Monday, January 6, 2014

The Importance of Setting Goals

I once had an object lesson in Sunday School as a teenager that went something like this:
The teacher presented to us a large clear container. First, he had someone pour in water. Next, someone poured in some sand. Lastly, he asked someone to fit in some large rocks. Needless to say, there wasn’t room for the rocks and there was a big overspill.
Then, in a new container, the teacher had someone place the rocks first. Then someone poured sand in, filling in the spaces. Lastly, water was poured over top, and everything fit quite nicely.

The objects were things we needed to do each day. The rocks represented things such as prayer and scripture study, the sand represented schoolwork and skill development (sports, instruments), and the water represented ‘fun’ extras, such as video games and TV. When we prioritize our time and first do the necessary tasks in life, there is more room for everything else. However, if we set more importance on less meaningful activities, there is often not time or room enough for the vital tasks.

I believe that prioritizing is directly related to setting goals. If we just spend each day aimlessly doing whatever we please, then we will find more often than not, that our time has wasted away with little to show for it. However, if we can manage to decide what it is we would like to achieve, and hold ourselves accountable-- that is another story altogether. We gain control of our lives by gaining control of our time. 1

Church Apostle M. Russell Ballard advised,

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 prayer’ (Luke 5:16). We need to do the same thing occasionally to rejuvenate 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. 2
     The scriptures have also advised us to be mindful of goals and time.
Thou shalt not idle away thy time, neither shalt thou bury thy talent that it may not be known. (D&C 60:13)
For which of you, intending to build a tower, sitteth not down first, and counteth the cost, whether he have sufficient to finish it? (Luke 14:28)
      Setting goals helps us to be more aware of ourselves. We can assess strengths and weaknesses, and improve on the latter. We can have a guide for making decisions. We can feel a sense of accomplishment when we succeed. Unfortunately, there is a dark side to the picture-- when we fall off track or fall short of our desired result. More often than not, you will find that at some point, you will veer from the path you have marked for yourself in achieving a goal. Once you realize what has happened, you may feel discouraged or even feel like giving up. But all can be made right again; it may be necessary to take corrective measures to re-align. This is not unlike spiritual sin-- you must correct the wrong, and do your best to get back to where you need to be.

     Probably not unlike many of you, I often have a goal to be physically fit. When I make my goal so broad as that, I rarely take the steps necessary to get in shape. However, if I have a goal in sight, the daily breakdown is much easier. For example, after B was born, I decided I wanted to run a half marathon. I broke down each week into the number of runs I would need to do, and how long each should be to build my strength until I could run the entire 13.1 miles. Prior to that, I do not think I had run more than a 5K. However, I did it! Breaking goals down into smaller steps helps to make them more attainable.

     Some important things to consider when setting goals are the parties to which you are responsible in your life. Previous Church President Gordon B. Hinckley suggested that there are four main groups, in order of importance: 
  • 1. Your family
  • 2. Your employment
  • 3. Your Church
  • 4. Yourself
     He recommended deciding how much time to allot to each, and then sticking with it.

     Lastly, may we follow the advice of another prophet, President Ezra Taft Benson, who once said,
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... 
Of Jesus' preparations for his mission, the scripture states that he 'increased in wisdom and stature, and in favour with God and man.' (Luke 2:52) 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.' (3 Nephi 27:27) Now, there is a liftetime 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.3

Published by Jen
1. The Gospel and the Productive Life Teacher Manual Religion 150. 2004. p. 11-14.
2. Ballard, M. Russell. Conference Report. April 1987. p. 15-16.
3. Benson, Ezra Taft. Do Not Despair. Ensign. October 1986.


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