These days, it seems like we are being pulled in so many different directions. Priorities compete with each other, and it just seems like we can’t get everything done, doesn’t it? What’s worse, it seems like our daily “to do” lists grow much faster than our abilities to check them off. No wonder the world is showing more stress.

Sometimes it is helpful to step back, and evaluate all those things we’re doing, to make sure that the important “stuff” is being addressed.

OK, so what’s the important “stuff”?

A lot of that is up to you to decide. I like to challenge my coaching clients to decide which “mountains they want to climb” (goals), and when they want to climb them (strategies). Then we check their daily “to do” lists to see if their activities are related to climbing one of those mountains. (A note about goals… You have a much better chance of achieving them when first, you have them, and second, you write them down. And only 2% of the world has goals! Do you?)

Now, about those mountains you want to climb. Mountains are our analogy to life goals. If you picture a mountain climber, he or she doesn’t necessarily climb only one mountain in his or her lifetime, but several. And many of the preparations they make can keep them ready to climb any one of those mountains. So you can choose a number of mountains to climb over your lifetime, just as you can choose many life goals. They don’t necessarily compete when you spread them out over a reasonable time.

No, it is not all that easy to decide which mountains you plan to climb, or which things are most important in your life, but it is easier than you think.

Start with your roles

When you write down all the roles you have, goals can naturally emanate from them. Examples of roles are parent, sister, son, soccer coach, community leader, musician, friend, nurse etc. For instance, if one of your roles is “parent”, you might have goals related to the future of your children, or your relationships with them. You may have goals related to saving for college, or goals related to how much “alone time” you plan to spend with them each week.

Strive for balance

Goals are lived best when you have balance in your life. Fulfillment in one area fuels each other area. Too much emphasis in one area can drain the others. It’s important to assess your balance from time to time, and to take steps to ensure that your life is well rounded physically, emotionally, intellectually, attitudinally and purposefully. Staying in balance is a great strategy for fulfillment in life.

The mountains you want to climb should encompass each of the areas balancing your life. Goals around physical health, intellectual challenge, life purpose and emotional satisfaction can form the base for you to climb those other mountains.

Do, be or have

The next choice in goals surrounds things that you may want to do, be or have in your life. Whether you want to drive cross country, learn to play the guitar, or be a doctor, these are the “mountains” you can place in your plans.

Audit your “to do” list

It’s an interesting exercise to look at someone’s daily “to do” list to see whether their activities match those mountains they’re planning to climb. Many of us spend more time doing things that are helping others meet their goals, putting our own goals on the back burner for another day…

Patience is a virtue

Just as Rome was not built in a day, you don’t have to climb every mountain in a day. Spread out your strategies. Choose one to work on this month, or this week. Or do one small thing toward several goals each week. Beware of goal overwhelm. You have a long life ahead of you, and time to climb several mountains.

Putting it all together…

Once you’ve settled on which mountains you’ll climb, set plans to do it. By proactively working toward those goals, you’ll feel more energy and excitement about your life. And as you plan your months, weeks and days, make sure the actions you are taking are going in the direction of one or more of those mountains.

After all, it’s pretty exciting thinking and planning for the next few mountains you will climb!

Marsha Egan, CPCU, PCC is CEO of The Egan Group, a Florida-based workplace productivity coaching firm. She is the author of Inbox Detox and the Habit of E-mail Excellence. She can be reached at, where you can also read her blog. To listen ... (Read More)

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