Dreary weekend afternoons are perfect for lying on the couch, watching reruns of classic movies like “The Shawshank Redemption.”

It’s one of my favorites (and the short story is even better). Plus, there are a few powerful scenes in that movie that can actually teach us how to work towards the life of our dreams.

If you remember the movie or Stephen King’s original novella, you know that our “hero,” Andy Dufresne, goes to jail and eventually escapes by tunneling out through the prison walls, crawling through a sewer, and acquiring his freedom in the dead of night.

But this wasn’t something he did on the spur of the moment. In fact, Andy’s plan required him to literally ‘chip away at it’ for several years. Each night when the prison lights went out he would chip away a tiny bit of rock from his prison wall to get closer and closer to his eventual escape.

That’s exactly how I lived my life from the age of 13 to 31.

(Ok, minus the prison walls, solitary confinement, and prison issued uniform. But still, there are a few similarities, I assure you.)

Each day, starting from the beautiful spring morning in 1989 when I began my first job making $3.10 per hour at a local greenhouse and nursery, I chipped away at the obstacles in my way to design the life of my dreams.

Each day chipping away at the wall between me and my freedom, so that one day I could do ONLY the work that I wanted to do, when I wanted to do it (in my “magic time”). To spend my time writing and teaching without having to report to a boss.

And you can achieve your goals too, starting today, by:

  1. Using your time productively.
  2. “Planning your work and working your plan.” (That’s a great quote I learned from speaking legend, Nido Qubein.)
  3. Believing in yourself.

You may remember how in past articles and presentations that I told you that I would get up at 4:30 a.m. to work on my website business before I went to my real job as a trainer. I did that for three years. Chip, chip, chipping away at the proverbial prison walls that held me bound to working for someone else.

At the gym, I would work on my website business between seeing clients.

I worked on the subway ride home. Heck, I must have written so many chapters and so many workouts crammed into the corner of those subway cars…but no matter what the conditions, I rarely let a minute go by without chipping away at the walls and obstacles in my way. I squeezed every last bit of progress and productivity out of every minute of my workday.

If you ride the subway or commute in your car, are you using your time in the most valuable way? Are you reading and taking notes on the train? Are you listening to audio programs while you drive?

Or are you making the common mistake of listening to talk radio or reading gossipy dailies, or worse, celebrity magazines?

This is your life. Your ONLY life. What you do with each minute matters.

It doesn’t matter what area of your life that you want to change, whether it is Health, Wealth, or Wisdom – or all three – you can get started today.

Like Andy Dufresne, you must make every moment count. You must take every opportunity to chip away at what stands in your way of the life you dream about and deserve.

Chip, chip, chip away.

Chip away the barriers. Build the tunnel that connects your dreams with reality.

And when you break through to your freedom, you’ll then have the same thing Andy Dufresne had…the life he designed. If he could do it from a literal prison, you can do it from whatever “virtual prison” you believe to be in right now.

You may choose to live on a beach on the Pacific Ocean, “a warm place that has no memory,” as Andy described it in the movie, or you might choose to spend more time with your family…or supporting your charities, whatever YOU CHOOSE…it will be YOUR CHOICE when you achieve your financial independence.

And you’ll be able to do whatever you want when you regain your health and vitality. Transforming your body will give you the energy you need to live an abundant life again.

Plus, you’ll be able to have better relationships and add more value to the world when commit to transforming your “wisdom.”

Perhaps you want to quit drinking, or build a loving relationship with your spouse, or renew a bond with an estranged child, or even commit more of your time to a charity or cause.

All of those can be done when you commit yourself to something that is important to you, and never give up on it.

So start chipping away at the naysayers. Chip away at the obstacles – no matter how big they are, they can all be broken down to insignificant pieces of gravel. Chip away the doubters.

I’ve told you in the past that my Mom had a lot of doubts about my success when I was younger. She was concerned I wouldn’t be able to get a job with my “Kinesiology Degree.” She wanted me to do something normal, like be an accountant.

But I planned my work and worked my plan.

I chipped away at the walls between my dreams and my freedom.

It didn’t happen overnight, not for me. Not for Andy. And this isn’t one of those scam sites that promises you overnight success, either. You’ll have to work. You’ll have to plan. You’ll have to chip away.

But you also have to believe in yourself. You have to have hope.

No one can take away your belief in yourself or the hope you can have for a better future.

That’s what will keep you chipping away and creating the life, freedom, and independence you dream about and deserve.

It’s hope that drives you. It was hope that drove Andy.

Andy Dufresne: There’s something inside… that they can’t get to, that they can’t touch. That’s yours.

Red: What’re you talking about?

Andy Dufresne: Hope…Remember Red, hope is a good thing, maybe the best of things, and no good thing ever dies.

What is the #1 goal you are committed to achieving in the rest of this year?

[Ed Note: Craig Ballantyne is the editor of Early to Rise (Join him on Facebook here) and the author of Financial Independence Monthly, a complete blueprint to helping you take control of your financial future with research of proven methods in your career, in your business and in your personal life. He has created a unique system to show gratitude and appreciation to stay on track for these goals each and every day. Click here to follow the exact 5-minute system you can use to improve your life.]

Craig Ballantyne

Craig Ballantyne is the author of The Perfect Day Formula: How to Own the Day and Control Your Life. Craig has been a contributor to Men’s Health magazine for over 17 years. Today he teaches his gift high-performing entrepreneurs how to squeeze more out of their days, increase their income, and make more quality time for their families in his Perfect Life Workshop and Work-Life Mastery programs. Craig used his own advice to overcome crippling anxiety attacks in 2006, and he’ll teach you his 5 Pillars of Success so you can increase your income, decrease your work time, and live the life of your dreams. Learn more about Craig at craigballantyne.com