The idiom go with the flow may not be as old as you think, but the idea that it is based on is very old. We will examine the meaning of the idiom go with the flow, where it came from, and some examples of its use in sentences.
To go with the flow means to accept a situation and lean into it, to not fight the inevitable, to cooperate and see where a situation will take you. Someone who decides to go with the flow does not make trouble or try to change things, he does not take a leadership role but instead follows the lead of others. The idiom go with the flow did not come into use until the latter half of the twentieth century, but the idea of go with the flow is much older. William Shakespeare invokes the idea in his play, Julius Caesar, performed in 1599: “On such a full sea are we now afloat, and we must take the current when it serves, or lose our ventures.” Others ascribe the imagery to Marcus Aurelius, who lived in the second century: “Time is a sort of river of passing events, and strong is its current; no sooner is a thing brought to sight than it is swept by and another takes its place, and this too will be swept away.” Related phrases are goes with the flow, went with the flow, has gone with the flow, going with the flow.
“I’m the kind of guy that just goes with the flow … A lot of times when you make these important plans they just fall through, so I learned years ago to go with the flow and life will take you where you belong.” (The Columbus Telegram)
And in Philly, Mayor Jim Kenney is pressuring several major institutions to go with the flow and raise wages for their workers, or face losing a major water bill discount. (The Philadelphia Inquirer)