Column: Life goals

“I hope my retirement years will be happy.”

“I believe my retirement years will be fulfilling.”

“I am convinced my retirement years will be enjoyable.”

Hopes, beliefs and convictions.

Some of us live lives filled with hopes. “I hope to accumulate enough savings to give my children a good education.” “I hope to live a long life.” “I hope to write a book when I retire.”

There is nothing wrong with hopes. We all have them. But are they enough? Can a fulfilling life be built on hopes?

Not likely. Hoping something will come true won’t make it happen. It’s like wishing on a star; sounds good, but stars have no history of delivering wishes.

What about beliefs? “I believe I can be successful.” “I believe I can accumulate enough savings to give my children a good education.” “I believe I can live a long, productive life.”

Will beliefs make a desired future happen? If one believes strongly enough will one’s wishes and dreams come true? Probably not. This isn’t to say that the beliefs we have are unimportant. Of course they are. But in themselves, they do not have the power insure success, accumulate savings or prolong life.

But surely convictions are enough to make good things happen. “I will enjoy my retirement years.” “They will be fulfilling and enjoyable.”

Haven’t we been taught that we must possess convictions in order to reach our goals? What good is this lesson if it doesn’t produce desired results?

It’s questions like these that reveal the limitations of hopes, beliefs and convictions.

We have been taught since we were very young that hope somehow brings rewards. “Make a wish,” we counsel youngsters. “If you want it badly enough, your wish will come true.” And all of us hoped it would.

What about beliefs? Same game! “Believe in yourself and you can do anything.” When I was young, I believed that parents and adults believed that. I’ve since learned differently.

Ah, but convictions. Surely if one’s conviction is strong enough to make something happen, it will. “If you really want to go to college, you can.” “If you really want to live a long life, you can do it.” Sounds seductive, doesn’t it?

Again, conviction is important, if not critical, to the accomplishment of goals.

But there is something more that is needed. And my experience is that we are downplaying, even ignoring, this critical factor. Maybe because it’s so tough and requires so much of us — or our children.

It’s the missing link in accomplishment. It’s the final straw in achieving lofty goals. It’s the single factor without which goals, beliefs and convictions will lie dormant.

It is disciplined action!

Nothing moves us from lofty words and cherished, passionate thoughts but this. It’s the difference between talking a good game and playing a great one. In other words, action without discipline is unlikely to result in significant accomplishment. Without discipline a person’s actions may spin in circles, or head off in irregular patterns, or fly this way and that.

While not undermining the importance of hopes, beliefs and convictions, let’s be sure we counsel ourselves — and especially children — that worthwhile goals and accomplishments can only be achieved through disciplined action.

And let’s be honest — that means hard, rigorous effort with little chance of shortcuts. Hopes, beliefs and convictions are more likely to reach fruition when hard work is involved.