Most People Want to go to Heaven, but They Don’t Want to Die to Get There

Big goals require a big price

We want to go to heaven but don’t want to pay the price to get there.

Most people want to go to heaven, they just don’t want to die to get there.  I chuckle every time I hear this phrase. We want the rewards that come from big goals but fear the price.

This is true in so many areas of life. For example, I may want:

  • to be lean and physically fit, but don’t want to eat a healthy diet or spend time in the gym;
  • a better paying or more fulfilling job, but can’t motivate myself to get more training or education;
  • a loving and satisfying marriage, but certain things about my partner make it hard;
  • to write and publish a book, but can’t get started.

We all deal with the push and pull of living a higher vision. We are drawn to something better and yet thwarted by the mental and circumstantial barriers that make it difficult. Like launching a rocket into space, there is a gravitation pull back to earth, or in our case the status quo, that takes enormous momentum to overcome. It is easier to settle for less than we really want and, consequently, we live a life that is safe and comfortable (often complaining) but not wholly fulfilling.

The truth is that big goals come with a big price tag. No way around it. We can’t get the goal without being willing to pay the price. It is that simple. And so I want to make eight suggestions to help you think more deeply about your goals and get the motivation to overcome your resistance and be willing to pay the price to achieve your goals and live your dreams.

1. Be clear about what you want

As the Cheshire Cat says in Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland, “If you don’t know where you are going, any road will get you there.” Only if you know what you want can you create a plan to make it happen. And lots of people are unclear for many reasons—we are busy going through the motions of life, we are living a script written by someone else, it seems selfish to think about what we want, there are risks associated with going for what we want. These and other reasons leave us with only a vague sense of what we want and, therefore, a lack of motivation to seek something more.

2. Explore the “why”

A goal (the “what”) is not enough. It has to matter, deeply. The “why” is the motivation or fuel to get you beyond the gravitational pull of the status quo. So think about the purpose of your goal and all the rewards you will gain from accomplishing it. The most obvious rewards are tangible (well-shaped body, better quality of life, social status) but many rewards are intangible and have to do with desirable emotional states you associate (sometimes erroneously) with your goal (excitement, vitality, popularity, mastery, joy). People who achieve their goals keep their focus on these rewards. This single-minded focus wields an attraction that creates its own gravitational pull.

3. Count the cost

A wise man/woman does not build a tower without first counting the cost. So think deeply about what you will have to do to accomplish your goal. What will you have to give up? What sacrifices will you make? What will it cost in time? Dollars? What new routines or habits will you need to develop? Better to count the cost upfront than at some midway point. Of course, sometimes we don’t know all of the costs associated with a particular goal in the beginning (marriage). Yet the more we can approach a goal with our eyes wide open, the more we’ll be willing to pay the price necessary to achieve it.

4. Set milestones (planning)

Some goals are big and take months or years to accomplish. So we can’t wait for a single big reward at the end but have to reward ourselves along the way. We do this by planning and breaking our goals into measurable chunks. I remember at one point thinking that getting my Ph.D. seemed pretty ominous. However, it became much more manageable when I broke it into milestones—each year of academic education, oral exams, written exams, so many hours of internships at various mental health agencies, completing a dissertation. Of course, each of these steps had many sub-steps which I mapped out in a four year plan. As I stepped back and looked at the plan I realized that I didn’t have to do all of it at once. It felt doable as I realized I could do it a step (or two) at a time and celebrate the accomplishment of each step.

5. Visualize success

Neuroscience tells us that the brain cannot distinguish between experiences actual and imagined. Visualization is a powerful way to increase the pull of a goal. So imagine yourself, in rich sensory detail, accomplishing your goal. Make visualization part of your daily routine and you’ll gain an absolute confidence in your ability to attain it. At this point the whole pursuit becomes natural, perhaps not easy, but free of internal resistance.

6. Get started

As Newton taught, a body at rest tends to stay at rest while a body in motion tends to stay in motion. Once you have done some planning you have to simply start moving forward. Don’t wait for a perfect plan or till all your questions have been answered. Tackle some of the tasks on your list. It may feel risky. You’re no longer simply “thinking about” or “interested in” your goal but are putting yourself on the line to make it happen. Initially, it may not feel like a lot of progress but as you continue you will begin to gain momentum and see real progress which will make it easier to move forward.

7. Build your support

It is nice, even essential, to have support in the journey. Share your goal with a few important people—certainly others who are affected by your decision, friends, or even a mentor or professional colleagues who can support you. Some of these support people may be cheerleaders. Others may be accountability partners who challenge and hold you accountable to do what you say you’ll do. Both are critical to your success.

8. Enjoy the journey

Achieving a big goal is a journey and not simply a destination. If you can’t enjoy the journey then is the goal really worth it? In fact, perhaps what is most important about setting and achieving a goal is not even the goal itself but who we are becoming in the process. The biggest wins are the discipline, character, courage, patience, compassion that we forge in the process of realizing the goal. Perhaps, in the final analysis, a goal is a means more than an end. The higher end is all about the journey so why not learn to be conscious and savor each step along the way?

We learn a lot about ourselves by going through this process. As we become more deliberate about our goals we become clearer about what is most important to us, what we really want, which can cause us to abandon certain goals and take on those that are more meaningful. So set a goal but don’t be afraid to abandon it or set a more meaningful goal as you go through the process. The important thing is to be moving forward in ways that lead not only to success but also fulfillment. Success comes from achieving a goal. Fulfillment from paying the price (dying) in order to make it happen.



  1. Ron Leckie

    Thank you Roger. As always, right on target.

  2. Al Sigman

    Roger,excellent advice. Thanks for sending it to me. I have taken the option of sending it on to a few of my friends. It may help some of them who are my age and finding it difficult to deal with their present situations. Best Wishes.

  3. Merlin Jenson

    Over the years I have learned a lot about visualization in playing golf. Each shot must be visualized before striking the ball, i.e., I see the ball soaring through the air going straight for the hole. Sometimes the hole is so long it is necessary to pick a short term target in the middle of the fairway part way to the hole. Regardless, every shot needs to visualized in advance.

  4. Cristina Kramp

    So often we want it, and we want it now! But now I know that it is in the journey that long term changes stick.

    Breaking things down and taking those small steps get us there for sure.

  5. Ruchi Gupta

    Thanks Elder …it was the best advice I got till date… practical n realistic …going to put into practice bit by bit …thank you 🙂

  6. Riya

    Amazing article, noted – already working towards my goal!


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