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Jigsaw Puzzle Pieces

So you've bought into the idea that you need to live life on purpose. You have an intention; you have goals. You know what you want life to be like five or ten years from now. But taking that first step to make it happen is daunting. Try this.

Look at the big picture and then break it apart like a jigsaw puzzle. Some things you want may be already in place--a loving spouse, a beautiful home, a promising career. Set those aside in a "maintenance" area. Then separate the rest of the puzzle into action steps that you can take, like stepping stones, to fill in the missing pieces and reach the result you desire. You want the "yet to be accomplished" items in small pieces that you can see are doable. Even if you don't know everything that needs to be done, start now.

List everything you can think of that will have to be done to bring each piece of the puzzle into fruition--to make it real. This will help you decide which ones to work on first. For instance, one of the pieces might be: "Get a degree." Some things in your action plan might be:

1. Talk with someone in Human Resources where you work to see if the company will pay for any courses.

2. Get college catalogs.

3. Talk with a counselor to set up a program. What are the required courses and when are they offered? Can any work experience count for college credit to shorten the classroom time?

4. Get family support. Talk with your spouse, if any, about this new outside activity to gain support. What will it take in class and study time? What will you and the family gain from this activity? What if there is resistance? You need a contingency plan. Drill down. If your spouse refuses to cooperate, what are the alternatives?

Classes during work hours

Correspondence courses

Courses on the Internet for credit

Delay start of courses

You have choices. Sort out your alternatives. Know your options. As you show that you are determined and will not neglect your family responsibilities, chances are that the spouse's attitude will soften. While they may still withhold full support, they may make some concessions.

At this point, you are trying to better define what needs to be done and when. If there are any shortcuts, now is the time to uncover them. You won't know everything that will need to be done. That's okay. Your list will change and grow as you learn more. Just find the first step and take it.

Jo Condrill is an acclaimed author, speaker and consultant. She is the author of "Take Charge of Your Life: Dare to Pursue Your Dreams," "101 Ways to Improve Your Communication Skills Instantly," and "From Book Signing to Best Seller." As a civilian supervisor at the Pentagon, she received the highest civilian award one can achieve, the US Army Decoration for Exceptional Civilian Service. Jo shares her unique experiences in seminars and speeches on leadership, team building, personal development, and success strategies.