There are so many studies and statistics about how many people set, and reach, goals. One often-cited study by the Ford Foundation says that only 3 percent of people meet their goals. I have not been able to locate or validate this study. However, from an anecdotal perspective, I work with people every day who are very dissatisfied with where they are, and dream of doing something differently. There is no “right” or “wrong” on this — it’s all about what matters to each of us.

In my own case, I look around at people who are retired or taking it easy and think “I don’t want that.” I don’t strive to work hard now with the anticipation of slowing down at some point. It’s not a goal for me to relax or spend more time on the golf course (although I admit that I do love to play golf and know I would get better if I spent more time at it!). I thrive on my frenetic, crazy life. I love everything I get to do. I love making a contribution, and I love using many of the talents God has given me to try and make a difference every day.

It’s possible to make the most of our time and enjoy it. We don’t have to choose between work now and play later, or sacrifice those things we care about hoping we can turn our attention to them someday. I run a full-time consulting business, teach three classes with over 200 college students combined, devote several hours a week to the local animal shelter, have three kids, nine pets of my own and several animal fosters, and do radio and television interviews on a regular basis. In between, I have written four books in the last three years and traveled to speak all over the world.

Not everyone wants a life like mine with so many activities, but some people do want to do more than they are doing right now, or want to add something to their life. What are some of the secrets to opening your life to include more things you care about, without feeling like you are at a tipping point of “too much”?

  1. Have a set of clear goals with pictures of what you want your life to look like. Take the time to sit down and develop the picture — make it as clear as you can with written words, cut-outs from magazines, drawings, pictures, etc. Know where you want to go clearly.
  2. Make a list of associated priorities. It’s easy for me to say “no” to certain things, or to walk away from something that isn’t in line with my goals. I can’t possibly do everything that is available to me, so I have to make choices. Having a clear list of priorities allows me to stay focused.
  3. Have a plan. It’s amazing to me how many really smart, educated people operate without any kind of plan. We waste way too much time thinking about “what’s next?” when we don’t have a clear plan for each day, each week or each month. I love spontaneity. Having a plan doesn’t mean you can’t throw it out from time to time in favor of something else, but it does allow you to see how much time you have and where you are allocating it. I manage to get to the gym three times a week and see at least one friend each week, but only because those commitments get on the calendar and worked into my plan.
  4. Spend time doing those things that fuel you. The truth is that I love my work with the animals — cleaning messy dog cages and getting those wet kisses are sheer joy for me. I love being with my kids. I love playing golf with my mom and having breakfast with my best friend from high school. Every day there are things that feed me, and this gives me energy to invest in other things I need to do. Don’t spend your time on things that pull you down and drain you; focus time on those things that uplift you.
  5. Know your stressors and manage them. We all have different ways we react to stress — some people yell and scream, some get depressed, some turn it all internally. Know your triggers — what stresses you, and know how you react that is not healthy. Become aware of the stress and choose to manage it; avoid it, alter it, adapt to it or accept it, but don’t ignore it and don’t fight it. As a hypnotherapist, I know the value of things like learning to do deep breathing and having an outlet that works for you. Don’t let stress steal the energy you need to do what you want to do.

This week, commit to setting your goals if you haven’t done so. If you have, set your priorities and make your plan. Find things that you enjoy and that fuel you, and manage the stress that can steal your happiness.

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