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Do You Really Want More Out Of Life?

Oh, aren’t we inundated these days by motivational gurus and bloggers?  Everywhere we turn we see: Follow Your Dreams! How to Achieve Your Heart’s Desire! Find the Secrets to True Success!

We Are The Dreamers Of Tomorrow written on red road sign

And about a zillion variations on the theme.  Seems tons of folks are striving to do what they love and the money will follow.

But doesn’t the very fact that for every guru, hundreds if not thousands of follows exist, tell us that most folks aren’t achieving the success for which they strive?

So what gives?

So many people I talk to feel as though they’re banging their heads against the wall, in pursuit of their dreams and goals.

But you know the funnier thing?  So many are achieving them, and going on to seek higher peaks.  Even if it takes decades to get there.

Woah! People say.  Decades?  Um, I thought that money would follow a bit sooner than that . . .

And for many, it does.

But I remember (all too well) having thoughts of giving up when years and years and years seemed to have trickled by and over each peak four more appeared to take its place.

Some dreams are exacting, indeed.

I recently came across a statistic that floored me. A Harvard study found that 3% of Harvard MBAs make ten times as much as the other 97% combined.  Now, getting into a Harvard MBA program is difficult enough.  And those doing so, and completing it, well, one can only surmise that these are motivated, goal-oriented people.  Right?

Of those, they found that:

  • 84% had no specific goals at all
  • 13% had goals but they were not committed to paper
  • 3% had clear, written goals and plans to accomplish them

Okay, we get that, right?  We know making a plan, writing it down, breaking it into steps, having accountability, all those things put us on the path to success.

But those numbers just stopped me for a bit. Especially the 84% with no specific goals at all.  This is just not a way of being I can understand.

Then again, I’ve always been blessed to know exactly what I wanted to do and to achieve in this life.  My purpose is clear.  And I do realize that so many folks don’t have that blessing.

Still, if you went to all the trouble of getting a Harvard MBA, or anything else that took a fair amount of work, one would think you’d have plans and dreams and goals once the diploma was in your hands. Right?

But put another way, we all can name a ton of reasons why we don’t get completely serious about succeeding in our quests.  Fear of failure/success, self-doubt, excuses, being problem- rather than solution-focused, not having the motivation to truly commit.

And I bet you can think of a hundred more.

We’ve all fallen prey to some of those, along our paths.  No?

But I believe that deep down, all those reasons can be distilled into one core issue.

I mean, we all know that life can surely beat you down.  It’s filled with enough twists and turns, sadness and heartache, scrambling to get by at times, that who could blame anyone for giving up?

I, for one, certainly can’t.  At many, many junctures I’ve felt the pull to give up on my dream.  Sometimes you just get tired.

Especially as those decades go by . . .

I was talking with a good writer friend of mine, who’s in her fifth major revision of her novel (based on a top agent’s orders), and she said, “I see now why writers quit writing.”

Yep, this is a tough road to hoe.  We both write Literary Fiction, which is the top of the publishing pyramid, and not a lot of spots are there for the thousands and thousands of folks penning it.

I have watched far more writers quit than keep going.

And of course, I can’t blame them one whit!  A decent dose of masochism seems necessary to continue this.

Or does it?  Is something more at play here?

Of course it is 🙂

Yes, yes, clearly you have to love what you do to keep climbing those mountains.  That’s a given.

Again, I know how difficult chasing dreams can be.  And how real life can get in the way.  And how we might not have the energy as those decades go by that we once had.

All of that is real and true.

But what’s core issue, which in itself contains the magic key?  It boils down to a simple question:

What do I want in life? 

No answer is inherently wrong.  If you get one life, lord knows, you might as well spend it the way you want to!

But the thing is, if you have those dreams, and you’re not living them, how do you truthfully answer that question?

And yes, we all want peace and contentment.

But what is contentment?

Isn’t it being happy with who you are, where you are, how you live, and what you’ve achieved?

I never could figure out how to be content if I let go of my dreams . . .

What folks so often mean by contentment, is that they’ve actually slipped into complacency.

And at the root of that is fear, not peace.

Life is funny.  The old psychological truism of if you’re not progressing, you’re regressing, exists for a reason. Life just isn’t stagnant.

When we stop facing fear, stop challenging ourselves, stop learning and changing, stop grasping for that brass ring, we stop growing.

When we stop growing, we start dying.

And is that, in the final analysis, what you want?  What you really want?

I might never win the Pulitzer.  May never see my stories made into film.  But wouldn’t it be cool if I did?

And in the meantime, the joy is in the writing.  And in hearing from readers who love my work, relate to my characters, find a thrill as my stories come out.

I can’t imagine another way.

I’ve always been fond of this quote by Winston Churchill, which helps shine a light when the day seems dark:

“Success is not final, failure is not fatal; it is the courage to continue that counts.”

Your turn: What do you really want out of life?

This Post Has 61 Comments

  1. Robin Masshole Mommy

    Honestly, I just want to raise my kids to be successful adults. It’s all I could ever want 🙂

  2. Beth Niebuhr

    84% had no goals? That is almost incredible. It’s fine to alter goals from time to time but to have none? Good grief! Interesting article, Susan.

    1. Susan Malone

      Isn’t that amazing, Beth! I’m still stunned by it.

  3. Hi Susan! So many great reminders and ideas in this post. What came to mind was a “contest” that Oprah held a few years ago where she asked people what their dream was and told them that she would pick one to fulfill. Then she went through every single submission and she said she was amazed at the “smallness” of the dreams. She was willing to grant (and had the resources too of course) to give one winner just about anything they could imagine. Instead, she felt their dreams were very small and limited. I think most of us hold ourselves back rather than dream big so we won’t be disappointed. Sad. That reminds me of course, to always dream as BIG as possible. Or as Clement Stone said, “Aim for the moon, if you miss you may hit a star.”

    1. Susan Malone

      What a great story, Kathy. And, well, just wow. And interesting point you make–that we hold ourselves back rather than dream big so we won’t be disappointed. I think that’s what happened to me years ago when I put my writing on the back burner. Of course, I then went fairly insane. The Universe is good to me that way. Lol.

  4. Sabrina Quairoli

    I love this post! I get bouts of why am I doing this? What do I have to offer the world and what am I giving back to the world? The answer has changed over the years. But, for me, it comes back to I want to make the world a better place for the next generation through being of service to others. It may sound general but it works for me to get past those confusing times.

    1. Susan Malone

      I am so struck by this, Sabrina. Mainly because I’m always blown away by the value you give! Every single week I learn a lot from you. So–you are succeeding!

  5. GiGi Eats

    I don’t know how I would live if I did not have goals I wanted to accomplish. That is nuts to me. Living life with zero purpose?! What’s the point? My drive is INSANE – almost TOO MUCH! hahaha!

    1. Susan Malone

      I’m with you, GiGi! I just can’t even imagine . . .

  6. maria @closetohome

    This is the big thing this summer, we want our kids to have some goals this summer so they are not in front of their phones all day.

  7. Brandy M

    We are just starting a new business venture and we have a goal of earning a good amount of money so that we can save and get the charity and some traveling too. We have a written down and we know what we’re shooting for. Go for your dreams if you can you will always be happy as you do.

    1. Susan Malone

      Great that you’re writing them down, Brandy–that’s key!

  8. Beverley Golden

    Sometimes I wonder if my goals are too grandiose and even attainable, Susan. I arrived here on planet earth with a very strong desire to be rich and famous for something I’ve contributed to the world. The Aquarian Humanitarian in me. I’ve not been shy of making plans and taking all necessary steps to achieve them and have discovered that when I let go of plans and goals and just let life flow, it does just that. It flows. I still strive to reach the stars and my challenge is being ‘happy’ with just reaching the moon. 🙂

    I love doing so many different things, as you probably recognize by reading my book and my articles, that sticking with something where there appears to be few results, discourages me. The constant in it all is my love of learning new things and my commitment to being a messenger of possibility. I do know that often we aren’t even aware of the impact we are having out in the world through what we share or do. I trust that my life is on track with some divine timing…not my timing. I also know that as we move through our biography cycles, our focus is meant to shift and often that changes our focus from when we were younger. Thanks for another great post!

    1. Susan Malone

      You are always following your dreams, Beverley–and it’s so inspiring! You truly embody this: “The constant in it all is my love of learning new things and my commitment to being a messenger of possibility.” That’s just you! And you hit another big key–letting it flow 🙂

  9. Melissa

    That is a great question, what do I really want out of life? Hmmm I know I just want happiness, good health and my family to be content in all that we have 🙂

  10. Kimberly

    Great point about “contentment” being a form of fear… It sounds stagnant and settled. Not inspiring! As an entrepreneur I am always pushing myself out of my comfort zone to grow and change… It’s scary sometimes, but always works out well!

    1. Susan Malone

      That’s such a big part of it, Kimberly–pushing yourself out of your comfort zone. Facing those fears brings such growth, no?

  11. Rachel Lavern

    The statistics you quoted in your post don’t surprise me at all Susan. The sad truth is that statistics have proven that only three percent of people in the world are wealthy, happy, and healthy. There has always been a small, select group of the population who clearly understand that prosperity consciousness if the primary cause of wealth.

    1. Susan Malone

      Isn’t it amazing, Rachel? And those three percent have specific, written goals–just as Harvard found . . .

  12. Michele

    I need to get better about writing down my goals!! It is amazing how much more successful you are when you have written down goals!!

    1. Susan Malone

      So true, Michele! Written goals are key to success.

  13. Tamuria

    I read this at the perfect time, Susan as I’m going through one of those ‘why am I doling this’ moments.My Mum is in hospital, I have a few friends in extra need, have committed to some extra time with the Goddesses and keep wondering when I’ll have time to write.It would be so easy to quit and let those things absorb me, but then I’d be giving up on my dream, I’d stop growing, and that would feel like dying.So I’ll accept that finding the time for everything is part of the challenge, part of the dream chase, and remember to enjoy the process.You are so right, knowing the answer to what you want in life is what it all boils down to and when you have that answer, you can work around the obstacles and find the solutions.Thank you for the inspiration.

    1. Susan Malone

      Oh, Tamuria, I have SO been there! Sometimes it feels as though life just conspires against you. But you have the perfect attitude–accepting that finding time is part of the challenge, part of the dream chase. You go, girl!

  14. Teresa

    Yes, those are disappointing statistics but I have witnessed this many times in my corporate career and private coaching business. Not so much with Harvard MBAers but I guess we expect more from that level of education.
    I am inspired by the 3% or the ones that are often considered underdogs – like the story in Napolean Hill’s book Think and Grow Rich about being 3 fee from the gold or Walt Disney’s success story. Knowing that you want and having passion about it is what makes the external goals come to fruition. Otherwise goals are just goals that we think we have to do to make something happen. In my opinion clarity and passion pull us forward naturally….

    1. Susan Malone

      I love that, Teresa–clarity and passion DO pull us forward! That’s what life’s about, no? And I love the underdog stories too! Most great writers can wallpaper their houses with all the rejections . . . right before they got to “Yes.”

  15. Kristen Wilson

    Yup.. I bet you guessed it.. I am one of the ones who is still trying to find my purpose.. find my happy… see what I really want in life since I don’t know if I have found it or not. lol Thanks for the nudge.. sometimes I am not sure if I even know how to figure it out.

    1. Susan Malone

      You are SO honest, Kristen. And that will always take you deeper, always further along. Until one day you find you’re riding that wave of purpose and meaning, and life just flows . . .

  16. Elizabeth Copeland

    I have a hard time setting concrete goals sometimes. It’s something that I need to focus on and really get done though, especially with 3 little homeschoolers this fall.

    1. Susan Malone

      My hat is so off to you, Elizabeth! Homeschooling 3! Now THAT takes commitment!

  17. Nicole Escat

    Very well said. For me, I still don’t know what my want in my life, I think I’ve never found it. I’m happy with my family but my real happiness is out of my life.

    1. Susan Malone

      Keep searching, Nicole–you’ll find it. Your purpose is calling your name . . .

  18. Nellwyn

    I’m a very goal oriented person and sometimes I forget to relax and enjoy the moment. Like with writing for example — sometimes I’m too focused on the goal and forget to enjoy the process itself.

    Nellwyn |

    1. Susan Malone

      I hear ya, Nellwyn. Learning to relax and go with the flow was a bugaboo of mine. And sometimes I have to stop and remind myself to do so. Funny thing though, that gets stronger as I practice it 🙂

  19. Joan Potter

    I find it mind-boggling that 3% of Harvard MBA grads made 10X more than everyone else combined. I wonder if the 3% were correlated to the 3% who had written goals. That 84% had no actual goals in mind makes me wonder how the initial question was worded, and what Harvard thinks of its interview process. I mean, is Harvard happy with these statistics?!

  20. Roslyn Tanner Evans

    There are a few popular words/phrases bandied about that drive me nuts- Follow your Dream, Success & Failure. I spent many years helping others & making a difference in their life at a critical juncture. That was not a goal, dream fulfilled , success or failure. It was not even what I did. It was who I was Being. The type of HUMAN BEING I was evolving into & that was & is what matters. I enjoy what I do now, being creative & making jewelry, especially since it was not an unfulfilled dream (I didn’t know I had talent or interest). Loving my social connections fulfills me. Selling our creations fulfill me.
    I have always believed people should try to do the job or career that fulfills them. Not a dream, but a way of life, of being.

    1. Susan Malone

      Love that, Roslyn. Life is about being, isn’t it! So often we get caught up in human doings, in all the various forms of that, that we forget to just BE.

  21. Joyce Hansen

    I have great goals and little goals. As I accomplish the little ones it takes me to the bigger ones. Your comment about joy reminded me that this whole process has become one of joy. Working my way towards ecstasy.

    1. Susan Malone

      Love that, Joyce! On the way to ecstasy. A goal I can sure get into!

  22. Joan M Harrington

    Hello there Susan 🙂

    What do I want out of my life? I used to think I knew lol, but now since I have raised 2 children who have grown into wonderful young adults and have personally gone through 2 marriages and 2 divorces thinking that was right…..I have come to the conclusion that everything that has happened up until where I am today, as brought me to where I am through the decisions and choices I have made, period. If I want to “change” my life from here on out, I need to really focus on what I really want for the rest of my life, to live the life that I have always wanted….to be totally at peace with myself and happy….which has taken me a long time to get here, but I do know I am where I am supposed to be and it is only going to get better. I can honestly say that yes, NOW, I do know what I want and that is to live my life on my terms, feeling stress-free, and enjoying life 🙂 My goal is to become financially free to live as I please and to help as many people as I can 🙂 My time is now and I am going to achieve that goal no matter how long it takes me. I have never quit on myself and I do not intend to now 🙂

    Wow, did not realize how much I really had been thinking about this 🙂

    Great post!

    1. Susan Malone

      Wow, Joan! What an inspiration! This happens with so many of us–especially women–where we’ve followed paths that twisted and turned, learned along the way, and now have the time for ourselves, to focus on what we truly want. You go! I can’t wait to see all that you achieve.

  23. Lisa Swanson

    Since I was a teenager, my father always told me to have a 5 year plan. It didn’t care how many times I changed it, but I always had to have a plan. So to this day I set goals; and re-set goals as needed. I cannot even imagine that 84% don’t do this! Crazy!!

    1. Susan Malone

      I know, isn’t it insane, Lisa! I still can’t digest that percentage. But you go! You’re doing all the good!

  24. Judy Peterson

    Susan, great blog. My goal was to raise a happy, healthy and self-sufficient son. As life continues, goals change. My next goal (in the 80s) was to type manuscripts, theses, etc. The Grad School loved my work and my business was booming. My next goal was to be a great photographer for brides and grooms, families, etc. I achieved this goal. Every goal I reached for I attained. Now life has changed yet again. Getting through a day without pain would be nice. But that’s not a goal I can achieve. There’s nothing I can do about it. Instead, I make the most of my day. That’s life. Thank you, Susan. Have a wonderful day!

    1. Susan Malone

      What wonderful goals, Judy! And I love that you’ve achieved so many of them. to “make the most of my day.” Now, that’s a precious goal indeed!

  25. CourtneyLynne

    Omg so shocking some people don’t have goals! That’s crazy to me. I’m goal obsessed

    1. Susan Malone

      Isn’t it shocking, Courtney! I still just can’t believe it . . .

  26. Amanda McMahon

    Perspective and having a good sense of reality is an important part of discovering what you want out of life and what you can actually handle.

  27. andrea

    I am 46 and I still trying to figure out what I want to be when I grow up:) I do hope our chidlren figure it out a lot sooner than I have. But do know that we try very hard to to encourage them to follow what gives them a fire in their belly. Excellent post..

    1. Susan Malone

      I can’t think of a better way to raise children, Andrea–to “encourage them to follow what gives them a fire in their belly.” Perfect!

  28. Karen Grosz

    Overall I have what I want in life. I have found that my drive has changed over time. I thought I would feel more urgency as I age, but instead it is the opposite. I find that my dreams are important to take time on them, and not be in such a rush. I know time is limited but yet, I also know that I can take time on my dreams, maybe because I have accomplished so much in life there isn’t the urgency. I want to enjoy life, not just pursue life.

    1. Susan Malone

      I love that, Karen: To enjoy life, not just pursue life. That’s great!

  29. Jackie Harder

    Your Harvard study is one I’ve been sharing with my time management clients for years. It’s not enough to want a goal — although that is a stellar start. You need to write. It. Down. Then break the bigs into littles and make that goal come true!

    1. Susan Malone

      So true, Jackie! That study just still stops me in my tracks. Hard to believe!

  30. wang binbing

    I was shocked by your word – “when we stop growing, we start dying”. Life is short, but also long. I will not let my writing stop growing, so that I will not start dying. Because of writing, I will become an immortal! Lol.
    Thanks a lot, Susan.

    1. Susan Malone

      Yes, you will, Wang! And I love that you won’t let your writing stop growing. Just love that!

  31. Lori English


    A Great Article that really resonated with me when you spoke about problem solution. I feel that this is key in most decisions and buissness hacks.
    Lori English

    1. Susan Malone

      And since finding solutions to problems is, well, perpetual, doesn’t that just put it in perspective, Lori!

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