Breaking Down Big Scary Monster Goals

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:

  1. Can’t control
  2. 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.


Example: Marriage

Can’t control:

  • 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.


Can control:

  • Financial responsibility – I can’t always control what I earn, but I can control how I use it.
    • Live within my means
    • Budget
    • 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?

  • Eugene Lewis

    I honestly think that both men and women should read this. I understand women would like to merry a man that is financially stable, but i have a question. Should that really matter? Should it really matter when it comes to the income they make, or if they are a return missionary? Should their looks matter because of what they’re friends would think of you being with that guy? Women need too look beyond the Vail. Don’t judge a book by it’s cover. Take the time to open it to see what’s inside. Now when it come to the guy’s, They do need to be trying to better their education, including myself. We do need to get out there and find a job because honestly if you’re going to start a family you need to be the bread winner. Stop going for these really attractive women because even a pretty woman can have the ugliest personality. Give those women that are less fortunate a chance on a date. You never know if she is the one if you never give her a shot. Don’t be shy, give it a try. Both men, and women need to start going on more dates. You will find out the things that you need to improve in, and the things that you want to improve in order to find your soul mate. There isn’t much time to play games. We are adults now.

  • Aaron L. M. Goodwin

    Geanie Beanie, this definitely applies to both sexes. I wrote it from my perspective because I’m a guy, and probably would do a horrible job at making the same sort of list for women. I think the important take-away is that you can’t obsess over how other people need to change because you have no power over that. In the end, they need to decide for themselves. In some ways, focusing on the shortcomings of others is a distraction from where the real work should be; on making changes for yourself. Instead of looking for an awesome women, become and awesome man, and then things will naturally fal into place. I think that’s the purpose of this post; the concentration, not just *who* needs *what*.

    As for your question, “Should it really matter when it comes to the income they make, or if they are a return missionary? Should they’re looks matter because of what they’re friends would think of you being with that guy?”

    Income doesn’t matter to everyone, but it matters to a lot of people. I don’t think women generally measure a man by his wallet, but rather, his wallet is evidence of his ability to work hard and to provide. Remember, they’re taking a huge risk by singing up for a relationship, especially in marriage, because they’re choosing to rely on your ability to care for them. Nobody would buy a car with obvious signs of huge risk and danger; marriage is the same.

    Does being an RM matter? If a guy had the chance and never took it, then yes. I think we both know that your situation is different. But in general, it can be a sign that the guy may not take his priesthood duties seriously because missionary service is a commandment. Of course, there are exceptions, where the guy could not serve for health or other circumstances, such as having just recently joined the church. Serving a mission doesn’t assure anybody of the guy being a good person, but neither does their lack of having served.

    Should looks matter? Probably not to the degree that they usually do. The longer I’m around, though, the more I realize that looks are a lesser influence than we realize, especially if other, more importnat qualities are present. Some things, like hair, eye, and skin color are probably not that important at all. But some physical things like weight, or modesty, can be signs of other issues. That’s not always true, but like I said, there’s a risk, and so you can’t expect somebody to look beyond those sort of danger signs. If they do, then great! But if they are things you could easily fix, then just fix ‘em.

    Nobody selling a used car would neglect to wash it thoroughly and pay attention to the details. Same goes for us; men and women. The important thing is to make goals for improvement that are realistic so you can gain confidence through achieving them.