“Master, what is the answer to finding Inner Peace,” the student asks the teacher? “That is for you to find, within,” the teacher elusively answers. If I had a nickel for the countless times this question has been asked throughout time… well I don’t have to tell you that I would give Bill Gates a run for his money. So many of us are looking for what we feel is unattainable, but our answers are right in front of us.

I read a Hindu book called Self Realization (English translation), and in that book, the most profound statement made was that those who are searching for happiness will never find it, because to be in search of something implies that you will never attain it. It will always leave you searching. One has to remember that everything we are looking for is already there. Attaining it often involves changing a perspective.

So much of my work centers on people wanting to find an inner peace and happiness in an inner world of chaos, and often the beginning of that path is helping them to align four aspects in their life: Hopes, Dreams, Expectations, and Goals. Alignment does not mean that they are in agreement. It means that we examine them and see where our hopes, dreams, expectations and goals may be out of alignment with reality. Let’s take a look.


These are things that we would like to happen in our life, and they become the foundation for dreams expectations and goals. Often when I am working with people, they have lost hope and often feel afraid to have hopes. I believe that the core emotion of depression is hopelessness. Many times in life, we place our hopes in things that don’t work out, for whatever reason. The fact that they don’t turn out can feel painful and result in other emotions like failure, fear, shame, and worthlessness – emotions that are seen as bad, wrong and weak in our culture.

Hope is the ladder that we build to climb to higher places in life, and feeling the pain of falling down that ladder again and again can often result in a fear of climbing that ladder, yet again. The belief often becomes, “If I don’t climb it, I won’t fall.”

The question we must ask ourselves is, “Are our hopes realistic?”


Dreams are those things that we believe will come true early in life, but often become the things that we feel will never happen, as life goes on. They can feel like the carrot held out in front of our nose that we blindly pursue, not seeing the stick and string that keep it out of reach.

Dreams can feel inspiring and feel debilitating. They are the things that keep us reaching farther in life, even though we may feel that we may never accomplish some or many of our dreams. Dreams help you reaching for the stars, even though you may land on Uranus. You often forget that you got further than the moon, and with your next leap from Uranus, may land on the comet that may carry you to a distant star.

We need dreams, and we need to know that some may be unattainable, but they help us to aspire to something further. Would life really feel worth living if all of our dreams came true?

Are we meant to have dream come true? I think not. To have every dream fulfilled could feel as unfulfilling as never getting anything we dream of. Keep some of your dreams beyond your reach and some within, and try to be aware which group they fall in.


Expectations are more than hopes, yet not quite goals. They are in some ways based in intention and thought. Expectations can be dangerous. If they are too high, we never feel good enough. If expectations are too low, it can lead to arrogance, as well as not being prepared when challenges arise. It is important that expectations be realistic and balanced – not too high, not too low.

Expectations can be based in tangible results, and it can be when others set expectations for us that we can begin to doubt ourselves. Expectations can influence hopes and dreams, and if they are unrealistic, they can tear down our ladders of hope.


Goals are the most tangible of the four. They are what help determine our progress and our paths in life. Without goals, we are but bits of dust floating in the breezes of life. Keep in mind that people who write their goals down are 80% more likely to reach them than those that don’t.

Goals help us to organize our thoughts, hopes, dreams and expectations. So many people have great ideas, but when they are not clear on their goals, the best of intentions can helplessly fall to the ground. Trust me, I speak from personal experience. Too many times, people don’t want to get caught in the details because they can seem less exciting and glamorous, but it is the details that are part of those goals that contribute so much to success.

When setting goals it is important to consider short-term, intermediate and long-term goals. It is also important to consider goals that are global and specific. Finally, we have to consider goals that are realistic and tangible. Goals can be dreams and hopes, but they will not always be. One has to be careful when they set goals. Like expectations, if they are set to high or too low, it can be unproductive. Sometimes the best thing to do when setting goals is to discuss them with someone you trust and has both wisdom and experience.

The Fuel to Propel You to the Stars

Passion and integrity are the fuel behind your hopes, dreams, goals and expectations. We can look to the best of intentions again, but often without passion that fuels the drive to see things to fruition, we may stop short of our goals and so go our hopes and dreams. Passion may also be considered the glue that holds together your hopes, dreams, goals and expectations. I often tell people that if you just can’t find your passion behind your goals, it may be time to change course, while other times, it may be time to regroup and start again.

Integrity helps you to evaluate and maintain your alignment when propelling you forward, and makes sure that what you are doing is helping you to reach your goals. Integrity helps you determine if your intentions, hopes, goals, dreams, expectations and behaviors are consistent and support each other. If they do not stand in integrity, they will not withstand the challenges in life that arise when we are working toward our goals and crumble like a tower of children’s blocks.

Living the Dream

So, how exactly do you implement this? Let’s discuss an example. It is my dream to help the world understand the value of emotions and to empower children an adults to realize their gifts and strengths, seeing opportunities instead of obstacles in life. I hope that I will have the opportunity to reach the masses and be in the right position to accomplish this goal. My expectations are that it will take a lot of work to get there as well as some luck and opportunity. My goals have been and are many and varied. I have reached a number of my goals and have others yet to accomplish. I have been doing therapy with children, adults, families and couples, opened and closed a group therapy practice, written books and articles, been interviewed for print, radio and television, volunteer my time to various organizations, have developed proposals for education programs and even an animated series for kids, and other projects… My continued goals are to become more involved in national media in radio and television and speak nationally and internationally.

Each thing I do or commit to, I check to see if it aligns with my ultimate dreams and goals. I have followed rabbit holes in my past and learned from them, and I still may follow a few. It is always my passion and integrity that fuel me and help me to rejuvenate and reevaluate my hopes and dreams. I have had to revise my expectations many times, because I often set them to high. While my larger goals have not changed, many sub-goals have been revised as life has evolved. I have had a tendency to be my harshest critic, and while many would believe that what I have done was successful, it has fallen short of my time frames and levels of success. I always have to keep in mind that life is a journey, not a destination. In my past pursuits toward perfection, I also have learned that life is meant to be practiced, not to be perfect.

Tips to live by…

There is phrase that I have learned to live by, “Life is what happens when you are making plans.” This is one of the most important factors to keep in mind in life. Be careful not to let whether or not you reach your goals determine whether or not you are a success. I remember when having to close my group practice in the 90’s that I felt like a total failure. It was my Dad that told me how proud he was of me that I tried and went for it. I learned a lot from that experience, and learned that failure tells us when its time to learn.

Well I also believe that life happens for us, not to us. It was after I did that and revised some goals that I realized that I was still on track for the larger goals. I never thought I would have the time I needed to write books, and it was after this happened that I started my first book. After this experience, I found that I was more on track to reach my goals than before, and a lot less stressed as well. Sometimes when we let go of some of our dreams that we have held on to so tightly, other, greater ones, open up to us.

I will leave you with this, “Failure is only an emotion, but it becomes a reality when we quit. Reach for the stars fellow astronauts…(no pun intended… well maybe I did intend it).

Author's Bio: 

About the author: Erik Fisher, PhD, aka Dr. E…, is a licensed psychologist and author who has been featured on NBC, CBS, FOX and CNN. Visit him at www.ErikFisher.com to learn more about his books "The Art of Empowered Parenting" and "The Art of Managing Everyday Conflict or to check out his blog.