Always Paddle Your Own Canoe

That was the advice from one caller to this morning’s Vanessa Feltz radio show, ‘Always Paddle Your Own Canoe’.

It got me thinking about how independent I am (appear to others, or like to think I am) and what it means to paddle your own canoe!

  • Taking responsibility for your own actions/journey through life
  • Looking after yourself and keeping yourself safe
  • Managing obstacles and rapids
  • Not blaming others when you capsize
  • Learning to patch up your own holes and maintain your own canoe

I’m more of a bike rider, but I’m sure many of the skills are transferable!

I think I shy away from asking others for help, so much so that I likely wouldn’t recognise when I do need help. I’m not around others on a daily basis so I realise that the moments pass when I might have benefited from having someone to sound off on or help with some task. When something quirky occurs during my week I’ll likely keep it to myself until a family meeting when there might be an interested ear, or I throw mention of it to here on my blog (thanks for listening!)

I don’t go to the doctors about aches and pains because they’re pretty much all self-inflicted; some rare cold, flu or bug and I’d rough it out, trusting my own body to fix itself. Mental ailments seem not so straightforward though and ignoring them until they go away doesn’t generally work, but books and Youtube videos can help, providing you act on what you learn rather than just absorbing the information.

It turns out I’ve read a few books of the self-help variety this year:

  • NLP – Neuro Linguistic Programming
  • The Loneliness Cure
  • Acedia and Me by Kathleen Norris
  • Boosting Self-Esteem For Dummies
  • The Organized Mind by Daniel J. Levitin
  • IKIGAI by Hector Garcia and Francesc Miralles

They’ve all left their impression on me, some more so than others. Working through both the NLP book and the Dummies book each gave me a noticeable boost and things to focus on and keep referring to in order to observe my progress. I related a lot to the term Acedia and as for Ikigai, I have written about that before and now have come to appreciate areas of my life that contain the much sought after “flow”, paddling my own canoe, as it were, is likely one of them, and there are areas that don’t. There are aspects of my life, such as parts of my work, where I feel like I’m juggling things, and not in a good way as a clown would find his Ikigai in the act of juggling, but perhaps that’s achievable – “Be the clown!” I’m now telling myself!

There might be times when I ask a member of family or neighbour to assist with something, like when I went away cycling and needed people to feed my cat. I remember the funny time I needed to get a wardrobe up a flight of stairs and attempted it on my own; the photo of that thing filling the stairwell still amuses me. In the end I could only get it so far and had to wait for my brother to come round on his weekly visit and we tackled it together; it was still a challenge, and a tighter squeeze than my careful measurements had predicted.

I find it very odd to be around people who are constantly asking things of others; even simple things like “can you pass me that” or “can you put this away for me”, especially when they are right next to the thing or the place it needs to go. Why do people do this? On the one hand I can appreciate the social interaction but on the other it’s like some kind of control and manipulation thing.

In Organized Mind, Levitin points out that we might delegate tasks, or offload things to others so that we can can achieve/maintain our flow in what’s important to us. This might mean paying a plumber to fix our bath taps for us, rather than procrastinating for a week or more about what tools we might need, or Youtube videos to watch on the techniques required to do it ourselves.

There is the emotional offloading too. Feeling stressed or depressed will likely hinder us in our work or on our path through life; preventing us from focusing on the things that are important to us, even something as simple as reading a book. We all need help and assistance from time-to-time but for me I like to work through things on my own. Levitin reveals that this is one of the best ways to learn, rather than being simply instructed like we might have traditionally been at school or through a college/university lecture, but that’s not to say we don’t need the perspective of others, their opinions and their mentorship. They key is to pick out the sound advice that works for us, and most importantly act on what we learn, and grow from it, assimilate it; don’t nod and agree and then keep returning to the old ways as I notice people/we often do.


  1. > so much so that I likely wouldn’t recognize when I do need help.

    Ain’t that the truth.

    “Oh, I’m fine. Yeah I know there’s this truck on my foot, but I’ve got this crowbar and a fulcrum, I’ll manage.”

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