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When we were young we were often asked, “What do you want to be when you grow up?” Most of us blurted out something, like a doctor, lawyer, astronaut or professional athlete as we drew from our limited experience and grandest dreams.  We toiled our way through grammar school, survived our many trials of middle school and high school being pushed and pulled in certain directions for our future. Our thoughts were full and whirling around with guidance, suggestions and directives from parents, counselors, teachers, siblings and friends. Everyone seemed to know the best course on which we should sail into the future.

Finding our place and direction in life is a daily struggle that persists throughout our lifetime. Just when we think we have it all figured out, we don’t. With well meaning input from others, the time comes that we have to search our heart, mind and soul to create our own best road to travel and the process that will get us there. We strive to match our talents with some occupation or career that both motivates us and allows us to become a shining expression of our true and genuine self. We seek to balance a meaningful way to make a living while creating an enjoyable and purposeful life.

Life has taught me that if we don’t take control and chart our own course, someone else will step in and do it for us. The process to finding our calling and purpose requires that we define, develop and maintain a concise “What”, “How”, and most importantly a “Why” to our dreams and goals. Omitting any of these three essential elements will derail our efforts for reasonable success and possibly have us wandering in the wilderness of discontent for a lifetime. The overshadowing truth is that the key to success is in taking the elements of the process and daily engaging in specific and dedicated action. Others may provide motivation, encouragement and guidance, but YOU have to work the plan.

Developing our goals in life should also include our most human traits intertwined with our passion and grit to reach the finish line. As we seek a career, we should also seek to be loving, kind, patient and caring to ourselves and others. As we reach for the many facets of prosperity in life, we should also seek ways to share and have a servant’s heart as well. Our career path should be meshed not only with our desire to make money, but also with a desire to make a difference.

It is been both my observation and personal experience that the happiest people are those who enjoy their work and their personal life. 

One of our greatest juggling acts in life is to maintain a healthy balance between the two. The key is maximizing your skill set and position as a platform to spread love and kindness…to teach…to motivate…to encourage. We don’t have to hate our job to love our life or to sacrifice our family and life moments for our job. We set the priorities and determine allocation of meaningful time.

Let’s take a moment or two to dissect the three steps in goal setting that I previously referred to. The discovery of “What” we want to do may require a great deal of research and trial and error. Dip your toes into many waters in your search for the direction that you might want to pursue. My personal experience in developing my “What” evolved from the interaction, observation and influence of my high school baseball Coach.  I experienced his impact and influence first hand as he skillfully used his platform of teaching and coaching to become my role model. Through his servant leadership and personal encouragement, I found the “What” of the path I wanted my life to travel.

Having nailed down my “What” by my junior year in high school, it was then time to research and develop the “How” of the process…the plan…the requirements…the actions required. No matter how deeply and passionately we want something, there has to be a credible and obtainable plan of action. A slogan I learned early and refreshed in my mind often was, “If it is to Be, It’s Up to Me.” Much the same as a builder constructs a home or building, we must have a blueprint for success. As with any plan, there may be moments of adjustments and redirection, but without a plan we have no true direction. Goals absolutely must be written down and reviewed often in our efforts to keep our mind laser focused on the prize.

Cars are fueled by gasoline and our homes are energized by the electricity coursing through the wires. It is the “Why” in our goal process that is the fuel and driving force that provides that spark to ignite our flaming desire to succeed.  When the road traveled becomes tough and we think that we can’t take another step forward, it is our “Why” that shouts, “Yes You Can.”  It is our “Why” that we must employ for the self-motivation to walk through the storms until we reach the sun again.  Everyone’s “Why” is as unique and personal as their finger prints. What drives and motivates one of us is not the same with another. Our “Why” is greatly dependent on which of our life goals we are in pursuit of and may be reflected in several life areas.

Our “Why” often is reflected in our quest to discover the answer to the universal question of, “Who Am I and Why Am I Here?” Goals and the process discussed help give us clarity and direction. They give us the opportunity and often the directed simplicity to pursue a life with purpose while unlocking the potential that swells up in our heart and mind. Goals can be fluid in the sense that the only thing we know for certain is that change will occur at some point. We need to be able to make adjustments. It is vital to provide yourself with short term, intermediate and long term goals. The greatest motivator is the accomplishment of even the smallest step towards achieving your goals.

Goals allow us to enjoy a sense of control in the direction of our life. The fact that our goals are personal in nature allows for us to switch gears and change course if with time and experience we see a better and more perfect goal. We will all discover along our journey some bumps in the road…some failures…some disappointments.  It is in these moments that we gain our greatest experience and perspective. It is also where we have the opportunity to find the most perfect version of ourselves. The key is to stay focused on the long term. Use experience as your teacher. Remember, if it were easy, everyone would be doing it and it would not be unique and special.  It is in having the determination and the will to dream our dreams and pursue our goals that we find strength of character. It is in having the courage to dream another dream if one dies that we show the world our true strength.

Life’s journey is best navigated with goals and a plan that requires targeted action and the heart to persist. It is through this process that we can blossom into the perfect version of ourselves and squeeze the sweetest and most rewarding moments from our lives.

Fred Clausen 

author of The Fork in the Road Leads Home: Reflections From My Life's Journeys...A Collection of Essays and The Essential Elements of Successful Coaching