River People and Goal People

fallsEarlier this week, Blogger Malcolm Bellamy wrote a post called Seven Words to Describe Yourself. Coming up with a list like that is perhaps a good beginning to answering the Really Big Question – What do you want to do or be When You Grow Up? It is interesting how some people are able to say, from an early age, what they want to be. Earl Nightingale describes these people as River People. They know their passion, usually from an early age, and they follow it over waterfalls and rapids, through backwaters and calm pools. They never abandon it, because it is who they are.

As I listened to Earl explain River people (and this was many, many years ago), I knew this wasn’t me. But he also said there are two types of Successful People. Perhaps I would see myself in the second group, (because I was sure I would be wildly successful at something, if I could just figure out what that might be).

Earl continued – the second group are the Goal People. They set a goal, follow one or more roads to get there, then set another goal.  Drat! A dusty road, not a flowing river. This was going to be harder than I thought. My children will attest to that, because they got dragged into the dreaded Goal Setting Exercises. It was part and parcel of Family Forum Night – the Car Guy, the daughters, the cat, and I would gather to discuss any important topic that impacted the whole family. At Christmas, Family Forum was Goal Setting. Each person would detail what they had done to achieve the goals they had set last year, then list the goals for the coming year. The kids wailed about not wanting to do this, but I think they learned a lot about the basics of goal setting. Which was good, because none of them indicated that they had a river they wanted to throw themselves into…

As the kids got older, their goals began to grapple with the When I Grow Up question. They looked towards their father for motivation, because for all intents and purposes they couldn’t see that their mother had made much progress in the career department. Which was fair. My goals were still mired in the trenches of the Stay at Home Mom and Chairman of the Committee of what Everybody Wants but no one Wants to Do. The Car Guy was bringing home a paycheck each month. Money – the litmus paper of career and thus success.

Much water has passed under the bridge since then, so to speak, and I’m still prowling roads, ticking off quirky little goals. I’ve decided to divert off the road to Growing Up, though. People seem to lose much of their sense of humor if they follow that road too far.

Back to the seven words to describe yourself.  I came up with curiousness, skepticism and humor which led to craftsman, writer, researcher and advisor. These are, I think, my River Words, even as I walk the dusty roads. And for now, Best Blogger within three miles of my house here in Canada is my goal. Next month, maybe I’ll expand that to a radius of five miles…

How would you describe yourself?

5 thoughts on “River People and Goal People

  1. Hmmm… I’ve never thought about this point before, but I believe that I’m a goal person. For I’ve not followed one continuous path (river), instead moving from, what I call, one chapter of my life to another. Though, when it comes to marriage, in fact to all serious commitment, I’m a river person. Bill


    1. I expect most of us are primarily Goal people, but I agree that many of us have at least one river of interest. I think big time River people are often artists, craftsmen and musicians but could also be tradesmen or truck drivers! My husband has a river of interest and that is cars. He never made a living from them, but his interest in them has never faltered.


      1. It’s easy to recognize the river folks, isn’t it? I recall, as a boy, having a friend who was crazy about stamp collecting. And today I have a friend who’s nuts for fly fishing. Yes, I go fishing with him from time to time, but I’m not into it as he is. I guess I’m more of a generalist, interested in a number of different things. Bill


  2. Hi Margie,

    Firstly, many thanks for mentioning my post, it is really appreciated.

    Secondly, thank you for your post, I had not really come across the idea of “river” and “goal” people before and it certainly makes me think.

    I feel that I am at a transformative stage from a “goal” person to a “river” person as I seek to develop my personal passions (of which writing a blog is one).

    As a fellow blogger I admire your ambition to develop as a writer and feel that you have made more progress than perhaps you know.


    1. I agree that people often find their river after pursuing goals for a while. I have always liked to write, and am certainly learning a lot by both writing a blog, and following other bloggers such as yourself!


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