Many people make New Year resolutions and forget them a few days or a few weeks later. Other people set goals and make plans to put those goals into effect in their lives. Which group are you in?
Resolutions can be a spur of the moment idea, but goals take a bit of time to put into effect. “Goals reflect the desires of our hearts and our vision of what we can accomplish. Through goals and plans, our hopes are transformed into action. Goal setting and planning are acts of faith.” (See Preach My Gospel, Use Time Wisely, Chapter 8).
In order to set goals, we first have to make some choices. We have to choose what direction we desire to go with our lives, such as asking ourselves what we will do about our physical condition. Will we continue to let our weight go up and our health decrease or will we start eating healthy foods and exercising?
President Thomas S. Monson said that there are three Rs to making choices: (1) right of choice, (2) responsibility of choice, and (3) results of choice. After reminding us that our choices have consequences, he discussed the three Rs. Our right to choose came with us from our premortal existence. The gift of agency, or the right to choose, was given to us there by our Heavenly Father, and Satan tried to take our agency from us. President Monson quoted President David O. McKay as saying, “Next to the bestowal of life itself, the right to direct that life is God’s greatest gift to man.”
President Monson continued: “Next, with the right of choice comes the responsibility to choose. We cannot be neutral; there is no middle ground. The Lord knows this; Lucifer knows this. As long as we live upon this earth, Lucifer and his hosts will never abandon the hope of claiming our souls.
“Our Heavenly Father did not launch us on our eternal journey without providing the means whereby we could receive from Him God-given guidance to assist in our safe return at the end of mortal life….
“Decisions are constantly before us. To make them wisely courage is needed – the courage to say no, the courage to say yes. Decision do determine destiny.”
The final R of President Monson stands for “results of choice. All of our choices have consequences, some of which have little or nothing to do with our eternal salvation and others of which have everything to do with it….
“No temptation, pressure, no enticing can overcome us unless we allow such. If we make the wrong choice, we have no one to blame but ourselves….
“We have all made incorrect choices. If we have not already corrected such choices, I assure you that there is a way to do so. The process is called repentance. I plead with you to correct our mistakes. Our Savior died to provide you and me that blessed gift” (“The Three Rs of Choice,” Ensign, November 2010, pp 67-70).
Elder M. Russell Ballard of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles spoke about keeping life in balance. “All of us must come to an honest, open self-examination, an awareness within as to who and what we want to be.” Elder Ballard suggested eight steps to keeping our lives in balance: (1) “Think about your life and set your priorities.” (2) “Set short-term goals that you can reach.” (3) “Through wise budgeting, control our real needs and measure them careful against your many wants in life…. Be care of the many attractive offers to borrow money. It .is much easier to borrow money that it is to pay it back.” (4) “Stay close to your spouse, children, relatives, and friends.” (5) “Study the scriptures.” (6) “We must schedule time on our daily calendars for [sufficient rest, exercise, and relaxation] if we are to enjoy a healthy and balanced life. Good physical appearance enhances our dignity and self-respect.” (7) “Families should teach one another the gospel, preferably in a weekly family home evening.” (8) “Pray often as individuals and families” (“Keeping Life’s Demands in Balance,” Ensign, May 1986, pp. 13-16.)
Setting goals that we can meet is one part of keeping our lives in balance. The best goals are considered to be SMART goals. SMART stands for Specific, Measurable, Attainable, Relevant, Time-bound. The first step is to set a specific goal: what specifically do you want to accomplish? The second step is to make sure the goal is measurable: how can you measure your progress? The third step is attainable: can you meet this goal? The fourth step is relevant: will this goal help you meet larger life goals? The fifth step is time-bound: when you complete your goal?
I had a difficult time developing the habit of flossing my teeth every day until I set a goal to do it. My goal was specific, could be measured, was attainable, was relevant to my health, and was time-bound every night before I brushed my teeth. There were many nights that I would have gone to bed without flossing my teeth except I did not want to fail on my goal. I have now been flossing my teeth every day for seven years.
What do you need to do in order to keep your life in balance? I suggest that you choose two or three areas of your life and set a single SMART goal in each area; I know you can see big changes in your life by taking small steps every days.
President Monson stated, “When performance is measured, performance improves. When performance is measured and reported, the rate of improvement accelerates” (Conference Report, October 1970, pp. 107).