Developing a realistic approach to life

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All of us, in our younger days, had dreams and hopes about the things that would bring success and happiness to our lives. But for many of us the dreams and goals that we once had just never came to be.

This doesn’t mean we’re unhappy in our lives today, but at some level we may still feel slightly frustrated or disappointed about what we haven’t achieved.

While there’s no magic way to make all your dreams come true, you can take action to get closer to your life’s goals and lessen any feelings of frustration.

Start by putting the past behind you. Unresolved anger and resentment over things that didn’t work out uses up energy but accomplishes nothing. Instead, you need to begin managing your daily life so that it reflects who you are and what you value today.

Then evaluate your old dreams and goals. There is, for example, no “ideal” romantic relationship or “perfect” mate. But there can be someone who can accept and care about the real you, and who is able to get things right more often than not. Similarly, there’s no perfect job but there are work situations that can challenge you and provide a real sense of accomplishment.

Knowing yourself is vital to feeling more fulfilled. Identify your personal strengths and interests, and then put time and energy into nourishing them. Don’t try to be someone you’re not. Whatever you do well, do it frequently and proudly and you’ll find that rewards will follow.

To achieve specific goals, it’s vital to take action toward them, rather than simply dreaming about them and waiting for something to happen. Small steps in the right direction make a difference — maybe a first phone call, rewriting your resume, or taking a class. Reaching the desired result will happen only if we take that first step.

You also want balance in your life. Saying “no” to excessive demands on your time, talents or goodwill will allow you time for the things you really want to do, without the resentment and anger.

Reaching your life’s goals means you stop letting old beliefs and others’ ideas define who you are and what you have to do. Instead, accept that you, and only you, can take action to reach the dreams and goals that matter to you.

Counseling Corner is provided by the American Counseling Association. Send comments and questions to ACAcorner@counseling.org or visit www.counseling.org.

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