Personal Growth

Why You Can’t Figure Out What You Are Supposed To Do With Your Life

December 13, 2012

Let me pose a question to you. Do you know why some people just seem to pop out of the womb knowing who they are to become, and others don’t?

The first type knows who they are to become and has an all consuming passion which never relents. They eat, breathe, and even sleep their passion.

The other type, well, they dabble. They try on different hats. They start and stop. They taste many varieties of life, and sometimes settle on something. Sometimes, however, they never settle.

I have often wondered why this is. And, more personally, I have wondered how to harness the dabbling way of approaching life and use it to my advantage. I don’t know the one thing which I am supposed to do. I have often dreamed of waking with a sudden realization of what I am “supposed” to do.

It has never happened.

I recently discovered an analogy which has changed my approach to the whole topic. I found it incredibly life giving, so I wanted to share it with you.

I’ve been listening to Earl Nightingale’s 6 CD audio series, The Strangest Secret. Besides being one of my favorite books, Nightingale explains how there are two types of people in life.

The river people and the goals people.

River People

River people are the people who have an all consuming passion which never relents. It doesn’t matter where they are, who they are with, their whole life is caught up in the great river of their interest.

They often don’t care for making money as long as their basic needs are met. The only thing that matters is the ability to pursue that which fulfills their heart. And they pursue it with an unstoppable drive.

You may know a river person. If you are reading this, you probably are not one because they are too busy doing what they do. 🙂

These people often eventually make large amounts of money because they bring very important things to our society. Einstein was a river person. As was Picasso, Mozart, and da Vinci.

Goals People

Goals people, in contrast, are the large majority who don’t especially know what they want to become. Their interests are often as varied as the creatures in the sea. They may dabble in many interests. Until they settle on one which feels right.

Goals people often feel unfulfilled with life, unless, they pursue goals to help them clarify what their river of interest actually is.

Goals therefore guide them in the direction they should go.

photo by sektordua

Which are you? Do you have an all consuming river of interest, or are you pulled in different and varied directions, making you a goals person?

I am a goals person. My interests are many and each seems to pull me as do currents in the ocean. I find myself swept up in one interest only to get tossed to shore by a hardship. I am tempted to quickly jump into another current of interest when this happens.

And the cycle continues.

There may be nothing wrong with this for some people. I, however, want to know I am living the best life I can with the time I have.

I therefore want to know what interest should be pursued over another. This struggle has often left me feeling ineffective and confused. I can’t focus on or pursue them all, but choosing one feels as though I am forsaking all the others.

Then comes the trump card. Fear: What if I choose the wrong one?

An action plan for goals people

Nightingale put forth a wonderful plan in his series which set my heart at ease. This gave me a new perspective.

Nightingale suggested this:

If you are a goals person, to be effective in life, you must use goals to your advantage!

They will be your compass.

First, however, you must identify what your driving passions in life are. All of them.

Take a legal pad, he says, and write down all the things you want to accomplish in life. Your every dream and whimsical thought. Don’t hold back. Write them all down.

He then says to rate them in order of importance. This, then, is the order in which you will go about pursuing your goals. Focus on the one rated most important first and go from there.

When one is finished, you may have others to add to the list.

Keep adding and altering your order of importance as it pertains to your seasons of life, but keep chipping away at your list.

What Happens

By doing this, an amazing thing happens! You eventually discover your “river of interest.” You also discover layers of increased growth and confidence which come from pursuing a worthy goal.

You will be like a large ship. Always moving towards a destination. You will make a difference, and your life will be an inspiration to others!

You will be doing something. Setting goals this way makes the process as simple as following a recipe. Do the first thing, then the next, then the next.

This allows us to thrive. We are pursuing the things in life which give us the most joy!

It gives us direction and a clear plan. I thrive on a clear plan.

I am so grateful for ideas which change my life for the better. This is one of them.

Question: Does this strike a chord in your heart as it did mine?


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  • Reply Alana Mokma December 13, 2012 at 7:04 am

    I am totally a goals person. I flit about from one thing to the next. Unknowingly, I have started t o pursue some of the items on my “goal list.” Through this, I rediscovered that I love to write – specifically by sharing my own story through a blog. I have a small notebook (about size 3″x5″) that I carry around with me. I plan to begin recording my “strong moment” those moments that make me come alive. I had a “strong moment” in spin class the other day. The instructor wanted us to ride in synchronization – stand up, sit down, stand up, sit down, now lean forward and do a pushup on the handle bars. Out of the corner of my eye, I could see all 15 of us doing the exact same movements in the exact same musical beats. I almost started crying because I was so excited. It was strange, but I think it made me really excited because it reminded me of dance – all the dancers moving in unison. I know dance is somehow part of my purpose and my story, but I’m still learning the scope of how all this will come together. 🙂 

    • Reply Kent Julian December 13, 2012 at 12:19 pm

      Alana…it’s fun to see how you continue to grow!

    • Reply Claudia Good December 13, 2012 at 12:45 pm

      So cool Alana,
      Hey, I have seen first hand (as first hand as online can be) how dancing and rhythm make you come alive! And, for that matter writing!

      Love how you are constantly pursuing, pushing forward and trying things. Love, love, love it! 

      I think one of these days you will stumble across a little stream and the stream will get wider and stronger, pulling other areas into it. Eventually it will become a river. 

      Hmmmm, river dancing?!!?? 😉 

  • Reply Michael Wright December 13, 2012 at 7:38 am

    I’m a “Goals” person through and through.   I am guilty of contemplating my next move through the years rather than jumping out and doing.  I didn’t do exactly as Nightingale suggests, but I did make lists of things that make me come alive and the things I wanted to be remembered for and do in life.  And I just started doing them.  It is a good test to see how those inklings flesh out in real life.

    • Reply Claudia Good December 13, 2012 at 12:42 pm

      I see you doing things!! Yes sir, you are! And it is energizing to watch 🙂

      What prompted you to make your list?

  • Reply Donna Yates December 13, 2012 at 8:11 am

    Claudia, I too am a goals person.  I have had a variety of interest in my life.  I would pursue a path that I thought was my “passion” only to find out that once I got there, it really wasn’t what I thought it would be.  I’ve often prayed that God would show me what I was meant to do.  I’ve finally decided that doing a variety of things or pursuing goals is not a bad thing.  Through my life, by pursuing these goals, I’ve been able to fulfill alot of my hearts desires and learn a variety of new things that I’ve used in all aspects of my life.  I’m still making goals and working toward them-as ever changing as they are. 

    • Reply Claudia Good December 13, 2012 at 12:40 pm

      You are so right. Having many interests is not a bad thing at all!! Dan Miller talks a lot about this. It is just knowing how to connect them and which one to pursue at what time of life!

      I have heard so many people say “just do something” “just pick one and do that one.” I have realized this to be true in my own life.

      Just getting out and doing SOMETHING gives me drive, ideas and energy… and a new perspective. It leads me to a path where as before I would have kept wandering in a huge meadow…

      I see you doing this in your own life. Just doing something! I think it is wonderful!!! I love how you said by doing this you have been able to fulfill many of your heart’s desires. Lovely!!

      Blessings this holiday friend!

  • Reply Ann Musico December 13, 2012 at 10:59 am

    YES!  It definitely struck a chord and I guess I was a goals person as I was growing up – never really knowing what I am meant to do.  Then when I truly got involved with health, I believe I found my river of interest.  That is such a great way to describe them and the exercise is simple but really insightful.  As always, Claudia – thanks for sharing something so interesting and useful!

    • Reply Claudia Good December 13, 2012 at 12:36 pm

      Your welcome!I love your story. And yes, I believe you are thriving in your river of interest! It has blessed so many including me! Keep swimming my friend 🙂

  • Reply Dennis Davies June 9, 2014 at 9:04 am

    I guess I’m a “Goals Person” except I feel like I really don’t have any goals in life right now. I used to think I wanted to be a comic book illustrator but after persuing it I realised it wasn’t making me happy. I still do art as a hobby but whenever people actually want me to produce something for them I can’t find the motivation to draw something that somebody else wants. Similarly I gave up on a tattoo apprenticeship as after a year of working at a studio for free with nothing to show for it I realised it wasn’t for me at all. And now to use your analogy I’m just drifting along in the open sea with no wind in my sails and a broken compass. I’m working a full time job, which is relatively stress-free and I’m content enough but it’s just a way to pay the rent. I certainly don’t feel fulfilled from it.

    My friends and family still believe I should “be an artist,” but considering I clearly don’t have the drive to do it, is it really worth it? I like being creative but only when left to my own devices and I don’t want to grow to hate doing it by taking on commissions I don’t believe in. So I suppose my question is this:

    Just because you’re good at something, is that enough reason for it to be your career?

    • Reply Michael Good June 21, 2014 at 4:42 pm

      Hi Dennis,

      I would certainly say, NO! Some things are best left as hobbies. For instance, my wife, Claudia, enjoys graphic design, so she decided to start a graphic design business. Well, she very quickly realized she did NOT like designing for other people. It’s TOTALLY different as a creative person to design something the way YOU want it. When you’re doing it from someone else, generally you need to make it the way THEY want it, whether you like it or are proud of it or not.

      Keep putting yourself out there and trying different things. It’s OK that you feel you haven’t hit your stride yet. The varied experience will be invaluable to look back on. You’ll be able to see patterns as you grow and learn more about yourself.

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