Monday, March 31, 2014

Setting Spiritual Goals

In Preach My Gospel it states "Through goals and plans, our hopes are transformed into action" (PMG 146).

Our goals are a reflection of our dreams, and are set in order to help us make those dreams come true. As we learn from Cinderella, "a dream is a wish your heart makes." Yet if we are ever to make our dreams become a reality, we need to set goals and make plans.
Elder L Tom Perry spoke on the importance of goals to BYU students. In his address, he highlighted four categories of importance that he used as he set goals: physical, emotional and social, intellectual, and spiritual. I would imagine most of us are accustomed to setting goals to some degree, whether short term and small, or life long and challenging. 

Elder M. Russell Ballard taught on the importance of goal setting: “I am so thoroughly convinced that if we don’t set goals in our life and learn how to master the techniques of living to reach our goals, we can reach a ripe old age and look back on our life only to see that we reached but a small part of our full potential. When one learns to master the principles of setting a goal, he will then be able to make a great difference in the results he attains in this life.”

In the scriptures, we are given examples of goal setting, and the action taken in order to achieve these goals. Recorded early in the Book of Mormon is Lehi's vision of the tree of life. In this vision, Lehi saw different groups of people, each headed in various directions. We can learn a lot about goals by observing the different groups. There were two options, two destinations that the people could move toward: the tree of life, or the great and spacious building. I'm going to focus more on those whose goal was, as is ours, to reach the tree of life, and partake of the fruit. With these people we can see that they, "were pressing forward, that they might obtain the path which led unto the tree" (1 Nephi 8:21). With the dream of ultimately reaching the tree of life in view, they set goals to help them get there, by first getting on to the path. Then they "came forth and caught hold of the end of the rod of iron," which led to the tree, "and they did press their way forward, clinging to the rod of iron" (1 Nephi 8:24). And they did all of this, until at last they "came forth and fell down and partook of the fruit of the tree" (1 Nephi 8:30). 

Those who were able to reach the tree of life set goals, and worked to achieve their goals, and because of their hard work and diligence, they were able to partake of the fruit, which is "desirable above all other fruit" (1 Nephi 8:12). 

Just as the people in this vision, we too are on this journey. We are on the path that leads to the tree of life, but if we are to arrive safely we cannot be like those "who had commenced in the path" that "did lose their way, that they wandered off and were lost" (1 Nephi 8:23). If we are to continue to progress, and learn and draw closer to the tree, then we "must continually hold fast to the rod of iron" (1 Nephi 8:30). We need direction.

How do we continually hold fast? How we do endure in faith, even when we are surrounded by mists of darkness? 

We learn from Preach My Gospel that "carefully considered goals will give you clear direction," and that "challenging goals will help us work effectively and lead us to stretch and grow" (PMG 146). 

It has always been relatively second nature to me to set temporal goals. If I wanted to buy something, I would set goals and make plans to earn the money. It was effective, and made sense to me. Setting spiritual goals however can be a bit more difficult, things are much less tangible, and milestones are a lot less recognizable. However, I hope to shed some light on how we can set spiritual goals that will enable us to progress and draw closer to Heavenly Father, and our ultimate dream of eternal life. 

The very first suggestion that Preach My Gospel gives for setting goals is to "follow the Spirit" (PMG 146). The scriptures tell us, "ask and ye shall receive." I know that Heavenly Father will help you and inspire you if you turn to Him for guidance in setting spiritual goals. After all, His work and glory is to bring to pass our immortality and eternal life (see Moses 1:39). It is definitely an act of faith any time we ask Heavenly Father for specific answers to specific questions, but I know that He will help you in your righteous efforts to follow Him. 

Another suggestion that Preach My Gospel offers is to "be specific and realistic, but set goals that will make you stretch" (PMG 146). When we set goals that will make us stretch, it is a test of our faith. To believe that with Heavenly Fathers help we can become something more than we currently are. However, as He promised Moroni, "my grace is sufficient for all men that humble themselves before me; for if they humble themselves before me, and have faith in me, then will I make weak things become strong unto them" (Ether 12:27). 

Lastly, Preach My Gospel suggests we, "measure our progress day by day, week by week" (PMG 146). As we constantly review and analyze our progress honestly and sincerely, we will recognize ways that we can continue to grow. President Thomas S. Monson stated: "when performance is measured, performance improves." By measuring our progress, we can witness the change that is taking place in us. We can literally see the Lords hand working in our lives, making us something more refined and magnificent than we currently are. 

So, go and set some goals!