The three most powerful words that launch you toward a goal

The three most powerful words that launch you toward a goal November 18, 2013

I had a dream.

It was the late 1990s and I was in a career I loved. But I was in a career where I had a limited shelf life, and I knew I couldn’t continue forward in it much longer.

Some sort of change lay around the corner for me, although I didn’t know exactly what kind of change.

I called a mentor and we talked for a long while. He asked me what I longed to do more than anything, and I told him my dream.

To be a writer.

A ton of problems surrounded that. It seemed so far off. So unattainable. So different than what I was doing at that moment. A thousand steps lay between me and my destination, and I felt stymied even to take a single step.

My mentor was in the writing business, so he gave me a healthy dose of realism tempered with encouragement.

Reaching my dream wouldn’t be easy, he said, but it was attainable. I needed to be willing to work hard, start at the bottom, stay teachable, and progress forward—not over a series of weeks or months, but over a series of years.

Then he offered me one of the most powerful single-line bits of wisdom I’ve ever heard.

“Marcus,” he said, and then paused before continuing …

“You should proceed.”

Think about those three powerful words for a moment and how they relate, not to my life, but to yours. Because …

undoubtedly some sort of big goal lies in front of you.

Maybe it’s a dream—something you long to do.

Or maybe it’s more of a calling—something you may or may not want to do, yet it still feels like an unmistakable inner tug.

You know you should progress. But you don’t know how. And the destination feels far off. Even just starting seems hard.

What then?

Consider this your call to action.

This moment, right here and now, this is your a-journey-of-a-thousand-miles-begins-with-one-step moment.

Say those three words out loud so you can hear them in your ears just as my mentor once spoke them to me. Say those words with your name attached.


Maybe your dream is as straightforward as wanting to take your family to Disneyland sometime soon. That will cost you about $5,000 with airfare, hotels, food, and a rental car—and that amount seems unattainable for your budget. What do you do?

You should proceed.

Maybe your strategy is to break down that mammoth goal into bite-sized chunks.

So you write a date on the calendar for three years out. Each month between then and now you save $139 toward your family’s dream vacation.

Or maybe your strategy is to tackle your goal immediately, all the way, throwing everything you have toward that end, with everything you’ve got.

So you sell your second car, vow to take the bus to work, and take your family on the trip to Disneyland tomorrow.

Oh yeah, you’re saying, but you don’t know my dream. It’s one of those dreams that nobody can ever attain. Never ever. So, what then, bucko?

I get that. And here’s some encouragement tempered with reality. It’s an unavoidable truth that you might not ever arrive at your destination.


Some dreams are like that. Sometimes determination and momentum and skill and networking and effort and lucky breaks and savvy navigation and all your best efforts forward still don’t bring about your dream in the end. 

But—and here’s the encouragement—at least you will give it your best shot.

When you’re 85, you won’t look back with regrets.

At least you didn’t just sit around on your couch with your hand in a bag of Doritos, always wanting something better, always longing for your dream, always hoping, but never taking any sort of action.

You might not ever take over Larry Mullins Jr.’s job and be the next drummer for U2.

But you can still buy a drum kit, take drum lessons, and start your own world-changing band.

What is your specific dream, goal, or calling?

Change careers?

Finish your degree?

Create something?

Travel someplace amazing?

            Meet someone?

Get married?

Get healthy?

Have a family?

            Move somewhere?

            Accomplish something?

            Overcome something?

            Climb a mountain?

            Run a marathon?

            Write a novel?


Today, simply take those three words to heart.

You should proceed.

Let those words roll around inside your head and your gut. Let them keep you wide awake late this night, planning the single action step you take tomorrow morning toward that launches you forward to meet your goal.

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