I recently spoke at my church and was given the topic of New Year’s Resolutions. It was a great blessing to do the preparation and delivery of this message. I share it with you not as a proselyting message, but with the hope it will give you some other ideas to help you succeed with your goals.
Paul Talk 1/23/2011 New Year’s Resolutions
Tell me if this scenario sounds familiar:
2007: I will get my weight down below 180.
2008: I will watch my calories until I get below 190.
2010: I will follow my new diet religiously until I get below 200.
2011: I will try to develop a realistic attitude about my weight.
2012: I will work out 5 days a week.
2013: I will work out 3 days a week.
2014: I will try to drive past a gym at least once a week.
‘Tis the season of thinking about a new year. 2014, it seems like only yesterday the big news was Y2K. With the new year comes hopes and plans for a better life for most of us. Some people I’ve talked to have informal plans; “I hope to lose weight”, “I’d like to get a new job”, or “I’m thinking about getting out of debt.”
Others seem to have more concrete, specific plans: “I plan on reading the [New Testament] by December 1” or “I will achieve Eagle Scout rank by July 11”.
I think the latter examples are generally more successful, I’ll talk about some logistics in a bit but first, I want to talk about the importance of setting goals or, as we call them this time of year New Year’s Resolutions.
These plans which hopefully motivate us get where we want to go because as I paraphrase an old saying, if we don’t know where we are going, it doesn’t really matter which road we take.
Goals are generally to try and make ourselves better. Elder Jeffrey R. Holland of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles spoke of goals by reminding us that The Best is Yet to Be. Elder Holland used the story of Sodom and Gomorah and Lot’s family, to remind us that dwelling on our past is really not very productive.
The Lord told Lot to gather his family and leave the wickedness of Sodom and Gomorrah. The Lord promised destruction would rain down because he could not find even 10 righteous among the people who lived there. Lot’s family was resistant to leave, but they finally agreed. The Lord gave strict instructions not to look back. I’m sure the Lord was watching this all unfold and those of us who are parents have all had this experience, we’ve tried to give good, gospel centered guidance and instruction to our kids and then we watched as they grew and experienced life. And, in our own way, as the Lord did with Lot, watch and hope and pray “please, don’t look back”, don’t succumb to the temptation, whatever it may be!
The scriptural passage of this event goes like this: Escape for thy life, the Lord said, look not behind thee, lest thou be consumed. Gen 19:17
Something snapped with Lot’s wife….maybe it was growing temptation or curiosity or rebelliousness. Too focused on the world that was being left behind, longing to be there. Maybe Lot’s wife didn’t give it any consideration that the future could be better than her past, living in decadance in Sodom and Gomorrah. “No, don’t look back….it isn’t worth it!” the Lord likely thought as he watched and hoped. Then, Lot’s wife turned and made that fateful glance and poof, she was turned to a pillar of salt.
The past was Lots wife’s undoing. The past was too much of a temptation and allurement.
The past is behind and Elder Holland reminds us the past is to be learned from but not lived in. And when we have learned what we need to learn and have brought with us the best that we have experienced, then we look ahead and remember that FAITH is always pointed toward the future.
Now, anybody can choose to change. To leave the past behind and move forward to the hope of a better future. That, my dear friends is FAITH!
That is what faith is! The belief that what Heavenly Father has in store for us is bigger and better than what we’ve had or even currently have going on in our lives. Faith builds on the past but never longs to stay there. Faith trusts that God has great things in store for each of us.
It is a new year, what a marvelous opportunity to move forward, move on, move up. Remember your attitude can help determine your altitude as Elder Ben Banks of the Quorum of the Seventy once said. Don’t live your life in the past. Don’t look back!
Our Savior, Jesus Christ loves us all and has provided the way for a better future for each of us. It takes steps to work to make ourselves better and the Atonement is a key element along those steps to improving ourselves.
Even the apostle Paul talked to the Philippians about goals and looking forward with faith: This One thing I do, forgetting those things which are behind, and reaching forth unto those things which are before, I press toward the mark for the prize. (Phil 3:13-14).
Elder Marvin J. Ashton of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles said: “Goals can help us set a proper course in our lives and focus on worthy causes so that we are not “carried about with every wind of doctrine” ( Ephesians 4:14 ).”
Now, one thing I’ve come to realize as I’ve talked to people about goals is it can be a challenge just knowing where to start.
Our Savior, Jesus Christ is sure great at giving us examples: Scripture states Jesus ‘increased in wisdom and stature, and in favor with God and man.’ ( Luke 2:52 .)
This brief mantra encompasses four main areas for goals: spiritual, mental, physical, and social.
I believe this is an encouragement for each of us to set not just one but several goals in each of these areas of our lives: spiritual, mental, physical, and social.
Look carefully at each of these areas and consider things we want to change or do better.
Elder Holland helps us a little here, he says: Dismiss the destructive, and keep dismissing it until the beauty of the Atonement of Christ has revealed to you your bright future. God doesn’t care nearly as much about where you have been as He does about where you are and, with his help, where you are willing to go.
As I’ve prepared for this talk, I’ve reviewed several resources. I’ve compiled a short list to help us be more successful with our goals:
- Clearly define your goal with specific details and a timeline
- Write your goal down and put it in a place where you see it often
- Make a plan of action, steps to reach your goal.
- Involve people and resources which will help you reach your goal
- Review and adjust your goals regularly. As Elder Joseph B. Wirthlin of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles suggested: “…look ahead now and decide what you want to do with your lives. Review regularly in your mind what you want to be one year from now, five years, ten years, and beyond. Receive your patriarchal blessing and strive to live worthy of its promises. Write your goals and review them regularly. Keep them before you constantly, record your progress, and revise them as circumstances dictate. Your ultimate goal should be to live the kind of life God lives.”
- Endure to the end. It is said that failure is the path of least resistance, motivational guru Zig Ziglar adds; failure is also the path of least persistence. We must remain diligent and remember that as we accomplish one goal, we must set other goals to try and continuously improve our lives.
President Spencer W. Kimball shared the following personal experience he had in setting a goal when he was 14 years old:
“When I heard a Church leader … tell us at conference that we should read the scriptures, and I recognized that I had never read the Bible, that very night at the conclusion of that very sermon I walked to my home a block away and climbed up in my little attic room in the top of the house and lighted a little coal-oil lamp that was on the little table, and I read the first chapters of Genesis. A year later I closed the Bible, having read every chapter in that big and glorious book. …
“I had a glowing satisfaction that I had made a goal and that I had achieved it” (in Conference Report, Apr. 1974, 126–27; or Ensign, May 1974, 88).
As we make our new years resolutions, may we all look to others in our families, our inspired church leaders and the scriptures for their great examples and as sources of inspiration. We should use our bite-sized goals to push toward what should be our ultimate goal; exaltation.
I testify to you that as huge as that aspiration may appear, it is an achievable goal, through our Savior Jesus Christ, the ultimate helper, whom we all need. He is ready to help and each of us has access to Him so we can be successful in the steps of our mortal journey.