A few months ago, a friend of my wife and I told a story about her dog, Billie.  They were at a coffee shop patio enjoying a morning coffee and a “puppuccino.”  Billie noticed another canine coffee-lover and tried to walk over and say “Hi.”  But try as he may, he couldn’t move.  Was the leash too short?  No.   Our friend was confused, but upon closer inspection she realized Billie couldn’t move because Billie was standing on his own leash!  Our good friend then quipped “How many times in my life have I stood on my own leash by not pursuing what I really wanted?”  This prompted a conversation about how we often stand on our own leash, why we do, and how to get off your leash.

Common reasons for standing on our own leash can be boiled down to four factors:

  1. FEAR – you say “no” to opportunities because you are afraid of failing, making a mistake or looking foolish
  2. DISCOMFORT – you value the comfort of the known too much to take on a challenge that seems too hard and would require too much risk and disruption
  3. IMPATIENCE – you want quick results, so real or imagined setbacks lead to discouragement or giving up
  4. NEGATIVE MINDSET – you tell yourself discouraging messages like “I’ll probably fail,” “I’m not strong enough” or “there’s something wrong with me”

Take a minute and reflect on the above factors.  Any of these apply to you?  If so, read on.  Embrace the following practical steps to ensure that you live out of your core values and begin realizing your goals.

1. Set Goals That Are Consistent With Who You Are

-Take the time to reflect and discover who you are and what winds your clock.  You are far more likely to succeed if your goals match up with who you are and not who other people think you are or expect you to be.

-Examine and explore your interests, talents and aptitudes.  Solicit feedback from others, because it’s often difficult to see ourselves clearly.  Goals that don’t align with your values, beliefs, and talents won’t fit well and will only lead to frustration.

-Don’t rush this process.  Take your time.  Pray, reflect, journal and talk it over with a trusted friend, counselor or life coach.  The work you put in on the front end of the process will save you time and disappointment later.

2. Set Realistic Goals & Establish a Realistic Timeline

-To reach a goal or to be good at something takes time and a lot of effort.  You may be unhappy at first and tempted to give up… Don’t!  Set up a system/structure that helps you to stick with it.  Enlist the support of a teacher or mentor.  Enroll in a class.  Make an “appointment with yourself” and then show up on time and ready to work.  Above all be patient with yourself and reward yourself periodically for your efforts.

3. Break Your Goals Down Into Small, Reasonable and Achievable Steps

-This step is critical to success. Dream big, but take small steps.  This will allow you to arrive at your destination right on time.  Failure to set up your “baby steps” will invite discouragement and abandonment of a truly worthy dream.

4. Enlist the Support and Accountability of Others

-Don’t go it alone.  Billie needed help getting off his leash…we do too!   When you keep your dreams and goals to yourself you are far more likely to quit; who will know, right?  Be honest as to your reluctance to ask for help.  Pride?  Fear of criticism?  Embarrassment?  Find a trusted companion who will bring positivity and energy to your effort as well as a firm nudge when needed.  In the end you will be glad you did.

2020 has been a difficult and challenging year for most of us.  Don’t make it more difficult by standing on your own leash.  Get off your leash and start moving toward a better and more fulfilled life.

With You on the Journey,


Special thanks to Ann Kelley for her creative thoughts and words.

Ron Paterik is a practicing psychotherapist in Phoenix, Arizona with over 20 years’ experience. He is a Licensed Independent Substance Abuse Counselor and a Whole Life Leadership Mentor at Grand Canyon Counseling.