Goals. And trying. And failing.

New-Years-Resolutions[image credit]

I like New Year’s resolutions. They do feel like a fresh, new start. And with the exception of a few superhuman individuals, the rest of us don’t always accomplish our goals with the same kind of perfection we intended. You know what? It’s fine. Really. Fine. The trick is to not be such a perfectionist that we abandon goals completely because we don’t like doing them less than perfectly. Sure, we can be more “perfect” by having fewer goals, but growth comes from the effort–from the stop and go, from the oops and up again, and from analysis and course correction.

My sister recently asked me about diminished motivation when goals start going sour, so I did a little research and found some great talks and articles that might be helpful in rekindling your goal-fire.

First, President Uchtdorf shared a recent New Year’s message called The Best Time to Plant a Tree. He says a lot of great things there, but this was one of my favorites:

“Another thing we need to remember when it comes to setting goals is this: We almost certainly will fail—at least in the short term. But rather than be discouraged, we can be empowered because this understanding removes the pressure of being perfect right now. It acknowledges from the beginning that at one time or another, we may fall short. Knowing this up front takes away much of the surprise and discouragement of failure.”

See? Permission. Here are a few more great talks to study, and some quotes from each.

Elder Ballard’s talk Keeping Life’s Demands in Balance reminds me to keep my goals in line with true priorities and treat those successes as the most important.

Many people have heavy demands upon them stemming from parental, family, employment, church, and civic responsibilities. Keeping everything in balance can be a real problem.

A periodic review of the covenants we have made with the Lord will help us with our priorities and with balance in our lives. This review will help us see where we need to repent and change our lives to ensure that we are worthy of the promises that accompany our covenants and sacred ordinances. Working out our own salvation requires good planning and a deliberate, valiant effort.

In Because of Your Steadiness, Pres. Eyring is mostly talking about home teaching, but he reminds me that a little more attention can help my efforts move from occasional to more consistent.

You may have learned endurance playing a trumpet, or throwing a football, or riding a bucking horse, or drawing a picture. But you learned what we all did. Effort only “now and then” didn’t take you far. The dreams that turned into reality stuck with you nearly all the time. You worked at them, either in fact or in your thoughts, every day and almost every hour.

President Uchtdorf is a master at reminding us to get up, get over it, and move on. In You Can Do it Now, these words encourage me to keep working on my goals for my own growth and not worry about the rest:

No one likes to fail. And we particularly don’t like it when others—especially those we love—see us fail. We all want to be respected and esteemed. We want to be champions. But we mortals do not become champions without effort and discipline or without making mistakes.

Brethren, our destiny is not determined by the number of times we stumble but by the number of times we rise up, dust ourselves off, and move forward.

Finally, the talk Stay on the True Course by Elder Carlos Asay reminded me that I am more likely to be successful if I keep my eyes on the Savior and trust that when I do fall, he will be quick to save and get me on my feet again.

The need to remain focused on eternal goals is illustrated in the biblical account of Jesus walking on the sea and Peter’s desire to do the same. Peter progressed over the water so long as he looked to Christ. But when he diverted his gaze away from the Master and allowed fear and doubt to enter in, he began to sink. … We must reaffirm the goal that matters most and press toward it “looking forward with an eye of faith” (Alma 32:40).

So if you’re in a mid-January state of disappointment, pull out your resolutions again, get on your knees again, and get back to work. And give yourself permission to repeat the process as needed. I think we might be doing better than we give ourselves credit for.

Busy brain, idle hands?

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Do you ever have a mind full of ideas and wishes and goals and projects, but get hung up in the execution?

It’s so easy to get distracted. In some ways, I guess I’m like my own kids, and when there’s too much to do, I shut down a little bit and do … too little. That’s what I’ve been struggling with lately. I am getting things done, but we know ourselves and know when we can and should do more. Then we get frustrated.

I think it’s important to forgive ourselves in these situations and pat ourselves on the back just for being aware and being willing. I loved Elder Scott’s recent general conference talk when he said that the Lord sees weakness differently than he sees sin. I’ve been thinking about that a lot. When we sin, He wants us to remove it from our lives. Get rid of it. Go clean. With weakness, though, we have to stare it in the face and work on it. Like repentance, work is hard, and in both cases, we need the help of the Atonement.

I recently found this talk by Elder Maxwell (love him!) about weaknesses. Here are some of my favorite quotes:

Now may I speak, not to the slackers in the Kingdom, but to those who carry their own load and more; not to those lulled into false security, but to those buffeted by false insecurity, who, though laboring devotedly in the Kingdom, have recurring feelings of falling forever short. … Even prophets notice their weaknesses. Nephi persisted in a major task “notwithstanding my weakness.” (2 Ne. 33:11.) … Thus the feelings of inadequacy are common. So are the feelings of fatigue; hence, the needed warning about our becoming weary of well-doing. (See D&C 64:33.)

And then, he said some of the coolest things ever about how to deal with those common feelings and yearnings to do and be better. So the rest of the credit for this post goes completely to Elder Neal A. Maxwell whose inspiration helped me out again today.

What can we do to manage these vexing feelings of inadequacy? Here are but a few suggestions:

1. We can distinguish more clearly between divine discontent and the devil’s dissonance, between dissatisfaction with self and disdain for self. We need the first and must shun the second, remembering that when conscience calls to us from the next ridge, it is not solely to scold but also to beckon.
2. We can contemplate how far we have already come in the climb along the pathway to perfection; it is usually much farther than we acknowledge. True, we are “unprofitable servants,” but partly because when “we have done that which was our duty to do” (Luke 17:10), with every ounce of such obedience comes a bushel of blessings.
3. We can accept help as well as gladly give it. Happily, General Naaman received honest but helpful feedback, not from fellow generals, but from his orderlies. (See 2 Kgs. 5:1–14.) In the economy of heaven, God does not send thunder if a still, small voice is enough, or a prophet if a priest can do the job.
4. We can allow for the agency of others (including our children) before we assess our adequacy. Often our deliberate best is less effectual because of someone else’s worst.
5. We can write down, and act upon, more of those accumulating resolutions for self-improvement that we so often leave, unrecovered, at the edge of sleep.
6. We can admit that if we were to die today, we would be genuinely and deeply missed. Perhaps parliaments would not praise us, but no human circle is so small that it does not touch another, and another.
7. We can put our hand to the plow, looking neither back nor around, comparatively. Our gifts and opportunities differ; some are more visible and impactful. The historian Moroni felt inadequate as a writer beside the mighty Mahonri Moriancumer, who wrote overpoweringly. We all have at least one gift and an open invitation to seek “earnestly the best gifts.” (D&C 46:8.)
8. We can make quiet but more honest inventories of our strengths, since, in this connection, most of us are dishonest bookkeepers and need confirming “outside auditors.” He who was thrust down in the first estate delights to have us put ourselves down. Self-contempt is of Satan; there is none of it in heaven. We should, of course, learn from our mistakes, but without forever studying the instant replays as if these were the game of life itself.
9. We can add to each other’s storehouse of self-esteem by giving deserved, specific commendation more often, remembering, too, that those who are breathless from going the second mile need deserved praise just as the fallen need to be lifted up.
10. We can also keep moving. Only the Lord can compare crosses, but all crosses are easier to carry when we keep moving. Men finally climbed Mount Everest, not by standing at its base in consuming awe, but by shouldering their packs and by placing one foot in front of another. Feet are made to move forward—not backward!
11. We can know that when we have truly given what we have, it is like paying a full tithe; it is, in that respect, all that was asked. The widow who cast in her two mites was neither self-conscious nor searching for mortal approval.
12. We can allow for the reality that God is more concerned with growth than with geography. Thus, those who marched in Zion’s Camp were not exploring the Missouri countryside but their own possibilities.
13. We can learn that at the center of our agency is our freedom to form a healthy attitude toward whatever circumstances we are placed in! Those, for instance, who stretch themselves in service—though laced with limiting diseases—are often the healthiest among us! The Spirit can drive the flesh beyond where the body first agrees to go!
14. Finally, we can accept this stunning, irrevocable truth: Our Lord can lift us from deep despair and cradle us midst any care. We cannot tell Him anything about aloneness or nearness!

And that is why we should read something from the scriptures or words of the prophets every day. My busy brain feels so much better.

I hope it makes you feel better, too.

GCBC Week 13: “Temple Standard” by Elder Scott D. Whiting, and “Beware Concerning Yourselves” by Elder Anthony D. Perkins

Welcome back to GCBC. I hope your holidays have been full of love and loved ones. This week, we will look at two talks, one from the Saturday p.m. session and one from the priesthood session which I felt was worth looking at … partly because I thought both of these could put our minds on repentance, and ultimately, this desire to change is what drives our New Year’s Resolutions. Maybe they can give you some focus as you consider appropriate changes for good in your own life.

View of window at Orlando LDS Temple

Temple Standard By Elder Scott D. Whiting

Like the contractor, when we become aware of elements in our own lives that are inconsistent with the teachings of the Lord, when our efforts have been less than our very best, we should move quickly to correct anything that is amiss, recognizing that we cannot hide our sins from the Lord. We need to remember that “when we undertake to cover our sins, … behold, the heavens withdraw themselves; [and] the Spirit of the Lord is grieved.”

Beware Concerning Yourselves By Elder Anthony D. Perkins

Brethren, Satan seeks “to destroy the souls of men.” If your soul is drifting to the edge of a spiritual cliff, stop now before you fall and steer back on course. If you feel your soul lies wrecked at the bottom of a canyon rather than high on the priesthood path because you neglected “Beware” signs and sinned, I testify that through sincere repentance and the power of Jesus Christ’s atoning sacrifice, you can be lifted up and restored to God’s heavenly highway.

What stood out to you from these talks? In what way do they help you set spiritual goals? Please share in the comments below some of your insights.

(A reminder to those of you who are new to General Conference Book Club: You’re welcome to return to this post any time this week and leave your comment and thoughts in the comment section below. You may also want to see what others are saying about the talk and engage in a conversation for mutual understanding and encouragement. A new talk will be posted each Sunday and will be studied and discussed throughout the week.)

Unloading.

I hardly blogged at all over the last couple of weeks because I was just enjoying the down time of the holidays.  It really was down time– lots of laziness and mellow family “recreation.”  So nice.  But there are a handful of things that I would have blogged about if I felt like blogging, and I need to just unload them all… you know, get it out of my system.  So without further ado, a pile of miniature blog-posts:

  1. I gave my blog a makeover.  I felt like I needed to just simplify it and downplay all the diaper and baby imagery.  I have a complex because my blog title is Diapers and Divinity, and with the exception of one child in nighttime pull-ups, I’m actually now beyond the diaper stage.  I still like the title because the blog is still about the balance between the dirty side of motherhood and the divine side, but anyway, I’m letting the diapers go.  I feel old.  And free.  Ha!
  2. I also gave my hair a makeover.  I had like 6-inch roots, so thanks to a gift-certificate from my mother-in-law, I went and got it cut and highlighted.  I’m growing it out longer again, at least until summertime.  We’ll see.
  3. I took the kids and we went and got our portraits done as a Christmas gift for Matt.  I was overdue getting them done anyway, so it seemed like a good idea.  I don’t want to make you jealous or anything, but I’m afraid my children are just handsomer than all the rest in the world.  So sorry.
  4. Despite their handsomeness, they leave on lights EVERYwhere.  Matt is thinking about changing out all their light switches for those timer knobs that they sometimes use in hotel bathrooms for heat lamps.  Would that be weird?
  5. Natalie calls her pinky finger her “girl finger.”  She says all the rest are boys.  ??
  6. I gave a talk in church yesterday.  I think it went okay, but I forgot half the papers I was going to use and I still took too much time.  I get a little mad at myself for having zero grasp on the gift of brevity.  I did, however, really enjoy preparing and studying for the talk.  I wish I did a better job of studying the gospel that thoroughly even when I don’t have an assignment.
  7. I made a simple new years resolution.  I’ll just cut and paste from Facebook since I’m lazy:  “My New Year’s resolution this year: *Be Nicer*. Seriously. The stuff that bugs me is probably not going to go away, so I just need to get over it and be nicer. (Bite tongue, curb sarcasm, manage anger.) Funny, my mom used to always tell me “Stephanie, be nice,” and I would roll my eyes at her. Now, I’m pushing 40, and I think I’m finally starting to get it.”
  8. Along those same lines, for Family Home Evening last night, we came up with a family goal/motto for this year.  After discussing being nice to each other, showing respect, no yelling/arguing, etc., we adopted this line from the primary song “I’m trying to be like Jesus”:  “Try To Show Kindness in All That You Do.”  Anybody want to make me some cool graphic-designy thing that I can hang up on my wall?  Anyway, we’re going to work on that.
  9. I’ve been invited to speak at a fireside in a couple weeks in a random ward where I don’t know anyone.  The bishop would like me to speak to the young women and the women about modesty.  I’ve been thinking about it for a while and I feel like I know the general direction I’d like to go, but if anyone has any great thoughts or talks/articles to pass along, please do.
  10. This year I got down of my high horse a little bit and actually consented to let Santa bring my children a Wii for Christmas.  It was the only gift he brought for all three.  I have always been sort of an anti-video-game poster-mom, but lots of points won me over for some reason.  It was a bit of a gaming free-for-all over Christmas break, but today it was back to school, back to rules, back to chores, etc.  We’ve always had a system in place where they have to finish their chores before school if they want 30 min. of media time after school.  I have to say that having the Wii sitting in our family room made them pretty anxious to get their chores done this morning.  I honestly don’t mind all the active games like sports and singing/dancing, etc., so hopefully it will all be okay as long as I stick to my guns about time limits and what’s appropriate and what’s not.
  11. We also played some fun new games over the break.  The kids got Apples to Apples Jr., and they really like that.  We got a card game called Clue Suspect, and I’m pretty much unbeatable.  :)  We played a fun game called Telestrations with extended family, and we still need to try out a game Clark got in his stocking called Sorry Revenge.  I did splurge right before Christmas and bought a game table I’ve had my eye on for the last year at a local consignment store.  Despite temporarily suffering buyer’s remorse (even though it was cheap), it’s been fun to have.
  12. Here’s the one problem with a Kindle.  You start a book and you don’t have a good sense of how long it really is.  I started The Count of Monte Cristo a week or so ago, and I have been reading and reading and reading, and my little progress tab only showed me at about 33% done.  I really liked that first third of the book, but after reading and reading some more (like almost all the way to 50%) and starting to like it a little less, I began to wonder.  Well, I looked it up on amazon to see how long the real book is, and it turns out that the unabridged version I’m reading is (depending on the publication) between 1200-1600 pages long!  Sweet mercy.  So according to my calculations, I’ve probably read about 700 pages so far.  Someone please tell me it’s worth it to finish it, because right now I’m feeling like I’m in quicksand– in too deep to get out.  And since I’ve spent all that time invested in reading it, it’s like I have to finish it just on principle alone.
  13. I hope you all had a wonderful Christmas and New Year, I really do.  Post-vacation transition is hard and a little depressing, so let’s make the best of it, shall we?

Dump complete.  Carry on.

GCBC Week 14: “A Witness” by President Henry B. Eyring

Happy New Year!  I know your resolutions are really none of my business, but I have two suggestions:  1)  GCBC.  Do it.  2) The Book of Mormon.  Study it.

Having said that, this week we will be studying President Eyring’s talk about the using the Book of Mormon to facilitate personal conversion.

A Witness  by President Henry B. Eyring

“The Book of Mormon is the best guide to learn how well we are doing and how to do better. . . . The doctrine and the valiant examples in that book will lift, guide, and embolden you.  . . . Parents who struggle to get a witness of the Savior into the heart of a child will be helped as they seek for a way to bring the words and the spirit of the Book of Mormon into the home and all the lives in their family. “

What about this talk stood out to you? Share your thoughts in the comments below.

To anyone who is checking out GCBC for the first time, the goal is to read one General Conference talk a week and discuss it together as an on-line “book club.” If you want to learn more, go here, and join the discussion.

Letting “I wish” go

Sometimes life doesn’t turn out like you planned it out in your mind (or in your journal when you were 13). We make plans, we set goals, we visualize expectations wrapped up in pretty packages and we move forward in life hoping it all plays out that way. But it often doesn’t, and not necessarily by lack of planning or industry. Sometimes life just happens– and it’s bigger than our dreams or plans.

Recently, I’ve been keenly aware that God’s plans for me might be different than my own agenda. He sees opportunity in things that I try to avoid; he sometimes closes the door on things I want and things I think I need. I’m tempted to believe that things are “all messed up” when, really, they are exactly as they should be.

I think part of the problem is measuring our life in things, places, status, location– anything that can be “seen.” But, truly, we would do better Continue reading

So here’s the thing about resolutions. Or, how children ruin everything.

Obviously the Blogosphere is full of posts about New Year’s Resolutions– some serious, some sarcastic.  I like the idea of resolutions, I really do.  As my life gets more and more busy, I’ve found that taking time to inventory my goals helps me stay focused, and it keeps some of my dreams from slipping through the cracks.

When we first got married, I rolled my eyes at Matt and all his Franklin-Covey Core-values life-planning goal-sheets with step-by-step plans from today to exaltation.  I just liked to live life from day to day doing the best I could and figured that as long as I was pointed in the right direction, I’d eventually end up in the right place.  I was fine with that.  And it worked for a quite a while.  In some areas, it still does.  But once my days became divided between three little attention-parasites and a husband who wants me to remember he’s still around too, plus church and civic commitments… well, I got confused.  The whole “resolute” part of resolutions is the most difficult part.  It’s hard to keep track of everything without really thinking through what matters most and making sure it gets done.  It’s easy to get distracted.

I’ve tried list-making and note-taking.  I’ve posted goals on my bathroom mirror and kitchen cupboards.  But the thing that finally clicked for me came after I heard Sister Julie Beck’s talk about “intentional parenting” last Spring.  I learned that I needed to think about what I really want to accomplish with my family and build those related activities into our routines.  On purpose.  So, for me, goals and resolutions have turned into schedules and calendars.  I’ve found that when I actually PLAN my goals, they don’t disappear.

Do I want to make sure we make it to the temple?  Put it on the calendar!

Do I want my children to learn how to serve and how to work?  Put chores and service in the weekly routine.

I’ve spent the last week or two trying to think about what things are going well in our family, what things need to go, and what are things have been neglected.  Less TV?  More one-on-one time with kids?  Regular temple attendance?  More or less extra-curriculars?  When’s the best time to schedule in my scripture study so it has the greatest chance of getting done every day?  You get the idea.

It took days of thought and hours of document design, but this is the final result.  (Don’t you dare laugh at me.)

So, this is what I’ve become.  I would have never imagined.  Then again, I shouldn’t be shocked since I do have a minivan and a mommy blog– a couple other things I probably didn’t originally have on my young, naive list of future plans.  Anyway, I was so proud of my new weekly schedule.  I showed it to the kids with optimistic enthusiasm.  They’re used to my constant charts and signs, so they were on board.

And then like a dark cloud, the holidays were over and today was back to school, back to real life, and test-drive day for our new weekly schedule.  Please tell me that your children go through post-holiday detox too.  They were out of control.  No more presents to open, no more grandparents to entertain them, no more unlimited access to movies and computer games, no more days off of school.  If I could describe the day in one phrase . . . it was a day of time-outs within time-outs (breaking rules upon rules while still being punished for the last broken rules).  I really wanted to throw out the schedule and tell them to go watch TV until bedtime.  Needless to say, my twinkly dreams of an organized and peaceful New Year went up in flames by about 3:00 p.m. and my children’s chances of living through the month were almost completely diminished by 6:00 p.m.

And this is where the whole “resolute” thing comes into play.  Are the goals important to me?  Yes.  Is it worth sticking it out and being consistent?  I think so.  Will my children be incarcerated in the process?  I hope not.  I have to believe that with commitment and consistency, we’ll fall into a routine that reflects what kind of family we want to be.  This is not a new concept around here– there was a summer schedule and a Fall schedule and this one is just adjusted for changing family needs.  (As a side note, I’m not a nazi about the schedule minute-to-minute, but it gives direction and focus to each day.  For example, a day with emphasis on service, one on outings, one on chores, etc.)  They’ve learned to thrive in the routines in the past and they’ll do it again, if I can survive the first two weeks.  Wish me luck.

Here are three talks (in addition to the Sister Beck one I mentioned earlier) that have really helped me in trying to figure out what kinds of things need to be part of our family’s patterns.  The first two are both by Elder Dallin H. Oaks, and the third by Elder Bednar.

“Good, Better, Best”

“Focus and Priorities”

“More Diligent and Concerned at Home”

Happy New Year!