Eternal Goals: Making & Fulfilling on Life’s Purpose

Eternal Goals: Making & Fulfilling on Life’s Purpose

Last Sunday I was asked to speak in church about making and fulfilling on goals.  I also introduced an exciting new project that my ward (or congregation) will be participating in.  I attend a ward for young single adults members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints.

The President of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints, Thomas S. Monson, told this thought provoking story in an October 1976 General Conference talk:

Several days ago, while driving to my home, I approached the entrance to Interstate 15. At the on-ramp I noticed three hitchhikers, each one of whom carried a homemade sign which announced his desired destination. One sign read “Los Angeles,” while a second carried the designation “Boise.” However, it was the third sign which not only caught my attention but caused me to reflect and ponder its message. The hitchhiker had lettered not Los Angeles, California, nor Boise, Idaho, on the cardboard sign which he held aloft. Rather, his sign consisted of but one word and read simply “ANYWHERE.” Here was one who was content to travel in any direction, according to the whim of the driver who stopped to give him a free ride. What an enormous price to pay for such a ride. No plan. No objective. No goal. The road to anywhere is the road to nowhere, and the road to nowhere leads to dreams sacrificed, opportunities squandered, and a life unfulfilled.
Thomas S. Monson, Which Road Will You Travel?

Imagine each of you are holding a sign up right now that says where you are going in life.  What does your sign say?  What would you like it to say?  And what would you like it to say if Christ were sitting next to you right now?

Your sign is another way of representing your life goals.  There are a lot of types of goals in life that lead down many different roads in this world.  We all want to go somewhere in life that will bring us happiness.  Though many things of the world try to convince us they offer happiness, how can we choose worthy goals that will bring us lasting happiness?  Even eternal happiness.

Eternal happiness is a life long goal.   Like many goals in life, we cannot get there in one stride.  There are steps we can take to help us set worthy goals for our lives as we ultimately seek eternal life.  Here are six steps we can take to make and fulfill on worthy goals:

  1. what_are_your_goalsDecide
  2. Ponder and pray
  3. Place milestones
  4. Set reminders
  5. Take action
  6. Be accountable
Step One is to decide.

When set a goal you first need to decide where you want to be in the future.   As President Monson’s earlier story illustrated, you can’t get where you want to go, if you don’t know where you are going.

Elder Joseph B. Wirthlin of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles said:

“[…] set explicit goals. You should look ahead now and decide what you want to do with your lives. Fix clearly in your mind what you want to be one year from now, five years, ten years, and beyond.” (“Running Your Marathon,” October 1989 General Conference)

Goal Setting

Goal Setting

Once you know where you want to get to in the future, you need to decide on a goal.  Goals can be big and small,  long and short term, and fall under any category of your life.

President Ezra Taft Benson, thirteenth President of the Church said:

 “Every accountable child of God needs to set goals, short- and long-range goals.  […] Some will be continuing goals.[…]” (“Do Not Despair,” Ensign, Oct. 1986).

President Benson also mentions that there are four main areas of goals in our lives: mental, physical, and social, spiritual, as well as the lifetime goal of becoming perfect unto Christ.

A.  Mental Goals may include completing higher education, learning new trades or occupations, improving skills in a craft or creative area.

D&C 88:118 reads:
And as all have not faith, seek ye diligently and teach one another words of wisdom; yea, seek ye out of the best books words of wisdom; seek learning, even by study and also by faith.

D&C 130:19 promises:

And if a person gains more knowledge and intelligence in this life through his diligence and obedience than another, he will have so much the advantage in the world to come.

Target and Arrow

Target and Arrow

B.  Physical Goals may include increasing your body’s strength, endurance, dexterity, excelling at sport, or improving overall health.   These would also include goals to improve your obedience to gospel principals like dressing modestly and obeying the Word of Wisdom.

“Cease to be idle; cease to be unclean; cease to find fault one with another; cease to sleep longer than is needful; retire to thy bed early, that ye may not be weary; arise early, that your bodies and your minds may be invigorated” (D&C 88:124).

1 Corinthians 6:19-20 reads:

19 What? know ye not that your body is the temple of the Holy Ghost which is in you, which ye have of God, and ye are not your own?

 20 For ye are bought with a price: therefore glorify God in your body, and in your spirit, which are God’s.

C.  Social Goals may include improving skills in listening, parenting, public speaking, and leadership.

Proverbs 18:24 tells us:

 24 A man that hath friends must shew himself friendly: and there is a friend that sticketh closer than a brother.

The Master's Touch

The Master’s Touch

D.  Spiritual Goals may include building your testimony, increasing your faith in a gospel principal, magnifying your calling, doing a service project, and increasing temple attendance.

D&C 42:61 states:

 61 If thou shalt ask, thou shalt receive revelation upon revelation, knowledge upon knowledge, that thou mayest know the mysteries and peaceable things—that which bringeth joy, that which bringeth life eternal.

E.  Lifetime Goals are goals of an eternal nature that help you to become perfect unto Christ.

President Ezra Taft Benson said:

Each week when we partake of the sacrament we commit ourselves to the goals of taking upon ourselves the name of Christ, of always remembering him and keeping his commandments. Of Jesus’ preparations for his mission, the scripture states that he ‘increased in wisdom and stature, and in favour with God and man.’ (Luke 2:52.) This encompasses four main areas for goals: spiritual, mental, physical, and social. ‘Therefore, what manner of men ought ye to be?’ asked the Master, and he answered, ‘Verily I say unto you, even as I am.’ (3 Ne. 27:27.) Now, there is a lifetime goal–to walk in his steps, to perfect ourselves in every virtue as he has done, to seek his face, and to work to make our calling and election sure (“Do Not Despair,” Ensign, Oct. 1986).

Step Two is to Ponder and Pray.
Woman Praying

Woman Praying

Once we’ve decided on what we want for ourselves and your futures, we can prayerfully ponder steps we should take and make a plan of action.  We can seek revelation in our Patriarchal blessings as to what goals to make and how to execute those goals in our lives.

Elder Joseph B. Wirthlin said: 

Receive your patriarchal blessing and strive to live worthy of its promises. A patriarchal blessing is one of the most important guides in life that members of the Church enjoy. Write your goals and review them regularly. Keep them before you constantly, record your progress, and revise them as circumstances dictate. (“Running Your Marathon,” October 1989 General Conference)

Step Three is to Place Milestones.

Milestones are defined as “an action or event marking a significant change or stage in development.”  Milestones help us to see we are growing and changing.  They help us to strive towards something and achieve more than we otherwise would have.  Goals are not meant to be achieved in one large chunk, but just as learning is done “line upon line, precept upon precept“ (D&C 98:12) so should goals be broken down into smaller goals.  Place milestones on the path to your goal ahead of time and work towards them.

Step Four is to Set Reminders.

When you have a constant physical reminder of your goal it becomes more real.   One of my goals is to always become more Christ-like, so I have a painting and a stature of Christ in my bedroom that I can see from where I sit while I work.  Whenever I need a extra sense of peace or need to be reminded of my goal I glance up at Christ and my purpose is restored.  Wearing a CTR ring or setting a daily reminder in your phone to exercise or read your scriptures are other examples.

Step Five is to Take Action.

It’s great to decide where you wan to go, ponder and pray, place milestones, and set reminders, but all of that will be ineffective if we don’t take action.

D&C 60:13 reads:

“Thou shalt not idle away thy time, neither shalt thou bury thy talent that it may not be known” (D&C 60:13).

Step Six is to Be Accountable.

When you have a system of accountability your results in your goals will increase.

Elder M. Russel Ballard of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles said:

Write down the tasks you would like to accomplish each day. Keep foremost in mind the sacred covenants you have made with the Lord as you write down your daily schedules. (“Keeping Life’s Demands in Balance,” April 1987 General Conference)

Elder Joseph B. Wirthlin suggests:

Write your goals and review them regularly. Keep them before you constantly, record your progress, and revise them as circumstances dictate. (“Running Your Marathon,” October 1989 General Conference)

There is no where on Earth more important to achieving Eternal Life than The House of the Lord, the Temple. 

We should all make the Temple our biggest goal whether it’s to get there for the first time, to get there more often, or to increase or testimony of the Temple.

The Los Angeles Temple of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints

The Los Angeles Temple of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints

The first time I wanted to enter the Temple I was four years old.  I remember the moment so vividly.  I was riding in the car with my parents and we drove by the Los Angeles Temple.  I was immediately drawn to it.  It felt very special and I knew I had to go in.  I had never been so curious about what occurred inside a building before, but I ached to be a part of it.  I asked my mom what it was, and she answered, that it was “someone else’s Temple and I couldn’t ever go in.”  As a young Jewish girl, I was curious who else built Temples, and was disappointed that I couldn’t be involved, but I accepted her answer.  However I hung onto that early memory though it was buried.

I wasn’t until years later that I was investigating the church more than twenty years later that the memory surfaced.  The desire to go into the Temple was stronger than ever.   So I decided consciously this time that my goal was the Temple. And I placed milestones to get there.  I set Baptismal date.  Took the missionary discussions.  Got Baptized four and half years ago.  Once that was completed, I went to the Temple to do baptisms for the first time.  It was amazing and powerful.  It Spirit was so strong.  But my Temple journey didn’t end there.  I wanted to get endowed.  So set new milestones.  I accepted callings.  Took the Temple Prep class.  And then I received my endowment.  It was the best decision I could have made.  My decision to set the Temple as my goal has blessed my life more than I can even comprehend.  More than I had ever imagined as a little four year old that had a secret goal of going to the Temple.

Elaine S. Dalton said the following in April 2012 General Conference:

[…] I [was] thrilled as I listened to Elder David A. Bednar invite each of you to become anxiously engaged in doing your own family history and temple work for those who have passed on without the blessings of the restored gospel of Jesus Christ.  As he issued this invitation to you, my heart leapt inside. In the Doctrine and Covenants we read of “other choice spirits who were reserved to come forth in the fulness of times to take part in laying the foundations of the great latter-day work, including the building of … temples and the performance of ordinances therein for the redemption of the dead.”  This is your day, and your work has begun! Now is the time to be worthy of and obtain a temple recommend. As you do this work, you will become saviors on Mount Zion.  (“Now Is The Time To Arise And Shine!,” April 2012 General Conference)

Family File Milestones Poster

The Family File Milestones Poster I designed for the Family History project occurring in my ward

What an amazing promise: to be a savior on Mount Zion.  And we can all achieve that.  Especially in light of a new program relating to ward Temple and Family History work that’s being presented today.  You may have seen the posters in either foyer and you  should have  a copy of your own to take home in each of your programs (pictured left).  As a ward we will be collectively be researching our own family histories to find Family File names.  Familly file names are from your own family lineage.  You research them and then take them to the temple to do ordinances for those ancestors.

As a ward, our goal will be to do a thousand family file names.  Each family file name will count once (regardless of how many ordinances you do for each name).  Since goals don’t happen in one stride, we will have milestones along the way of 100 family file names completed, then 200 names, then 300, and so on up to 1000.

Elaine S. Dalton said the following in April 2012 General Conference:

The promised blessings of the temple extend not only to you but to all generations. As you make the temple your goal, your influence for good will transcend time and place, and the work you perform for those who have gone before will be the fulfillment of prophecy!  (“Now Is The Time To Arise And Shine!,” April 2012 General Conference)

I know that as we do this work for our ancestors we will bless them and we also will be blessed.

Elder Marvin J. Ashton said:

 “May we launch straightway toward setting goals that are gospel oriented, knowing that if we use the talents that are ours–that if we help others, strive for peace, avoid being overly sensitive or overly critical–strength upon strength will be added unto our own abilities and we will move straightway toward greater growth, happiness, and eternal joys”. (“Straightway,” April 1983 General Conference)

I like to leave you with my testimony that I know that setting and fulfilling on goals is a way we can achieve eternal happiness.  I know that as we set our goals on the Temple and other eternal things we will be blessed with peace, happiness, knowledge and revelation, and other things we need in our lives.  I know that through Temples families can be together forever.  I love the Temple.  I love Heavenly Father and I love the Savior, Jesus Christ.  And I say this in His name, Amen.

Angel Moroni

Angel Moroni

Getting Things Done (GTD) – A Weekly Schedule System & Excel Template Download

Getting Things Done (GTD) – A Weekly Schedule System & Excel Template Download

Getting Things Out of My Brain And Getting Things Done

Getting Things Out of My Brain And Getting Things Done

This post includes a Weekly GTD Schedule – Microsoft Excel Template Download.  If you want to skip the post and go straight to the download, click HERE.

I consider myself a very productive person.  I get a lot of things done.  I’ve accomplished quite a bit.  I’ve written two novels, designed many websites, worked on Alternate Reality Games for organizations like the Cerebral Palsy Foundation and The World Bank, maintain an active social, family, and most importantly spiritual life.  I take care of my health with doctor’s and therapy appointments, meet weekly with my writing group, craft excessively, serve in multiple church callings, and blog now and then.  My plate is overflowing, so let’s just say I’m up to some big things!  However, to date, I’ve managed to do all this without any significant structured planning of my time on a day to day basis.  Maybe you’ll find it impressive that I’ve gone so long without any sort of a schedule or plan, just doing what seem right in the moment, as it occurs to me.  That’s code for “whatever task is stressing me out the most that second”.

Enough is enough.

I decided it’s time to try Getting Things Done in a more organized way.  Conveniently for me, Getting Things Done or GTD, as it’s often referred to by its adherents, is a system for just what its name implies – getting things done.  It was created by David Allen, and there’re plenty of resources in other locations where you can learn more about GTD.  But for a quick overview, check out this infographic:

Getting Things Done David Allen Infographic

Getting Things Done David Allen Infographic

Once I learned about this system, and with some help and advice from others, I decided to focus on creating a schedule for myself based on GTD.  The idea being I would now have set “Bucket Times” to manage all the areas on my life according to the principals of GTD.  But I’ll get back to Bucket Times later.

The main problem I was facing with finding a system that would work with me was finding something I could stick with.  In the past systems either were so cumbersome, scheduling and planning me so rigidly that I couldn’t realistically do it long term.  Or on the other hand, the systems were so vague and abstract, focusing only on broad goals that they didn’t help me commit to anything.  The third category of problem systems were ones that were incomplete, only addressing certain aspects of what I needed from an organization system and leaving me feeling semi-organized but ultimately even more overwhelmed.  Why?  Because now I knew exactly what I needed to do but had no structures in place to help me accomplish any of it.

To address of this, I there are 4 major components to my personalized GTD system I am putting into place initially.  (This is just to get started.  After these are going well I will add more.)

  1. Identify 6-9 Major Areas of Life
      Roles and areas are the major categories of your life such as Family, School, Faith, Friends, Work, Writing etc.
  2. List 10 Most Pressing Tasks Under Each Major Role/Area
      Most pressing tasks are tasks that currently need to be taken for that area.  For example, for Family, it might be something like “Spend time with Mom” or “Game Night.”  For Work, it might be “Sign the Parsons contract” or “Return Sonya’s phone call.”  Any task that has more than two steps is called a Project.
  3. Create A Weekly Schedule of Bucket Times To Stick To Each Week
    Weekly GTD Schedule - Microsoft Excel Template - Sample Data

    A my weekly GTD schedule with “Bucket Times” as sample data.
    Download the Excel Template for the file to create your own Weekly Schedule!

      Bucket Times are blocks of time designated at the same time every week for completing tasks in each of your Major Areas.  For example, I created Spiritual Time every evening from 10pm – 11pm.  During those times I will refer to my List of Tasks for that Area of Life for to do items to complete.  See the Downloads Section at the bottom of this post for an Excel template tool to help with this!
  4. Generate Mind-Dump Of EVERY Open Loop In Life
      Open loops are thought processes that are incomplete.  They keep the mind’s inbox full when it’s most productive empty.  Empty that inbox by downloading everything in it!  Generate a complete list of everything, every to do, action item, task, someday task, maybe task, goal, dream ,wish, hope, plan, etc.  Include everything from “Remember to pick up the milk” to “Improve relationship with Dad” to “Travel the world”.  Get that mind completely empty and onto something tangible and permanent that is workable for future reference.

Once I had a plan of action, it was just a matter of putting it into place…

Starting is always easier said than done.

I needed some help getting started. So I decided to enroll someone else to do this thing with me. No, not all of you readers! My dear writing buddy who I create my day with every morning. I told her all about his idea and explained GTD to her (the Cliff Notes version). She was on board.

Over Skype, we came up with our Major Areas of Life.  This is mine:

Weekly GTD Schedule - Major Areas of Life

Weekly GTD Schedule – Major Areas of Life

Next I began to list my lost pressing tasks under each area.  I’m constantly working on my list.

Then I created a schedule by which I would process the list of tasks. But instead of a rigid list of strictly scheduled times like ones that hadn’t worked for me in the past, I am working with a schedule of Bucket Times.  The beauty of Bucket Times is it structured enough in that it gives you a set time you are committed to making forward progress in an area of your life, but it is flexible enough that you still get to choose what is most expedient to do within that Area.  Furthermore, the whole schedule isn’t so rigid that the whole thing risks being thrown off if you go over a few minutes.  As I see it, if you get behind you are often still within your bucket time for that type of item.  And even if you aren’t you can rest assured that you have more time scheduled for that item soon.  So file add it to your Bucket Time list for later.  Lastly, the overarching rule is that this isn’t a rigid system, meaning the operative work is: expediency.

When all else fails, do whatever is most expedient in the moment.

I am committed to using this new system for a trial of the next 3 months.  In the meantime,  I’m looking forward to seeing an upswing in my productivity.  And more importantly a decrease in my feelings of overwhelm at not knowing how to handle the overflowing plate that is my life.  In this analogy, I’ve been eating off an overflowing plate for a long long time.  Sure I’ve been digesting my food and getting nutrient, but lots of things haven’t been sitting well.  GTD is a set of silverware – tools to help me eat my food, so that I can take small manageable bites and digest it easily and effectively.  The schedule works like a restaurant menu (thanks Paul for that one!) with various selections for each category of food or area of my life.  Some items or Tasks on the menu are more bland and others are the spice of life!

Give me a helping of work every weekday.  Indulge in a double portion of friendship on weekends.  A spicy side dish of romance if I’m so lucky!  Pile it on my plate and enjoy a delicious, nutritious, and satisfying life!

Stay tuned for Part Two of this post series on Generating a Mind-Dump of All Your Open Loops coming soon!  Get an email reminder when it comes out!  Subscribe to the newsletter!

I hope you enjoy the Downloads below.  The Weekly Schedule Templates for Microsoft Excel should be helpful tools for planning a schedule in the fashion described in this post.  Please post comments with ideas for improvements, and I will do my best to make them.