Monday, January 17, 2011
Monday, January 10, 2011
Saturday, January 8, 2011
Setting Spiritual Goals
First introduce our family J
I found most of the information for this talk in an article by Dean L. Larsen titled “Some thoughts on goal – setting.” This was originally a talk that he gave at a Brigham Young devotional on May 13, 1980. I will be quoting this article a lot along with a few ideas from another article titled “setting priorities” by Elder Won Yong Ko.
When setting personal and family goals, it is important to not just focus on the outcome that you are working toward; we need to be setting small attainable goals all along the way. A personal story that I would like to start with, doesn’t have anything to do with spiritual goals, but it does have some of the same ideas that we need to follow.
We had spent months planning our first vacation in years. We had set aside the money to pay for our little trip. I had contacted the owners of the cabin that we wanted to rent and sent them the money. I even confirmed with them that they had received our money and that our reservation was still good. We made a partial list of what we needed to pack; it was partial because so much of what needed to be packed was so obvious. We had everything ready so we could leave after church and spend our Sunday afternoon driving. Once we got home from church, we started checking our “list” and hauling everything we needed out to our truck. I was in the house loading up the food and filling the coolers with everything we bought for the week. We knew we had everything and set off. Our cabin was at Moon Lake and it takes several hours to get there. They do have a little store at the lodge that is stocked with a few necessities. We soon learned that we needed several of those necessities due to only making a partial list. As soon as we went to eat dinner the first night there we discovered that we forgot our roasting sticks. We just cooked the hot dogs in the little kitchen and it wasn’t the same but it worked. The next day is when we started realizing everything that we missed; I missed shampoo, body soap, flour, chicken for our second dinner, and I’m sure there was more but these were the really important ones that I missed packing. We were so excited to get to our final destination that we forgot all the little things in the middle that needed to be done so we would be properly prepared.
I can look back and list several things that I did that were the wrong way to prepare my family for our trip. I didn’t focus on the little things that we would need, like soap and shampoo so we could shower after playing at the beach. I knew what we were cooking; I didn’t need to look at the list of food that we bought because I knew what went into each meal. I knew how we were going to do everything and so I didn’t need to refer to anything to remind me of what was needed. The first and most important thing I lost was my humility.
We need to make “an important distinction … between the potentially confining aspects of setting specific goals and the much more encompassing need of having a general purpose in life. This distinction is more than a play upon words. One’s purpose in life has an overriding influence on what he does with his time, energy, and resources. It can also have a profound effect upon how he relates to other people. Without this sense of purpose, life has no compass. Within the framework of such a purpose, there is an acceptable place for much spontaneity and flexibility. Indeed, without this freedom, life can become stilted and sterile, and much of the potential for inspiration and renewal can be thwarted.
Unless the goals and objectives an individual works toward are harmonious with his general purpose in life, a devastating kind of internal conflict can develop which is destructive to happiness and personal development. Appropriate, useful goals and objectives must be a direct outgrowth of one’s perceived purpose in life. Otherwise they can lead to a random expenditure of effort and resources that may not contribute effectively to long-range progress.”1
So, what are the goals that we need to be setting? What are some of the short goals we can focus on? What is our long range goal? These are questions that we can ask in all areas of our lives. Referring back to what I just said, if we aren’t clear about what we are working towards then it,”can lead to a random expenditure of effort and resources that may not contribute effectively to long-range progress.”1 One example of this is the college student who is going to school and doesn’t know what they want to do. I’m sure we all know someone who has turned into a career student. It ends up being a waste of effort and resources and can lead to large loans to repay if they couldn’t pay as they went.
When we are speaking of our spiritual goals, one thing that can help us to achieve our short term and long term goals is to “picture yourself on one side of a stream and on the other side is your eternal happiness. You need to have some stepping-stones in your life to get across. For example, choose to go on a mission, to be married in the temple, and to have a family. As you prepare for each of these events, you will be on track to reaching your ultimate goal.”2
“When we set priorities, we can manage our problems.” We all know that we are going to stumble sometimes on those stepping-stones, but if we are prepared and know our course it’s easier to catch ourselves and not let that stumble become a total fall. “Once you have that mindset, then your heart is peaceful because you are doing what is right. Keeping our commitments or covenants is not easy and requires a lot of sacrifice, but when we do, the blessings we get will be a lot more than what we sacrificed.” As we “set intermediate stepping-stones in our lives they will give us help and protection. I know that as we are faithful to our covenants, then our lives will be more worthwhile and we will be blessed.”2
We know that this is all worthwhile and we will be able to see the blessings that will enter our lives, but not everyone in the world will be able to understand or notice the blessings that are lifting you up and keeping you going toward your goals. “Spiritual qualities do not necessarily develop in the same environment as that which fosters the attributes esteemed in the material world, nor can these spiritual qualities always be accurately measured in a quantitative way. The qualities of the spirit are susceptible to assessment, but they must be assessed by spiritual means. True, they often are reflected in individual lives in observable ways (through feelings, attitudes, commitments, and perceptions), but they are not always easily measured in a quantitative way at arbitrarily established audit periods.”1
“The same is true of one who experiences conversion to the principles of the gospel of Jesus Christ. This conversion process can be a lengthy one, and it can have a profound effect upon one’s purpose in life. But its progress cannot always be accurately assessed by measurable performance at arbitrary points in time.”1 As we grow spiritually it is often a gradual process and it may not be until we look back over our lives that we can see those changes or when someone points out an attribute that we have gained without realizing it.
Elder Larsen also offers a warning about being careful when setting goals. He states, “There is sometimes the danger that the true purpose of an endeavor can be lost in the compulsion to make the records look good. As an example of this, I cite an incident recently related to me by a young wife who had just gone through the trauma of losing a baby through premature birth. Throughout the month of semiconfinement that preceded the misfortune, members of the Relief Society in this sister’s ward made frequent calls on her to comfort her, to bring meals for the family, and to be of general assistance. Their caring concern and attention had been much appreciated.
Following her release from the hospital, this sister deeply felt the need to spend some private time with her scriptures and in prayerful quest for understanding. She reported that on a day at the close of the month she was at home alone, particularly impressed and inspired by some part of the scriptures she had been reading. A sweet spirit of peace and consolation rested upon her, and she felt a closeness to the Lord and the reality of his love in a way she had never experienced before.
She was absorbed in this experience when the telephone rang. She reluctantly answered. On this occasion the call was to solicit a time during the day when an official Relief Society visit could be made to present the lesson for the month. When the sister asked to forego the lesson in view of the fact that the visiting teachers had already been in her home several times during the month, and more especially because she did not wish to have her refreshing interlude with the scriptures interrupted, she was reminded that this was the last day of the month. On the earlier visits the official lesson for the month had not been presented. Therefore, the visits could not be counted.
Reluctantly, the sister left her scriptures and cleaned her house in preparation for the visit of the visiting teachers. The spirit of the morning was lost and was replaced by a feeling of resentment and hurt. The visiting teachers’ perfect record remained intact—but at what cost?”1
Along those same lines, I have received an email from a friend that shows the different types of visiting teachers that will only come to the door, that will come in and see your chaos and leave, and the ones that come and take over when you don’t need that. I know I have had the one that only came to the door. Even when Taylor had surgery and she brought dinner over she stayed at the door and was in and out. I think we all get the idea though, that it is more important to remember the original idea of the goal. If it is to get your visiting/home teaching done every month, make sure you are meeting the needs of the family and not your need of meeting your goal. If your goal is studying the scriptures, it’s like what we were asked in Sunday school a couple of weeks ago. Do you read for 10 min and say good enough, goal met; or do you read to be edified and attain answers that you may be looking for.
All of these questions can be used in any of our goals that we are working toward to be able to return to our Father in Heaven. We don’t want to waste our time setting goals that will only make us move backward when our time here is limited. We want to use our time wisely and pick our stepping –stones carefully when making decisions concerning serving a mission, getting married, starting a family, or any other decision that can help us to stay on the straight and narrow path (of stepping-stones).
I would like to share one last thought from Elder Larsen, “As members of the Church and human beings in general reach for a higher level of moral and spiritual attainment, they will be required to more clearly define the principal purposes in life. They will need to be motivated more toward the qualities of life associated with moral and spiritual growth than toward producing or acquiring quantities of things. Historically, people have always achieved their highest levels in material things as a by-product of their attainment of high spiritual and moral qualities. It has never occurred in reverse order.”1
I know that when we set goals and keep them in the front of your mind, you will reach them. One goal that we had set was to be sealed in the Temple on year after being married. I think everyone we knew decided to die that year and we faced the hardest year of our lives. However, no matter how mad I got or how hard I tried to fight and say that going to the Temple was not what I wanted anymore. I knew it was what I wanted and we did keep that goal. I know that when we reach for worthy goals that our Heavenly Father will help us to reach them.
Continue as guided by the spirit!