle different challenges.

Some situations call for us to be firm like ice and hold our ground. Others call for us to push forward, full steam ahead. And still, others need us to be flexible and go with the flow, like water in its liquid state. Ultimately, we are in control of which form we take in which circumstances.

What To Do With Life-Changing Lessons

Life throws all sorts of lessons at us. Some clunk us over the head so hard they’re impossible to miss. Others, like water being water, exist all around and don’t call out. If we’re not paying attention, we could miss them. 

But, if we’re open to the idea that every life experience is a learning experience, then there will always be opportunities to grow. Driving through the non-stop rain for four hours doesn’t hurt, either.

Photo by Gláuber Sampaio on Unsplash

RJ Licata author headshot


I am a marketer, a writer, and a thinker. Sometimes I do all three at once. My greatest achievement is convincing my wife to marry me. We have three kids and yes, one of them is my favorite. I'm the author of "Lessons for Joey: 100 Things I Can't Wait to Teach My Son" and "Where Greatness Lives".

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