Gave this talk to today at Church. Figured I shouldn't let good writing go to waste and ought to share it some more. I thought I did pretty well given the fact that moments before I got up I noticed Soren patting his head and rubbing his tummy and I managed to hold back the giggles. Quite a feat for a giggler like myself.
Setting goals is something we love to do, particularly as each year begins. While I appreciate the natural tendency towards goal setting with an attitude of improvement that comes every year, I always find it funny that this is generally the only time we will set goals with such zeal. Elder Holland said:
The start of a new year is the traditional time to take stock of our lives and see where we are going, measured against the backdrop of where we have been. I don’t want to talk about New Year’s resolutions, but I do want to talk about the past and the future, with an eye toward any time of transition and change in our lives—and those moments come virtually every day.
I like this because it allows for a more realistic and attainable outlook on goal setting that I think is much healthier and less likely to set us up for the inevitable failure and disappointment that most of our lofty New Years ambitions bring. I think we can all appreciate the times of transition in our lives and use those moments as opportunities for improvement.
The Gospel of Jesus Christ allows for constant change and improvement through agency and repentance. We all have the opportunity to shape our lives in whatever way we desire through the choices we make and as we set realistic, attainable goals that will bring positive change to our lives. The way I generally set goals, particularly at the New Year, is to evaluate my life, find what aspects are lacking, and make a list of the ways that I want to change. I end up with an overwhelmingly long list of things that I try to tackle all at once so that I can feel like I’m on the road to becoming a more perfect mother, wife, Christian, and friend.
I think as Latter Day Saints, the quest for perfection is one that has been engrained in us at an early age. When I looked up ”Goals” in the Topical Guide, I wasn’t that surprised to find that it simply said “See Objectives, Perfection.” While I suppose it is good to have such exalted ambitions, I think the constant striving for perfection that is pressed on us can be overwhelming and in many cases detrimental, particularly among women. It can set us up for disappointment and feelings of inadequacy when we stumble on our path to perfection. I have had many exchanges with other women who are surprised when I make a comment about having a hard week or feeling frazzled since to them I appear to have it all together. So, let me publicly out myself and say that more days that not every surface of my kitchen is pilled with dirty dishes and that Soren watches way, way too much TV. Most days I don’t shower until well into the afternoon we never have Family Home Evening and we go to Taco Bell often enough that I recognize all the employees and am pretty sure they recognize me. We are all human, and despite whatever facade we present, we are all struggling in some way. None of us are perfect, nor should we ever expect to be. But with faith and the atonement, we can make gradual changes in our life to be a little better, one day at a time.
When I was asked to speak, I was given this lovely quote from Josiah Gilbert Holland as a guide. He said:
Heaven is not reached at a single bound; But we build the ladder by which we rise; From the lowly earth to the vaulted skies, And we mount to its summit round by round.
I love this. I find that I have a tendency to try to do most things in a single bound. I have a hard time gradually changing things, instead I will create overly ambitious goals which inevitably lead to failure when I get burned out. Last summer, after a visit to the home of my very organized sister-in-law, who learned all she knows from my even more organized mother-in-law (both of whom I love dearly) I decided that I was going to get my life and home in order. I created a calendar and decided when and how often I was going to do every single one of my church, family and personal responsibilities. I wrote in everything from exercising, to cleaning the bathroom, to sending out the weekly Relief Society email, to plucking my eyebrows, to writing my brother who was on a mission. I was determined to be the type of person who had a standing laundry day. It worked great for about two weeks. I had a clean house, well planned meals, nicely groomed eyebrows and a flatter stomach. But I felt completely crazy. I had scheduled every moment of my life and while I had been very responsible and successful, I felt completely taken over by all the things I HAD to do. And then of, course, the fact that I felt this way made me feel like a failure when I thought of all the women who I assumed did these things with grace and ease, most of whom have more than one child, and are perusing a Masters Degree, training for their second marathon, and something else really impressive. So, I realized I was being unrealistic and decided that while I may never be the woman who does all those things, I could be the woman who does a lot of other really great things and I am okay with that. It would be nice if I knew it was time to do laundry before I ran out of socks, but what can you do. As it says in Mosiah 4: 27:
And see that all these things are done in wisdom and order; for it is not requisite that a man should run faster than he has strength. And again, it is expedient that he should be diligent, that thereby he might win the prize; therefore, all things must be done in order.
I think it is sometimes hard to remember scriptures like this when we hear ones about perfection much more often. I think the only way lasting, positive growth and change can occur is by understanding ourselves and knowing what we are capable of.
This year, as the New Year approached, I decided to mix it up and not set any resolutions. Instead, I will keep in mind the place I’d like to be in the near future, and do what I can to make the gradual changes to get me there. Obviously this is much, much easier said than done. My personality is one of list making and obsessing over details. I have more note pads than I can count stashed in locations around my house that are full of lists. I am not sure how to turn off the part of my brain that does those things and allow myself to ease into positive change and natural growth. I wish that I could be a much more laid back goal setter, but I’m not sure that it is possible.
Elder Henry B. Eyring said:
We cannot see the future with precision, but we can know what the Lord intends and what it will take [for] each of us to qualify personally to participate.
I think this is a good attitude to have when setting goals while trying to keep an eye on what the Lord would have us do. We know ourselves and the Lord knows us better. Together we can set a personalized path that will steer us in a direction that will lead to improvement and happiness and yeah, maybe even getting close to perfection if we’re really lucky. Obviously, the points along this path will be different for everyone, but that is the beauty of life. The Lord understands our strengths and weaknesses and loves us for those aspects of our personality. We can set goals and work within the bounds of our capacities to reach them. Elder Holland said:
Every day ought to be the start of a new year and a new life. Such is the wonder of faith, repentance, and the miracle of the gospel of Jesus Christ. Keep your eyes on your dreams, however distant and far away. Live to see the miracles of repentance and forgiveness, of trust and divine love that will transform your life today, tomorrow, and forever. That is a New Year’s resolution I ask you to keep.