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If You Don't Know Where You're Going, How Will You Get There?

New Year is a time when people traditionally make New Year's resolutions. Unfortunately for most people their resolutions will be long forgotten by the time Valentine's day rolls around in February.  So, even though I wrote this article just prior to the New Year, this article isn't about New Year's resolutions. It's about having vision and purpose. It's about defining what you want to experience with your life in general.

I love poetry. The love of poetry comes quite naturally because my Father was a poet and I come from a line of writers on that line of my family tree. My mother's mother taught recitation and dramatic interpretation, so at a very early age I got “grilled” in the art of reciting poetry. So, I wound up not just loving poetry, but loving to recite (or read aloud) poems.

One poem I really love to read is by the Quaker poet John Greenleaf Whittier, entitled Maud Muller. I've reprinted it on the next page. The poem tells a wonderful story and contains some very famous lines that most people will recognize, but few know that the lines come from this poem. They are: “For of all sad words of tongue or pen, the saddest are these, ‘It might have been.'”

When people quote these lines, they miss the punch line of the poem, which is contained in the next four lines. “Ah, well! for us all some sweet hope lies deeply buried from human eyes; And, in the hereafter, angels may, roll the stone from its grave away!” Whittier's poem isn't about regret, it's about faith. Faith that dreams and hopes will find fulfillment, even if it is in the hereafter.
Hopes and dreams are important. We become physically ill when we lose hope. People die when they lose hope. One of Solomon's proverbs is, “Hope deferred maketh the heart sick: but when the desire cometh, it is a tree of life.” (Proverbs 13:12)

I will turn 55 in 2010. Most people who reach my age have buried most of their hopes and dreams long ago. I've buried a few, too, but I've also achieved many of the things I've longed for, primarily in my professional life. What has made the difference between those dreams I failed to realize and those for which my desire was granted is the focus of this article.

The number one reason why most people's hopes wind up unfulfilled is because they didn't take time make a map. They didn't clearly define what they wanted. I'm not just talking about setting goals, I'm taking about having a vision or dream that lights your soul on fire so much that you're driven to achieve it, because it is always at the forefront of your thoughts.

In my late teens, I was privileged to hear Steven R. Covey (author of the popular 7 Habits of Highly Effective People) speak. His teachings have had a profound impact on my life. One of the things Mr. Covey has been teaching for years is to “begin with the end in mind.” He even suggests writing down what you want people to say about you at your funeral.

When I look back, it is those things which I took the time to write down and get very clear about, and reviewed daily or at least weekly, which have been my greatest successes. Did you know that only 3% of the population have written objectives, goals and plans for their lives? Did you also know that these 3% are also the group that tend to be the most successful in getting what they want out of life? The simple habit of writing down what you want and reviewing it at least once a week will begin to turn hopes and dreams into reality.

But we have to add one more ingredient—faith. All of us have programming that rolls stones in the path of our dreams and will bury them if we allow it. Those negative voices will tell us “it is impossible for me to have that” or “that's impractical” or “it's just a stupid dream” or any of hundreds of other roadblocks that keep us from pursuing what we really want.

Two years ago, I restarted the habit of writing down my dreams and desires, and of reviewing them regularly. I also started reversing the feelings that I was “unworthy” of the things I desired. During the past two years things have really started shifting for me. I'm seeing these visions starting to unfold and it's getting exciting. I feel like I'm in control of my own life and destiny again.

Because I know many people are sick because they've buried their hopes and dreams from the “nay-sayers” of this world, I want to assist those angels in rolling away the “stones” that cover those buried dreams. I want to restore hope to others. Not just hope that they can be healthy again, but hope they can use their new-found health to create a happier life.

So, I'd like to challenge you during these holidays to do more than just set New Year's resolutions or even goals. I'd like you to ponder the question, “If anything were possible in my life, if there were no impossible dreams and no obstacles, what would I want my life to be like?” Only you can answer that question, because what you want will be unique to you.

Take time to do this, because until you define where you're going, other people, not you, are at the steering wheel of your life. You have to know where you are going in order to get there. If you don't have a map, it's time to start making one.