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The River or the Goal Article by: Earl Nightingale

If you’re going to be a success as a human being, you have to fit into one of two groups, or belong to both of them.

The first group belongs to what I call “the river.” These are men and women who have found, often early in life, although not always, a great river of interest into which they throw themselves with exuberance and abandon. They are quite happy to spend their lives working and playing in that river.

For some, the river may be a particular branch of science; for others, one of the arts. There are some physicians, for example, who are so wrapped up in medicine that they hate to leave; even after a 16 hour day, they can’t wait to get back to it.

These people are happiest and most alive when they’re in their river — in whatever business or career or profession it happens to be. And success comes to such people as inevitable as a sunrise. In fact, they are successes the moment they find their great field of interest; the worldly trappings of success will always come in time. Such people don’t have to ask, “What will I do with my life?” Their work is a magnet for them, and they can’t imagine doing anything else.

We all know such people, or about such people. Doing what they do is even more important to them than the rewards they earn for doing it.

The second group of successful people are those who are goal-oriented. These people have not found a particular river, necessarily, and can be quite happy doing a number of things. It’s the goals they set that are important to them, and they’re quite aware that there are many roads that can lead to their goals.

Someone once said, “Americans can have anything they seriously make up their minds to have. The trouble is that most of them never make up their minds about anything.” Goal-oriented people do make up their minds about what they want, and they keep their eyes and their enthusiasm on the goal they’ve established until it becomes a reality in their lives. Then they set a new goal, if they’re wise.

One of the problems with this latter group is that after achieving a number of goals and becoming quite successful, they can run out of goals and become listless and unhappy. But not the river people. Their interest in what they’re doing never fades.

So if you’re going to be a big success, chances are you need to be a river person or a goal-oriented person, or both — the two groups are not mutually exclusive.

Source: The Essence of Success by Earl Nightingale


Tips for Setting Goals

A clinical associate professor of psychiatry, Dr. Ari Kiev, writes, “Observing the lives of people who have mastered adversity, I have noted that they have established goals and sought with all their effort to achieve them. From the moment they decide to concentrate all their energies on a specific objective, they began to surmount the most difficult odds.”

Dr. Kiev continues, “The establishment of a goal is the key to successful living. And the most important step toward achieving an objective is first to define it. I’m sure you have at least 30 minutes a day in which to list your thoughts. At the end of that time, choose from the possible objectives you have listed, the one that seems the most important, and record it separately on a single card. Carry this card with you at all times. Think about this goal every day. Create a concrete mental image of the goal, as if you’ve already accomplished it.”

The doctor points out, “You can determine your special talents or strengths in a number of ways, ranging from psychological tests to an analysis of the unexpressed wishes in your dreams. No method works for everyone. You might start, for example, by clipping and posting newspaper articles that interest you. After 30 days, see if there isn’t some trend suggestive or a deep-seated interest of natural inclination. Keep alert to the slightest indications of any special skills or talents, even when they seem silly or unimportant.

“From this exercise, you should be able to get some sense of potential strengths. Whenever you discover a strength or talent, think of five possible ways to develop it. Write these down on a card as well, and check them periodically to keep them fresh in your mind.”

So take the good advice of psychiatrist Dr. Ari Kiev, and don’t be afraid of failure. As Herodotus wrote, “It is better by noble boldness to run the risk of being subject to half of the evils we anticipate than to remain in cowardly listlessness for fear of what may happen.”

Source: The Essence of Success by Earl Nightingale

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"First say to yourself what you would be: and then do what you have to do."

- Epictitus

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