A goal is different from a hope or dream. The purpose is not to simply mark down what we desire, but to create actions and tasks in order to achieve that desire. Often we like to think of goals as these things we constantly think about and long for, which provide hope, but sometimes we actually have goals that we know we need to accomplish, but actually strike us with fear and horror. Missions, marriage, having children, obtaining a degree, repenting; these all can create paralyzing anxiety. Most of us are good at understanding that we need to do something, but we don’t know how.
The how is what I want to tackle today. Throughout my life I’ve found simple tools and ways of looking at goals that I may or may not have ripped off from friends, leaders, and gurus. Here’s how it works.
Create two columns:
- Can’t control
- Can control
It’s easier to list all of the things we can’t control because our mind will naturally point these out as excuses to procrastinate. If you’ve been procrastinating, then you’ve probably already got this list memorized, so go to town.
- Income – gotta’ be able to afford marriage right? Having a good job makes you more viable, doesn’t it?
- Attraction – I’d kind of like my wife to be into me.
- Agency – I can’t force anybody to do it. They have to want to.
- Prospects – these are limited by geography unless I want to succumb to online dating…which I don’t.
Once you’ve created that list, think of similar aspects that you can control. For instance, I can’t control attraction, but I can increase my likelihood of being attractive; I can do things that give me a better chance. Usually, you will discover that the uncontrollable elements of your goals involve the agency of others, while the controllable counterparts involve use of our agency. So, with that in mind, here are some examples of what I may be able to control.
- Financial responsibility – I can’t always control what I earn, but I can control how I use it.
- Live within my means
- Avoid unnecessary debt
- Appearance – I can’t control my attractiveness, but I can promote it.
- Improve health through diet and exercise.
- Dress nicer; wear more suiting attire.
- Improve hygiene; be clean and smell nice
- Stop slouching
- Personality – I can change my behavior in positive ways.
- Smile more
- Treat others better
- Show greater respect and appreciation to the opposite sex
- Be nicer
- Eliminate unattractive and harmful quirks/habits/traits.
- Worthiness – if I’m prepared I won’t miss an opportunity.
- Honor my priesthood
- Magnify my calling
- Hold and use a current temple recommend
- Stay worthy of the spirit so I can get some help!
- Dating – date more people in order to improve my chances
- “It’s always the last place you look” so don’t stop looking.
- If I run out of people to date, consider moving.
- Treat my dates with respect and courtesy
- Find ideas for more engaging dates
Once we have these two lists it becomes easier to see what we should and shouldn’t be worrying about. Obsessing over something we cannot control dooms us to misery. Don’t do it! Instead, decide to focus on those things you can control so that you can feel the joy and pride of accomplishment.
In the beginning, these may still seem like large goals. For instance, “improve health through diet and exercise” is monumental. So, break it down into simple tasks that you can complete. Think of daily tasks rather than abstract feely stuff. It’s easier to say, “I will limit my daily carbohydrates to 100 grams” than it is to say “I will eat healthier”. Remember, you have to be able to easily and simply measure it.
With that in mind, I’d love to hear from you. What are some of the goals and changes you have control over that can make a positive outcome toward a big scary monster goal?