When you’re old and gray, grandchildren on your lap: what’s the one big project you’ll brag about? What’s the one thing you’re delighted and proud you accomplished during your career?

I gave this some thought and came up empty. I quickly understood I had to change a few things — I decided I’ll not retire until I have at least one such accomplishment behind me.

It’s a profoundly sad thought to have spent a whole life without anything to be truly proud of. What would cause this? No ambitious goals? Too much Facebook? Being too considerate and kind to get what you’re after? Too lazy? Lack of structure? Fear? Not seeing what’s really important?

Life Is Not a Dress Rehearsal

This is the one chance you get. Wouldn’t it be an incredible waste if spent on scattered projects leading nowhere? I get the feeling that’s what most of us do, being reactive and taking whatever comes in our lap, not knowing when to say “no” and when to say “yes”.

This requires one thing: a goal, and a relentless pursuit of this goal. That, in turn, requires you do give up other projects that get in the way of this goal. That’s hard to do, but if it was easy it probably wouldn’t be worth doing anyway.

I write about personal growth, psychology, leadership, relationships and soft skills at The Neural Grind.