Little Epistle: Setting Goals and Eating Elephants

More than a few years ago I sailed under the Golden Gate Bridge and into the open Pacific bound for the Tonga Islands.  The beautiful skyline of San Francisco disappeared slowly behind us and the open ocean spread out in every direction.  Night settled on us and blotted out any guidance.  One direction was as good as another to me.  Fortunately the captain and navigator had something more specific in mind.  Otherwise I might still be drifting in the open sea or long since wrecked on an unfriendly shore.

And such is the voyage of life.  Personal effective authorities and their research all agree that of the principles and practices that promote personal effectiveness, none is more important than setting goals.  It is the foundation of virtually every successful effort at self-improvement.  I don’t know anyone from personal association or historical research who has stumbled into a successful life.  Everybody I know who lives life well has at least the rudiments of goals to guide him or her.

If goals are so effective why do we so often dislike them?  Some very good reasons.  Often the goals have been assigned to us.  They are somebody else’s goals not ours.  Goals sometimes intimidate us.  They look too big for us to handle.  Perhaps our greatest hangup is that we don’t like to be measured.  We may come up short, and it may take effort to achieve what we have laid out for ourselves.

Try these antidotes for those spiritual illnesses.  Set out your own goals and have them supersede your assigned ones.  Break big indigestible goals down into little bite sized nibbles.  As the saying goes you can eat an elephant a bite at a time.

And finally start slow and easy. Especially at first, nibbling on a small succulent success is a lot more satisfying than choking on a heaped platter of failure.

Epistle: What Can We Achieve 3.29.17

Motivational speakers sometimes say, “Anything the mind can conceive and believe it can achieve.”  Some people find this saying inspirational.  Others express reservations that it is merely psychological hype and does not describe the challenges in the real world.  They note that conditions in the environment limit us.

No less a man than Elder Neal A. Maxwell, a man of great mind and spirit, but modest stature recounted how he wanted to be a basketball player, but felt he was just too short. External circumstances, mental, physical, maybe social may somewhat limit us in the accomplishment of our aspirations.  But they may also lead us into areas where we can excel as they did Elder Maxwell.

All of us have experienced failures in life.  If we haven’t that is no great compliment to us.  It just means we have set our goals too low.

I think most of us do conceive and achieve below our potential, and that little motto may motivate us.  My difference of opinion with the statement is not because it promises too much, but because it promises too little.  It limits our possibilities to what we can conceive.  But the Lord declared, “Eye hath not seen, nor ear heard, neither have entered into the heart of man, the things which God hath prepared for them that love him.(I Cor. 2:9) And these things are totally within the grasp of each of us.  These promises so outshine the goals that this world generally aspires to that they are quite beyond our comprehension.  The achievement motto may be appropriate for worldly aspirations.  But in our relationship with the Lord it might be more accurate to say, “If we will believe, what we can receive is far beyond our power to conceive.”

Epistle: Living is Giving

The lawyer was to all appearances an upright citizen, a faithful observer of the Mosaic Law. He was assertive, but that’s not an uncommon nor unforgivable trait in lawyers. His bigger problem was in expecting to use his legal expertise to argue his way into the kingdom of heaven. Jesus first pointed out to him the difference between the hair splitting legalities of humans and the sublimely simple system of the Lord. There are only two great laws; love the Lord, and love your neighbor.

The lawyer still seeking salvation through argumentation saw a loophole. “Who is my neighbor?” he asked. But Jesus turned his escape hatch into an infinitely open door to godlike service. He told the lawyer the story of the Good Samaritan.

The story contains many truths on many levels. But the truly sublime and celestial symbolism of the Samaritan comes in his simple words as he pays the inn keeper for the injured man’s lodging. “If it costs more, when I come again I will repay thee.” This is not a singular experience for this good man. He has not gone out of his way to help another. This is his way. He has purposely left his account open ended. Whatever it costs to serve another he will pay.

In this interpretation he is not just a good neighbor. He is a Christ symbol.

The lawyer was seeking the minimum requirements for salvation, the narrowest definition of neighbor that would qualify him for the kingdom. Jesus’ instead showed him that citizenship in the celestial kingdom comes not from a set of rules, but from a set of the heart. As it is in heaven so it is on earth. To live is to give. To the lawyer and to us the Lord offers the invitation, “This do and thou shalt live.”(Luke 10:28)