Define your purpose; live your reason

Three years ago—back when I was newly widowed, resigning my job, and paring down to move out of state—a bracelet arrived in the mail from one of my beautiful sisters-in-law. The charm dangling from it read: “Embrace the journey.”


Photo by Fineas Anton on Unsplash


Three years ago, I sent a farewell letter to the community I served as Survivorship Coordinator at the St. Charles Cancer Center. A friend wrote back, sharing the words that had been his mantra as his young daughter was losing her battle to cancer:

Define your purpose; live your reason.

Back then, I had an idea of what my purpose was for the first leg of the widow journey. With my adult children encouraging me to take an early retirement, I was preparing to pursue writing full-time.

Since then, I’ve written a new book (in the process of looking for a literary agent); spoken at a number of venues; sold a few magazine articles; and I contribute writing on a regular basis to a handful of national web-based organizations.

Nothing earth-shaking, but all moving in the right direction.

If I were perfectly honest, though, I haven’t been aggressive about seeking speaking engagements—most of them have found me—because it’s uncomfortable taking the stage alone without my tag-team speaking partner and husband.

And honestly, I could submit articles more frequently. And I could be more proactive about seeking coaching clients.

So, with the anticipation of a New Year, here are 5 action steps I need to execute more diligently if I want to accomplish my writing/speaking/coaching goals:

1. Capture goals on paper.

There’s science that supports the importance of writing down our goals. In a study at Dominican University, psychology professor Dr. Gail Matthews recruited 267 participants from a variety of global businesses, organizations, and networking groups, and randomly assigned each to one of five groups.

Group One was asked to merely think about the goals they hoped to accomplish within a four-week slice of time, and to rate each according to importance, while Group Two was asked to write down their goals and rate them.

This thought from Napoleon Hill:

Cherish your visions and your dreams as they are the children of your soul, the blueprints of your ultimate achievements.

Perhaps we should value the desires in our hearts enough to write them down.

2. Determine first steps.

Group Three was instructed to write and rate their goals, and determine action steps for each.

Ah, now we’re getting somewhere.

This from Joel A. Barker:

Vision without action is merely a dream. Action without vision just passes the time. Vision with action can change the world.

3. Recruit an accountability partner.

Group Four in Professor Matthews’ study was asked to write and rate their goals, establish action steps, and share them with a friend.

There’s power in having an accountability partner — someone who believes in the beauty of our dreams, someone to ask the tough questions: How’s that book/ grant application/ business plan/ scholarship application coming along? 

4. Report progress made.

Participants in Group Five were asked to be the most proactive: Write and rate your goals, determine and share action steps with an accountability partner, and provide them with a weekly progress report.

The statistical results of this study may surprise you:

More than 70 percent of the participants who sent weekly updates to a friend reported successful goal achievement compared to 35 percent of those who kept their goals to themselves, without writing them down.

 5. Be willing to re-imagine.

This point wasn’t part of Professor Matthews’ study, but sometimes circumstances change our lives. Dramatically. Which can affect how we think about what we hope to accomplish.

Adversity hits and we let the vision die. Because now we have cancer. Or now it’s become financially impossible to reach our target. Or our goal is too large, complex, inaccessible when one is no longer part of a marriage partnership.

Since adversity is a guaranteed part of living, then how ought we to manage loss and setbacks when it comes to achieving our destiny?

Is it possible to regroup, re-imagine, rewrite, and work in the direction of the revised goals?

Yes, oh yes. (Speaking from experience.)


Dangling from the bracelet that arrived in the mail three years ago was a tiny heart with a cursive “B” engraved on it.

Back then—before I knew the “B” on the bracelet stood for the name of the jewelry company, Brighton—the “B” spoke to me of my life-changing, scary, unnerving decision to leave the comfortable and step out into the unknown.

Be unafraid. Be a risk-taker. Be about finding your purpose, it said.




To that end, Denis Waitley speaks to me:

A dream is your creative vision for your life in the future. You must break out of your current comfort zone and become comfortable with the unfamiliar and the unknown.

The road might not take us where we initially wanted to go. But traveling with a repurposed vision can be just as brimming and extraordinary and eloquent.

Which begs the question: What is it you want to accomplish with your one, wildly unique, unstoppable, blazing life?

If you found this post helpful or inspirational, please share, tweet or pin!


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  1. Pam Laverty

    Thank you Marlys, so timely for me as I plan to retire in June. The B for me right now is, be still and listen, I will show you my plan for you.
    Thank you for sharing so transparently. Love you, Pam

    • Retirement … good for you, Pam! “Be still and listen” – not always easy to adhere to. May you listen well as God reveals the next chapter of your life.

  2. Joanne

    Thank you for sharing Marlys! You have such a gift of writing! I really admire your bravery and inspiration.
    Many blessings for the new year!

  3. Julia Steuart

    Thank you for sharing your bracelet story, I too, found a bracelet recently while traveling to Washington, DC. As I was driving to my condominium in Massanutten, Va, I saw a quaint little gift store off the rural highway and decided to stop. As I browsed their local products of homemade jams and jellies, honey and various articles to take back with me for gifts, I found this silver sterling bracelet with a nickel sized medallion hanging from it with the three most precious words etched on it, LovE you More”. Those were the words, I would say to my dear son, Afsheen Aghili whenever we parted from each other???❤️ I miss hearing his soft, gentle voice, unmistakingly masculine as was his habit to remind me he loves me???It’s been 4 years ago this month that he left me for heaven?.7/4/1986-12/17/2013 I am in the process of writing his life story.? May the New Year 2018 be more peaceful, joyful and full of God’s divine direction for you at every turn in the journey you are embracing Marlys ?❤️??

    • Julia, those are perfect words for a bracelet charm: “Love you more.”

      • Julia Steuart

        In our times of reflecting and remembering precious moments shared, I hold these three, gigantic words echoing and vibrating through my heart and ears as I cling to his sweet voice, cherishing, vowing to keep him alive as I say once in a while to him, “LoVe You MoRe……..

  4. Carla

    Thanks Marlys, dealing with fear after cancer is my problem. Creating and pursing goals sounds like a great way to look forward to the great things God has planned rather than living in fear of recurrence.

    • Well said, Carla. And good for you for deciding to “look forward to the great things God has planned rather than living in fear of recurrence.” Good for you!

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