Sunday, December 29, 2013

Planning and Setting Goals with Faith and Purpose

I had the opportunity to give the following talk today during Sacrament Meeting.  Just wanted to share it with all of you!!

Good afternoon, Brothers and Sisters. When people learn that I am the mother of 7 sons, I am constantly asked the following question “How do you get ANYTHING done during the day?”. And then once they get to know me and understand the many things that I try to accomplish on a daily basis, they then ask me “How do you get SO MUCH done in a day?”. Well, I am finally going to tell you my secret. I have found that the secret to getting the things done that we want out of life is not some magic energy drink. Instead the secret is in the wise counsel that we have received over the years from our Apostles and Prophets. It is to LIVE our lives with faith and purpose, and before we try to live our lives in this way, we need to PLAN our lives with faith and purpose. This is the focus of my talk today. How can we plan our lives with purpose in a way that allows us to act, rather than be acted upon? In other words, how can we not simply accept the life we are given, but instead, obtain a life that we have planned for with faith and purpose?

President Thomas S. Monson said the following during a 2005 BYU devotional address:
    “Eternal life in the kingdom of our Father is [our] goal. Such a goal is not achieved in one glorious attempt but rather is the result of a lifetime of righteousness, an accumulation of wise choices, even a constancy of purpose.” [“Decisions Determine Destiny,” BYU devotional address, 6 November 2005]

So from President Monson's counsel we see that we must strive with a purpose, and work towards our goals with a “constancy of purpose”. That doesn't mean that we have to stick with one specific direction and not deter from it. That is not the constancy that he is speaking of. Instead, he is talking about the consistent grounding of our goals and “wise choices” within a purpose; whatever that purpose is.

One way that I have found substantial success in my personal goal setting is to follow the advice provided by Elder M. Russell Ballard in a conference talk that he gave in April, 1987. He said:
    “First, think about your life and set your priorities. Find some quiet time regularly to think deeply about where you are going and what you will need to do to get there. Jesus, our exemplar, often ‘withdrew himself into the wilderness, and prayed’ (Luke 5:16). We need to do the same thing occasionally to rejuvenate ourselves spiritually as the Savior did. Write down the tasks you would like to accomplish each day. Keep foremost in mind the sacred covenants you have made with the Lord as you write down your daily schedules.    “Second, set short-term goals that you can reach. Set goals that are well balanced—not too many nor too few, and not too high nor too low. Write down your attainable goals and work on them according to their importance. Pray for divine guidance in your goal setting” [Conference Report, April 1987]

When January comes around each year, I think the mistake that we all too often make is in making goals that are going to last the ENTIRE year. What a monstrosity of a goal! We have just given ourselves 365 opportunities to fail at this monstrous goal. Instead, we can break these goals down into MONTHLY, WEEKLY and even DAILY goals. And the great thing about these shorter goals, is that they can change. We don’t have to be stuck on the same goal week after week, or month after month. If a goal was too hard, make it easier. If a goal is too easy, make it harder.

I especially like a comment made by Elder Marvin J. Ashton in a General Conference talk that he gave in October, 1983:
     “The direction in which we are moving is more important than where we are at the moment. Goal setting should cause us to stretch as we make our way” [Conference Report, Oct. 1983]

Some examples of MONTHLY goals that I have set:

  • I read the entire Book of Mormon over a 30 day period
    • I posted the reading schedule on my computer as the background image
    • I put the audiobook version on my phone and kept the scriptures out on my nightstand
  • I participated in a Green Smoothie challenge with some family and friends
    • We posted our various recipes online to share with each other
    • Instagram had recipes posted from others who were doing the same thing

Some examples of WEEKLY goals that I have set:
  • I didn't drink any soda for a week
    • I carried a water bottle everywhere that I went and even flavored it at times
    • I made sure there wasn't’t any in the house to would tempt me
  • I tried a new dinner recipe each night for a week
    • I searched Pinterest and cookbooks for new ideas
    • I asked friends and families ahead of time what their favorite recipes were
Some examples of DAILY goals that I have set:
  • I wanted to be on time for each activity scheduled that day
    • In the morning, I wrote out my “To-Do List” for the day with the specific times
    • I would have items prepared and packed ahead of time, ready to go out the front door with me
  • Spent 30 minutes each day in quiet meditation or time by myself
    • I made a specific point of PLANNING this into my daily schedule
    • I planned the time when the older boys or my husband were home and could attend to the kids
You might not realize it, but a “To-Do List” of items that need to be accomplished that day IS a set of goals. There have been days where I feel like I did not accomplish a single thing, but then I look back on my list of completed tasks and it gives me a different perspective and appreciation for the things I did accomplish.

Another way that I have found success in my personal goal setting is to follow Elder Robert D. Hales’ advice that he gave in a Conference Talk in October, 2001:
    “Accomplish personal goals in each of four categories … : spiritual development; physical development; educational, personal, and career development; and citizenship and social development” [Conference Report, Oct. 2001]

I have simplified these four categories as: Spiritual goals, Physical goals, Mental goals and Social goals. These are the same four categories that President Ezra Taft Benson gave when he counseled the church in a First Presidency Message published in the October 1986 Ensign entitled “Do Not Despair”. See if you can hear these four areas mentioned, as well as some reinforcement to the principles that we have already discussed.
    “Every accountable child of God needs to set goals, short- and long-range goals. A man who is pressing forward to accomplish worthy goals can soon put despondency under his feet, and once a goal is accomplished, others can be set up. Some will be continuing goals… This encompasses four main areas for goals: spiritual, mental, physical, and social. ‘Therefore, what manner of men ought ye to be?’ asked the Master, and he answered, ‘Verily I say unto you, even as I am.’ (3rd Nephi 27:27.) Now, there is a lifetime goal—to walk in his steps, to perfect ourselves in every virtue as he has done, to seek his face, and to work to make our calling and election sure” (“Do Not Despair,” Ensign, October 1986).

Some examples of PHYSICAL goals that I have set:
  • I participated in a triathlon within 9 months after having a baby
    • I signed up for it and committed friends to do it with me
    • I scheduled workouts several times a week to prepare
  • I certified as an aerobics instructor and specialized in spinning classes
    • I signed up for an aerobics instructor course
    • I attended as many aerobics classes as I could
Some examples of SPIRITUAL goals that I have set:
  • I read the Relief Society lesson ahead of time each week
    • I would read it the Sunday before and mark it up with a highlighter
    • I would then ponder the lesson throughout the week
  • I studied “Living Scripture” by marking it up with highlighters and a pencil
    • I studied my patriarchal blessing 
    • I also studied The Family: A Proclamation to the World and the Ensign magazines
Some examples of MENTAL goals that I have set:
  • I read a new book each week for an entire year
    • I used a website called to track the books I read and the ones I wanted to read
    • I would put audiobooks on my phone and listen to them as I drove around/attended my sons’ activities
  • I attend Time Out for Women and BYU Education Week each year
    • I love attending Time Out for Women each year in Salt Lake City
    • I also set aside time each year to attend BYU Education week for the whole week
Some examples of SOCIAL goals that I have set:
  • I take time each day to spend one on one with a different child
    • I find things that each child likes to do and do it with them
    • I make sure that this time is scheduled into the day’s busy activities so that we do it
  • I go on a date night once a week with my husband
    • Schedule it. Make sure that it happens. Doesn't always happen on a Friday night.
    • And it doesn't always have to be a financial expense. There are plenty of free things that can be done.
To conclude, I want to share a scripture from the Book of Mormon. In his address to the people of Mosiah, King Benjamin gave them some very wise counsel found 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 that King Benjamin is giving us permission to slip up at times, and make mistakes in our goal setting. He tells us that we do not need to run faster than we have strength. So, if we mess up in our goal setting that day, this is a great opportunity for us to revisit our goals and make some changes. We shouldn't give up on a goal simply because we were not successful. Instead, we should change the goal to something that we can accomplish, and that still drives us in the direction of our ultimate goal. Besides, isn't this why we have the Atonement of Jesus Christ in our lives; to make up for our imperfections and give us the opportunity to begin each new day with a fresh start?

I ended by baring my testimony, and I will take the time to do it again. 
I know this church is true. I am thankful for the wise counsel of many apostles and prophets that have improved my life for the better. I know by setting short or long term goals they will help you be a better person. I am a better wife and mother because of it. I am thankful for a living prophet today that guides our church. I am thankful for each of my boys and my awesome husband. And I say these things in the name of Jesus Christ, Amen.