Every couple of months I come across an old piece of paper, a notebook, or a post-it with very well intended goals written on it. I always laugh at myself because without fail there is ALWAYS a ‘lose weight’ goal on it. Apparently repetition hasn’t produced a resolve for me on that one…ahh well. Don’t they say something like ‘you only fail if you don’t get back up and try again?’ So at least I’m not a failure in that sense!
These bits of paper that I find lying about intrigue me. It seems that I’m always wanting to do a little bit better…but am I ever getting anywhere with my efforts? Elder LeGrand Richards said,
“If we don’t know where we came from, and we don’t know why we are here, and we don’t know where we are going, nor how to get there, we are just like a ship on the ocean without a rudder, or a sail, or anyone to guide it. We might keep afloat, but we would never come into port.”
I know where I came from. I have more than enough grand dreams of what I’d like to become and where I’d like to be going. I guess the portion I see myself really needing to work on is the ‘how to get there’ part. On a good day I can catch a glimpse of how to do that – but there are a lot of days I just cross my fingers and hope I’m doing the ‘how’ correctly.
Obviously there are many different tactics in goal setting. Writing them down where you can see them daily, visualizing, recognizing potential obstacles, have a time frame, etc. I guess some of my goals do have consecutive steps that help me to achieve them…but some of my goals don’t. Some of them I have no idea whatsoever how they are going to go down. A few I feel confused, scared, or slightly nervous about. Others will only come into fruition by the grace of a stinking miracle! What about those goals?
Well in August I went to BYU Education Week and became obsessed with a CES instructor there. Randall Wright was an incredible teacher! I ended up trying to attend all of his classes. He said something that really enlightened me regarding moving forward in faith. He wasn’t talking specifically about goals or anything – but it was the answer I was looking for in knowing the ‘how’ for some of my personal desires and goals.
He gave the example in 1 Nephi, when Nephi killed Laban. Here is a prophet of God that we know had a goal in mind – a goal that he knew was backed by God. (Such as are all of the commandments we are given. They should be our goals that we know are backed by God. – And ps: this can obviously be applied to the goal of marriage;) He didn’t really know the ‘how’ of accomplishing this goal. Nephi used his best efforts to achieve the goal, but to no avail. So Nephi, not knowing how to further accomplish this goal…’nevertheless went forth.’ We know he eventually ended up killing Laban to get the plates.
So here’s the connection that was eye opening for me. Brother Wright* asked the class how we know when we feel the Spirit. Essentially the class answered, “love, joy, peace, longsuffering, gentleness, goodness, faith, meekness, temperance.” (Galatians 5:22-23) He explained to us that sometimes we feel those feelings. Other times, however, we feel scared, lonely, and in turmoil. He asked us if we thought that the Holy Ghost was leading Nephi to get the brass plates from Laban. He then asked if we thought Nephi was feeling peace, joy, warmth, and comfort when the Spirit had to tell him three times to slay Laban. If Nephi was having warm, fuzzy feelings, why did he say, “And I shrunk and would that I might not slay him?” (1Nephi 4:10) Nephi was scared with the ‘how’ of accomplishing his goal.
Brother Wright then spoke about the first addresses given by newly called Apostles and General Authorities. Did we think they fully understood the ‘how’ of what they were asked to perform? They no doubt had high aspirations for themselves and surely had goals continually being fulfilled in their journey. But I’d put money down that things felt a little hairy for them even when they were in pursuit of worthy goals.
I’ve been appreciative of this insight into the ‘how’ of accomplishing goals. It is scary sometimes – and that doesn’t necessarily mean I don’t have the spirit with me. My righteous desires can be achieved even when I don’t really have any clue or idea exactly how that will happen. Nephi didn’t know how he was going to get the plates…but he went for it anyways. I know where I came from, and I know exactly where I’m headed. I don’t know every exact detail of how I’ll get there and it’s a little overwhelmingly scary sometimes…but just like my never ending efforts of reaching my goal weight I’m going to keep gettin’ up and trying for it again and again and again.
*(Brother Wright shared these thoughts in his class at Education Week – but I was lucky enough to find the same lesson taught in his book, “Achieving Your Life Mission” – I have quoted him from the writings found in this book.)