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By Nancy Williams,
Licensed Counselor and Life Coach

CBN.comHere we are, nearly at the end of 2014. It seems as if just yesterday we welcomed in this year with enthusiasm and hearts full of hope. We set goals and moved ahead, determined to make it a successful year. Armed with our ‘to do’ lists, we bought memberships to fitness centers and purchased the latest personal organizers. We declared war on clutter and vowed to be more diligent in our time of worship and spiritual focus. We developed a budget to get our ‘financial house’ in order. And, instead of grabbing whatever we could find in the fridge, we turned off the television and gathered around the dining table for a healthy dinner and family connection.

We were off to a great start toward balanced living; but as the year has unfolded, the demands of life have been creeping in to take over our schedules and good intentions. Our focus seems to be shifting as distractions draw us off course. We’re grabbing more fast food in between the activities we’re trying to squeeze into an already-busy schedule as we find less time for exercise and spiritual nourishment. Family members pass each other, all going in different directions. Our ‘financial house’ is not quite so orderly and we’ve forgotten what that concept of balance means. The ‘want to’s’ are getting lost as the ‘have to’s’ take over.

When Life’s Demands Press In

Do you notice how often we wake up thinking about what we need to do that day? Oh, I’m not implying that goals are wrong. It’s important to have a focus, a target to set our sites on as we navigate through the challenges of life. Goals provide us with a sense of direction and purpose, and sometimes a sense of belonging to something bigger than ourselves.

It just seems as though we're driven so much by what we must do, what is expected of us. We may begin the year, excited about the goals we want to achieve and the life we want to build; however, if we’re not mindful, that excitement can give way to the stress that comes from feeling pressured to accomplish everything we envision. Not to mention the anxiety that creeps in as our mind struggles, “How am I going to get it all done?” That is especially true if we set unreasonable goals or don’t keep a sense of balance in place that considers our physical and emotional well-being as well as our to-do list. Even good things can become stressful. If we’re not careful, we’ll move through our days either (1) running as fast as we can to accomplish everything; (2) going in circles, without a clear sense of direction; (3) going through the motions yet finding little pleasure; or (3) missing out on opportunities to relax and enjoy the blessings of life. We may find ourselves overloaded, overworked, overwhelmed, and burned out - not moving at all.

That pressure and stress, if unaddressed, can lead to anxiety, discouragement, irritability, depression, even to physical problems. So, what do we sometimes do? We push harder, bringing even more stress. Or, we give up and don’t accomplish anything, losing sight of those things of value in our lives, including our health and well-being. Our relationships may suffer as well.

Interestingly, if I ask someone what they want to do, not what they need to do but what they really want to do, there is often silence. “Hmmm, what do I want to do?” “Yes.  If you had your life to live as you wish, if you could spend time doing what you really want to do, those things of greatest value to you, what would you do? How are yo