How to Think Better: Upstream vs. Downstream

One of my very favorite LoA concepts is upstream vs. downstream. It makes so much sense and it’s easy to apply in real life.

Now, I’d never even heard of upstream vs. downstream before my obsession with all things Law of Attraction. But the minute I learned about this concept, I knew I had a new tool in my toolkit for better living.

So what is upstream? What’s downstream? Which do you want? How are you currently living?

“There is a Life Stream that flows to you, and this is a Stream of clarity, a Stream of wellness, a Stream of abundance–and in any moment, you are allowing it or not.” —Abraham

So Abraham is very clear there’s only one stream. You’re in it. And you are either going with the stream or going against it. Allowing or resisting.

  • If you’re going against the stream, that’s upstream.
  • If you’re going with the stream, that’s downstream.

Let’s take a closer look at upstream. 

Upstream is efforting, going against the flow, pushing, and trying to control. Upstream is focusing on what you don’t like and don’t what, finding fault, complaining, and blaming. Resentment is upstream and so is fear. Upstream is thinking it’s your job to know how what you want will unfold. Upstream is resistance.

Upstream is wanting something, but being focused on the lack of it.

Abraham says: “When you feel an urgency to be somewhere else, you are pushing hard against where you are. That is upstream.” —The Astonishing Power of Emotions

Upstream is exhausting. But this is how many of us are living.

I have to say, that was true for me. Even though I’ve always been a glass half full kind of person, I definitely had many, many upstream tendencies prior to embracing Law of Attraction.

I was all about efforting, about trying really hard, about controlling everything, and focusing on how, how, how to get what I want. No matter where I was in my life, I always seemed to want to be over there—where I wasn’t.

These days, though, I’m all about heading downstream.

Downstream is going with the flow. Downstream is clarity about what I want and why I want it, but putting the Universe in charge of how it unfolds. Downstream is focusing on what I like and living in a state of appreciation.

Downstream is satisfaction with what is and eagerness for more, which is a perfect state for manifestation. Downstream is the path of least resistance. Downstream is caring how I feel and reaching for the relief of a better-feeling thought.

Are you starting to see the difference? I’ll bet you can feel the difference, can’t you?

Here’s another way to look at upstream vs. downstream.

”We are here to help you understand that your life can be as wonderful or as horrible as you allow it to be. It all depends upon the thoughts that you practice. And therein lies the basis of anyone’s success: How much do I practice thoughts that bring me joy, and how much do I practice thoughts that bring me pain?” —Abraham

  • OK, so practicing thoughts that bring you joy—that’s downstream.
  • Practicing thoughts that bring you pain—that’s very much upstream.

Are you practicing upstream or downstream thoughts?

Because many of us are indulging in thoughts that cause us some degree of pain. Whether that be frustration or worry, blame or anger, guilt or fear.

So what about it—are the thoughts you practice upstream or downstream?

Make no mistake: Your thoughts are a choice. Which means going upstream or downstream is a choice. However, the problem for many of us is we’re on autopilot, which means we are not managing our minds and we are not being deliberate in our thinking.

Then, at other times, we see the fork in the road, upstream to the right, downstream to the left, and we actually choose to go upstream. I know this happens for me when I choose being “right” over being happy.

“When you’d rather be right than feel good, you’re often choosing upstream rather than downstream. And when you choose upstream, it never works for you.” —Abraham

Do you let insignificant letdowns point you upstream?

“Do not let some insignificant letdown point you upstream away from all that you desire.” —Abraham

  • The barista got your coffee wrong.
  • The babysitter didn’t show.
  • Your husband forgot your birthday
  • You’re stuck in traffic again.

What is your version of the insignificant letdown that points you upstream?

For me, customer service has long been one of those “insignificant letdowns” that I make very significant. So here’s a confession: I get easily bent out of shape about poor customer service.

I’m not proud of how easily I can get turned upstream when I perceive I’m not getting the type of service I deserve. Admitting this is embarrassing because that’s not who I want to be. And the way I behave in those moments is definitely not downstream.

I always marvel at Hans when he interacts with any and every person in a service capacity. It doesn’t matter who he’s dealing with. He’s always so friendly and patient and gives people the benefit of the doubt. He is decidedly downstream regardless of whether the customer service is “good” or “bad”.

He just stays downstream. And wouldn’t you know it, he attracts the most amazing customer service interactions.

Whereas for whatever reason, I’ve made my upstream-downstream choice around customer service dependent on the quality of service I’m receiving. Can you say conditional alignment?

I’ve been thinking about what the downstream choice would be next time I have one of those customer service moments.

Again, Abraham says: ”Do not let some insignificant letdown point you upstream away from all that you desire.”

When I get pointed upstream, let’s say about slow service at a restaurant, it turns my whole canoe around in the current. Which means it’s not just compartmentalized to restaurant customer service. If you’re going upstream about one thing, you’re attracting more things to go upstream about.

Upstream vs. Downstream: Which will you choose?

So even after learning about this powerful concept, it’s not as if you won’t ever have another upstream moment. I’m definitely raising my hand: I still have upstream thoughts and can find myself paddling very hard against the current.

But I really take to heart what Abraham says:

“The only awareness that you need to have if you want to utilize the guidance system that you were born with is that you want to know one thing and one thing only, moment by moment, thought by thought: Is this upstream or downstream? —Abraham

Asking yourself, moment by moment, Is this upstream or downstream? can be life changing. Because it creates space, this pause of awareness—where you can get off autopilot and consciously choose thoughts that serve you and your best life.

  • When you’re thinking a thought about your husband or kids, your boss or best friend: Is this upstream or downstream?
  • When you’re thinking a thought about your finances or a situation at work: Is this upstream or downstream?
  • When you’re thinking a thought about the goal you want to achieve or shiny penny you want to acquire: Is this upstream or downstream?

It’s one or the other. Either you’re headed upstream or downstream.

Of course, asking Is this upstream or downstream simply creates the opening. Then it’s up to you to choose which direction you want to go. And I’m hoping it’s downstream!

“You’re in control of how you feel because you get to point your thoughts upstream or downstream. You have all of the control.” —Abraham

I know we don’t always feel that way. We say, But I can’t control my boss or what’s happening with my aging parents. No, you can’t.

But you can, always, always, always, control your thoughts. Because only you think your thoughts. So in any given moment, it’s up to you to choose thoughts that take you upstream or downstream.

Here’s one of my favorite quotes about upstream vs. downstream choices.

“I can complain or I can appreciate. I can find fault or I can look for positive aspects. I can worry about something or I can look forward to something. I can remember things that irritated me or I can remember things that pleased me. I can look for your faults or I can look for your positive aspects. And in every moment in time I’ve got an ‘upstream’ or ‘downstream’ choice. Try to put your life into that context—so you deliberately try to point ‘downstream’—and then all you need to do is hold your tongue about the upstream stuff.” —Abraham

In every moment in time, you’ve got an upstream or downstream choice. That is so empowering!

Everything you want is downstream. And downstream is available to you, to me, to everyone.

But here’s what Abraham notices:

“We watch you getting more efficient at fighting the current. Your muscles get stronger, your boats become sleeker, and you discover more effective oars. And, always, we listen patiently as we hear a variety of versions on this same general theme of justification for paddling upstream, but then we always explain what we consider to be the most important thing that our physical friends could ever hear from us: Nothing that you want is upstream!” —The Astonishing Power of Emotions

Let that settle in: “Nothing you want is upstream.”

“The only thing that you can control is your direction in the stream. Doesn’t that make your life easier? You’ve got two choices in any moment in time: I can point upstream or I can point downstream. That’s it. I can feel worse or better.” —Abraham

I encourage you to choose to point downstream. Choose to feel better.

“As you make the better feeling choice more and more and more, and keep turning downstream, you’re going to start to get the rhythm of the stream. Life just gets better and better when you’re going with the flow.” —Abraham

I’ve noticed going downstream is about trusting the Universe. Trusting the current will carry you just where it should, when it should, how it should.

When you live your life trying to control every aspect and orchestrate every “how”, well that isn’t trust in the Universe—and it’s very much upstream.

“The less you try, the more you’ll get, because trying and controlling are always upstream.” —Abraham

The next time I’m on hold with Comcast or at the DMV getting my driver’s license renewed, I’m taking my cue from Abraham and turning downstream. Regardless of how long the hold is, regardless of the service I receive.

“Do you know a week or two of deliberately turning downstream is all you need to feel wonderful. And do you know 30 days of feeling wonderful is all you need to manifest the biggest of dreams you ever had!” —Abraham

Will you give it a try for the next week or so? Will you deliberately turn downstream?