A river needs no goals. It’s a living ecosystem that responds to the conditions at hand.
The secret to being productive isn’t just by learning how to complete more tasks.
As a coach, it doesn’t matter to me whether my clients have big goals, no goals, smart goals, enough goals. None of that really informs the quality of my client’s life.
In fact, our work often involves encouraging them to do less: less thinking, less doing, less goal-ing.
They learn how to do less non-essential activity to make room for the things they value the most.
Some rivers are wide, some are narrow, some have waterfalls, some don’t.
Yet it seems to me that a river just…rivers. It flows. It finds its way over, under, through, around obstacles.
The current version of America that I live in seems to celebrate achievement over sustainability, including how we respect this planet that gives us life as well as sustainability of systems, processes, lives.
We are supposed to be “busy” because…what? Because personal ambition is considered a virtue?
A river needs no goals, and yet it accomplishes its purpose.
I had a delightful conversation with a person who was going to another country to study for a few months.
They were talking to me about how they wanted to set goals for the trip. You know, so they got enough out of it. So the trip would be “productive.”
It reminded me of master coach training and my desire to get the most out of the experience.
I had an elaborate plan for how I would apply the principles of the delicious book Improv Wisdom to my studies.
In a way, I think the preparation did help me remember to have an improv mindset while I was there.
However, it was poignant to recall how I believed that setting goals would make the experience better.
Maybe it did. Maybe it didn’t. The river took me along either way.
The river is a beautiful improv. It learns and adjusts while in motion. It doesn’t plan ahead – it simply moves.
This is the season when people reflect on the past year and dream about the year ahead.
It was interesting working with my client about their trip, dreaming about how the trip might change them.
In the end, they set a goal around their relationship with themselves. They decided to be open to the experience and trust that they would absorb everything they needed from their studies. They decided to be aware of how they were encouraging connection.
That conversation created something new for each of us when we talked about the analogy of the river and how purpose and goals meet obstacles as the river meets rocks and beavers and pollution.
I’ve invited myself to be more like a river, fast and slow, shallow and deep, moving, ever moving along. I never get stuck because forces larger than me are pulling me forward whether I’m ready or not.
Whether I have a goal or not, I move.
It’s such a relief, trusting the gravity of life. Now I can focus on the experience of the flow…and that makes such a difference in how much stress I experience.
What about you?
Would you like to move through life as a river? What would that look like for you?
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