So much has been written about living our lives to the fullest, but what does that really mean?

Mark Twain summarized it succinctly – “Twenty years from now you will be more disappointed by the things you didn’t do than by the things you did.” Let’s face it, life is a roller coaster. We all face ups and downs throughout our journey. Challenges abound. It’s how you focus your thoughts, positively or negatively, that will determine your perception of your current path.

Do you view challenges as obstacles that appear to be insurmountable or as an opportunity for growth and personal empowerment?

Here are four ways to dream your best life and then take steps to live it to the fullest:

Overcome “fear of failure” by taking action. This is one of the biggest fears that we all share. Fear holds us back from enjoying our lives and expanding to our highest potential. Michael Jordan, one of the greatest basketball players in the NBA said, “I can accept failure, everyone fails at something. But I can’t accept not trying.” During his sophomore year in high school, Michael did not make the varsity basketball team. The coach felt Michael was too short to play at that level. Determined to play basketball, Michael joined the junior varsity team and practiced his skills for hours a day until he honed his skills and became an NBA star. To Michael, failure was a motivator to better himself. Fear of failure is the brick wall between you and your goals. Define your goals and begin taking baby steps by setting small goals. Each time you accomplish a small goal, your self-confidence will improve, and you will continue down the yellow brick road toward success.

Study success stories. History has taught us that some of the most outstanding achievements have been realized by people with disabilities. Sudha Chadran, actress and dancer, was accepted into one of the best dance schools in India at age five. By age seventeen, she lost her right leg in a car accident and was told she would never dance again. Her passion for dancing helped Sudha overcome her physical challenge. She learned to walk again after years of hard work and eventually received an artificial leg. After many failed attempts at dance, Sudha pushed herself and returned to professional dancing. Her first public performance sold out. All of us deal with various struggles in one way or another. Never give up! Challenge yourself by trying new things. There are a multitude of programs and resources to pave one’s path toward realistic goals. Try not to compare yourself to others. Set your own goals and celebrate each small success and enjoy the journey.

Find your purpose in life and practice gratitude. What do you love to do? What makes you happy? What makes you feel good? Think about what you are good at and focus on your positive attributes. Feeling positive is a choice. We can use difficult times as a teacher; understanding that they can also lead to brighter days ahead. “Every cloud has a silver lining” gives us hope that the dark clouds will pass and the sun will shine again. Learn to practice gratitude on a daily basis. Be thankful for the life you live by appreciating those around you. Treat people with kindness and respect. Create a gratitude journal and reflect on what you are most thankful for so you may feel more happiness in the present moment. Consider the benefits of meditation – a process of training your mind to focus your thoughts and achieve mental clarity and peacefulness. Dr. Matthew Thorpe, MD, PhD, author of the “12 Science-Based Benefits of Meditation,” summarizes that people who practice the art of meditation “develop other beneficial habits and feelings, such as a positive mood and outlook, self-discipline, healthy sleep patterns and even increased pain tolerance.” YouTube offers meditation music to guide you toward peace and calm.

Visualize your life the way you want to live it. There is an old saying that goes, “We need to see it in order to achieve it.” When we are feeling out of sorts, visualization is an effective way to refocus our energy toward achieving the life we desire. How do we visualize? Close your eyes and sit in a quiet place. What is your dream? Envision your dream as if you’ve already achieved it. Be as detailed as possible. Set aside a little time each day to visualize your achievement. Vision boards are another form of visualization where pictures from magazines are cut out and placed on a board that represents your goals. Media Mogul, Oprah Winfrey, used vision boards to achieve her dreams.

Oprah says it best. “Create the highest, grandest vision possible for your life, because you become what you believe.”

Karen Struck is a registered nurse and works in the aesthetic industry. She discovered the joy of children’s literature as she read to her daughter each night. She was inspired by the Harry Potter book series, and decided to take writing courses through the Institute of Children’s Literature. Three Paws is the first book published in the Three Paws Series, available through Amazon and other major booksellers.