“Whatsoever ye ask the Father in my name it shall be given unto you, that is expedient for you; And if ye ask anything that is not expedient for you, it shall turn unto your condemnation.” (D&C 88:64-65)
Warning – this is long.
I’ve been pondering the following topic now for over a year, knowing that one day I would try to capture it in writing. But it’s a deep topic and I didn’t expect it to be an easy one, so it’s been pushed off many, many times.
It has not taken much to distract me from doing it.
But I finally decided to get started, at least to begin gathering into one location the many epiphanies and personal notes I had been jotting down in the previous months.
To begin, let me back up a little bit and explain what I’ve been going through since 2008.
As I’ve described in previous posts, our family experienced the “ebbs” of the financial crisis of 2008 in much the same way that many other families did. Stress was high, relationships were strained, and we found ourselves questioning just about everything we thought we knew.
After writing two bestsellers, my message focus was evolving from “how to create an amazing life” to “how to make sense out of setbacks and profit from your losses,” because my expertise on the latter seemed to be expanding almost on a daily basis, leading to the release of my third bestseller.
My inner drive to get things done, which had started out as a virtue (in the form of ‘passion for a cause’), had turned into a vice (in the form of ‘workaholic-ness’), but to consider stopping felt like I might be “disobeying a call”, or “letting the world down”, or “failing to reach my highest potential”.
I was exhausted and tried to stop many times, but when the next problem came along (and there were plenty), I always jumped back on because I was convinced I could solve it. It’s a virtue to “think you can,” and then “go after it,” right? How could that possibly be bad?
By 2011, I was so fatigued I lost my drive altogether. Though I had tried to hop off the hamster wheel before, this was different. And it was the strangest thing for me to hop off “for reals” and find myself surprisingly at peace.
(Those who were watching me from the outside were probably thinking, “Well, duh… it took you long enough.”)
As I worked on decluttering my life, once in a while something would be brought to my attention that shifted my thinking just a little bit. It seemed that, depending on whatever God wanted me to ponder next, neon lights would figuratively shine on one scripture (too long to quote here) or another (“I, the Lord, am not well pleased with him, for he seeketh to excel, and he is not sufficiently meek before me.” D&C 58:41), accompanied by a strong feeling that I needed to stop and ponder it for a while. Sometimes I’d ponder one for months.
While I was trying to figure things out, I watched as other people were applying the principles of success to achieve their dreams, but with sometimes collateral damage in their wake. When the desire to achieve a goal is strong enough, there is a willingness to go through (or in some cases, cause) a temporary hell in order to reach the success waiting on the other side of it.
So I wondered about myself. Does the end always justify the means? In every case? I wasn’t sure. Even though I had pulled back in my business, I was still clinging to several goals, hopes, and dreams that I absolutely could not let go of, but which were putting a strain on my relationship with my husband.
I began to wonder, “What sacrifices was I willing to make to achieve them? Would there be collateral damage if I kept pursuing them? Had I unknowingly already done too much damage?”
I got quiet and wanted to be careful not to post my conclusions without first taking a long time to ponder what was true. What was the truth that could be true in all situations? What was the foundational, guiding principle that I needed to understand?
What is more important: achieving a goal, or preserving a relationship? Surely that depends, right?
As I observed the way other people tackled their goals, sometimes the end DID seem to justify the means, but other times, I wasn’t so sure.
But I did find a truth in all of this. The truth I found, the simple lesson I was beginning to learn, was this:
There is a time and season unto every purpose under heaven. In other words…
Just because you can, it doesn’t mean you should.
The Jackrabbit Factor is all about helping my readers discover “Why they CAN”. Why they can accomplish the impossible. Why they can achieve their dreams, when perhaps they didn’t previously believe that they could. It’s an important message, which continues to change lives all over the world. I keep hearing from people who tell me what it’s done for them – such as this one, which just arrived yesterday: “In a month’s time we went from $19k/year expecting to be starving artists for the rest of our lives to over $70k/year and much more to come on the horizon. Thank you…”
But even with all the success that comes from applying the principles, my recent observations and personal experiences were teaching me that “CAN” does not necessarily imply “DO!”
We choose whether or not to “do”, after discovering first that we “can”.
This is agency. We are free to choose.
First we must really come to know that anything IS possible. It’s true – we have the power to exercise that “Rare kind of Faith” to co-create (with God) an incredible life.
But just because we have the power, it doesn’t mean we should activate that power in every situation.
Forgive the comparison, but it might easier to understand if you look at the similarities between the power of co-creation and the power of pro-creation.
Co-creation is a term that is often used for the application of the principles of success, including ‘law of attraction’. It is a worthy, God-given power, under the right circumstances.
Pro-creation is the power to make a baby. This is also a worthy, God-given power, under the right circumstances.
Both activate a creative power. But both must also be used with wisdom and restraint, because without it, their use can lead to pain and sorrow. We are free to choose what we do, but we are not free to choose the consequences connected to those choices.
This is true, regardless of whether we are consciously AWARE there may be consequences to be avoided.
So, should I always do what I am capable of doing? Let’s say I’m facing a problem. Should I always solve it?
I concluded that just because I am able and willing to achieve a goal or solve a problem, it doesn’t mean I should always achieve that goal, or try to solve that problem.
What?? This was a new thought to me.
I know… It’s kind of crazy.
How on earth am I going to explain this so it makes sense. Let me start with a few questions:
- Is it ever okay to give up on a dream?
- Could it ever be okay to set a goal and do nothing about it?
- When could it possibly be okay, to intentionally NOT solve a problem?
I’m telling ya what, just when I thought I had life figured out…
Following is my long-procrastinated attempt at explaining it.
I’ve taught classes and written many articles about the importance of action in the goal-setting process or formula for success.
It’s still true: action is important. But this discussion is going to go a little differently.
This isn’t about getting what you want; it’s more about how to ‘counsel your wants’, and why you might want to.
I’ve been a goal setter for as long as I can remember, at least as far back as maybe age 12. This is why I experienced such tremendous depression in the early years of our marriage, because external circumstances seemed to have hijacked my previously well-controlled, intention-driven life.
Seven years of disappointments, and I eventually discovered how many of my failed circumstances were what they were, because of how we (especially I) had been thinking.
HUGE revelation. Timely. Needed. Relevant. Necessary.
Because, I (we) could finally start doing it right. With our newfound understanding of the principles of success, we went from living in poverty to tripling our income in three months.
But that’s not where the story ends.
Yeah, our combination lock to ‘freedom’ may have sprung open, but it wasn’t until recently that I realized I personally had another big lock that needed opening.
When NOT to set a goal?
I had always derived a lot of self-esteem out of setting a goal and achieving it – out of attempting something hard and conquering it. I decided to get my college degree—for crying out loud—in the ONE subject that had always given me the most grief.
Who does that???
I was a conqueror. Nothing else felt quite like enjoying yet another personal victory, and so I rested my future and my children’s success on ‘goal achievement’ being the A-Number-One necessary skill for each of us to develop, and ultimately perfect.
Even worse, I rested the future of my marriage on our ability as a couple to set and achieve goals together.
You might be wondering why I’d say, “even worse”.
Yeah, if you aren’t already ahead of me on this, you really should be wondering about that. I hope to shed some light there.
Simply put, I had lofty expectations for our life together.
But in time, my husband helped me realize that, although he shared my vision to some degree, the pace with which I thought we should be reaching those goals (which I believed was certainly reasonable) made it nearly impossible for him to impress me.
I felt like we were going nowhere. But the reality was that his personal growth was happening differently than I thought it should, in ways that I couldn’t see. I was so hyper-focused on how closely our life matched my vision, that I wasn’t paying any attention to how things might be going from his point of view. He says he was on track toward HIS goals, but to me, it looked like we were stagnating, because I couldn’t see him taking strides towards our couple (ahem, MY) goals.
My expectations always seemed to sit far beyond where we were, (dream big, right?!) thinking it would inspire him to dream bigger, reach farther, go faster, (and thus be happier, of course); but in reality, it only left him feeling like he could never catch up, or never be good enough to meet my expectations, so why try. He felt utterly defeated.
He had become convinced (after 20 years of evidence) that I’d never be satisfied, and that as a result, his condition in our relationship was hopeless. He lost confidence in his ability to make me happy, and his discouragement was numbing. To make things worse, I could see his unhappiness and blamed him for it, because surely, if he’d just set higher goals and focus more on achieving them, he’d be happier (and so would I). Right?
The truth is, he WAS accomplishing many things, just not the things on MY list. I couldn’t see his accomplishments. So, without realizing it, my drive for Leslie’s version of success had effectively been prolonging our arrival to wherever it was I thought we were supposed to be.
I think deep down I knew I was somewhat responsible for his lackluster enthusiasm toward my vision, but I resented that. I felt like—obviously—we should want the same things, and so naturally, he should also be independently driven to go after them, right?
I’m pretty sure I wasn’t going to see things differently so long as I kept pushing myself, and him. And it’s not like I was task-mastering him, it was more like checking in on how things were going with this or that, when “this or that” wasn’t even on his radar. He might have been focused on his goals, but since they were invisible to me, I’d get upset that he still hadn’t made any progress on mine.
I know, it sounds unreasonable to me too, now that I write about it; I just didn’t know how to change. It’s hard to stop doing the wrong things while you’re still convinced that you’re right to do them.
Deep down though, I knew I had to change something about myself before I’d see clearly what I needed to be doing about us. I had to stop actively thinking about my goals and hold still for a time, shut out the noise, and instead find out what God wanted me to do.
Through this multi-year process, I learned that some problems should be left alone to be solved by someone else who has stewardship over solving that problem, in whatever time frame they choose to solve it.
Now there’s a leap of faith, to let someone else solve a problem. It can honestly be a harder leap even than exercising your own faith to solve it, sometimes.
Especially if that person doesn’t think there’s a problem.
But I began to realize that even if I think I might do a better job, or even if I might solve it quicker, or even if there’s a risk that it may never be solved at all, sometimes it’s better to let others flex their muscles and get stronger through the experience, or learn from the failure, whichever way it goes. No matter what the outcome.
I know, that’s easier said than done. It takes total faith in God to trust that he will help you handle the outcome, no matter how it plays out.
That was my problem. I had always been afraid we’d fail too much if I let go, that I wouldn’t be able to handle the potential disappointments if I disengaged.
Ironically, to take the next step, I had to get away from the world of personal development long enough, stop spending time with friends who were running toward goals, stop listening to mentors (really??), and quiet all the voices in my head that belittled ‘small goals’, condemned failure as being ‘not an option’ (of course failure should not be an option, shouldn’t it??), and which also incessantly urged me on to GREATNESS (as if that’s a bad thing!).
My inner compass, which told me to stop listening to those voices, didn’t make logical sense. But I followed it anyway, because the more they nagged, the more my marriage was suffering. I had to find a better way.
Instinctively, I knew I needed to slow down, and just listen to what might show up if all those voices were gone. I also knew it could take months or even years to unravel the confusion and get myself to true clarity, but I was finally ready to take that journey.
After all, not ALL of the voices in our head are from God. Even the good, motivating messages received and carried out at the wrong time, in the wrong way, or to an excessive degree can be a trap, so we must always be discerning.
In time, a very simple, quiet thought surfaced, reminding me that I have always planned to be with my husband for eternity. That I intended for my temple marriage covenant to sit at the top of all other priorities. It was a simple thought, without fanfare.
So I began to ponder it:
“If we’re really in this together for the long haul, why do I need him to run faster toward my goals? If we will truly have eternity together, what’s the hurry?”
“Well,” I argued back, “Doesn’t timing matter? Shouldn’t we be constantly and anxiously engaged in a good cause? Shouldn’t we be a team? If I let go of my expectations, life may never end up looking the way I pictured it.”
Could I give up on my dreams?
Giving up on the vision that strained our relationship would mean removing a ton of pressure off my husband, but could I do it? Did I even know how? How can you possibly un-see what you’ve been shown is possible?
Actually, the thought of giving up just made me feel angry. Livid, in fact.
I shook my fist at the heavens and cried many, many times, “If you didn’t want me to have it, why did you let me see what was possible?! Don’t show it to me if I can’t have it!”
But heaven was silent in response. It just let me throw my tantrums and offered no explanation or solace. I ached and agonized like I was grieving the loss of a loved one. I “ugly-cried” many, many times, over many, many months.
One day after I regained my composure I thought, “Fine. I’ll just give up then.” After all, I had made a marriage covenant before God, angels, and witnesses, legally and lawfully binding, and in comparison, there was no official covenant between me and God about life the way I WANTED IT, so this informed my decision.
Resigning to this bitter defeat almost felt like I was committing suicide by poison, and deep down, I was blaming my husband that I had to take it.
Yeah… about that. If this post is feeling a little heavy, here’s your comic relief:
(Content Warning – she says the “d” word.)
Blame makes you blind. It makes you see only one side of the coin. I had begun to view him differently than he really was, and I could only see the things that supported my internal ‘blaming’ dialogue.
But that’s where I was at. Pitying myself, I thought, “So be it then, I can be a martyr.”
But then strangely, something about ‘giving up’ began to feel kind of good, and I don’t mean the twisted satisfaction that usually accompanies self-pity.
No, the thought of letting go of my goals was unexpectedly relieving.
Although goal achievement had always given me a ‘high’, I was now experiencing a different, sweeter kind of feeling from considering what life could be like if I stopped actively pursuing “the next level”, and instead, practiced living in gratitude for things just as they were.
I kind of thrilled at the new challenge this would be, of getting really creative in making the most out of whatever future conditions we might find ourselves in, together. Of letting my husband set the pace for our goal achievement, if he chose to set couple goals at all.
My life was over anyway, I thought.
I can be a hot-headed ginger. (NOOOOO, you say.) Some say that we redheads have no souls. Sometimes I wonder if I’m more emotionally volatile than your average female, I’m not really sure. I’ve really been working on tempering my emotions, but during this time, I was really up and down. Some moments I felt amazingly great. Other moments I was consumed with anger and despair.
“My husband matters more,” I flatly resolved. “My marriage covenant matters more.” I tried to convince myself.
But those well-intentioned thoughts eventually turned into a more sardonic version: “I guess MY life doesn’t really matter here.” I hated it, but that’s really what it came down to.
I thought that if only he would have shared my vision and wanted to get there as fast as I wanted us to, I wouldn’t have to go through this internal wrestle. Basically, I wouldn’t have to choose between my dreams, and our relationship.
But when I finally released all expectations that he would ever change, I actually felt a tiny smidgen of joy.
I have previously said that there is no greater joy than in overcoming obstacles to accomplish a goal. But I think I was wrong. The kind of joy I felt in that moment was surprisingly more exquisite than the joy that typically accompanies goal-achievement.
Now, I’ve felt true and deep joy before, so it’s not like this was a new experience, but I NEVER expected to feel that joy in giving up on a dream.
Achievement, freedom, joy—they’re are all sweet and fulfilling. But there’s something special about the joy that is not connected to achievement, and I think it has something to do with Grace. Achievement certainly plays an important part in our lives, but this kind of joy is unique.
I’ve been pondering this privately for over a year now, while I tried to make sense of it. After having actively championed the cause of goal achievement for over 15 years, what was I to make of this? What do I do with it? Do I share what I’ve been learning? How do I explain it?
It was inexplicable to me, and so I didn’t even dare try.
Until yesterday, when I watched The Saratov Approach, a movie based on the true story of two Christian missionaries serving in Russia who were taken hostage for ransom in the late 1990s. Time magazine had just published an article about wealthy Christian churches, so a couple Russian men plotted to make a quick buck by kidnapping them.
In the movie, there was a segment that was almost perfectly analogous to the thoughts and feelings I couldn’t seem to explain, which have since brought me to a better place.
The missionaries’ situation seemed hopeless, as it became clear that the church wasn’t going to pay the ransom. The families had the means to pay it, but decided not to, because it would have essentially put every other Christian missionary around the world into danger as a potential target for easy money.
Eventually, the lead captor prepared to kill the missionaries and remove all evidence of their crimes, once it became clear that they weren’t going to get the payoff they expected.
Spoiler alert – I won’t show you the ending, but I am going to talk about it, and share a poignant moment from the movie that captures what I’m trying to describe.
Things were not going well, but at one point, the missionary named Probst manages to get OUT of his handcuffs. Pausing to comprehend the new possibilities, he somberly wakes Tuttle and whispers, “We’re free…”
Their plan for escaping is not a palatable solution for the young Christian missionaries. They’ve never hurt anyone, like they were preparing to hurt their captors. They know that nobody would blame them for doing whatever was necessary to become free. They would be completely justified. Though it’s a terrifying prospect, they are determined to muster the courage to do “what needs to be done.”
Do they have the guts? Can they pull it off without a hitch? What if they fail? What if their plan backfires on them?
I’ve taught goal-achieving strategies to help people do the hard and scary things that need to be done in order to obtain freedom. There is a terror barrier that must be faced any time we are about to change our life in significant ways.
In this clip, Probst faces that terror barrier:
But in this moment of decision, where two very different futures apparently hang in the balance, significant moments in Probst’s life flash through his mind. He is reminded of who he is, and why he is there.
He is reminded of a bigger picture, where freedom is not the ultimate or only goal.
In this moment, something divine intervenes, not providing full clarity or even showing a different vision for their future, but providing only a glimpse of what is right for them to do in that moment.
Faith is doing the right thing, even when you do not know how it is going to play out.
This is what I mean by the message of The Jackrabbit Factor – how to get to that place of knowing what to do next, even if “what’s next” seems crazy to everyone else.
It’s also what I mean by the message of Portal to Genius – that the solution to every problem is only one idea away, so all we really need is inspired guidance, and the peace of mind that comes from knowing that everything will turn out for the best, if we follow it.
As for the missionaries, even though they followed the guidance, they were still captive, and their future still looked bleak. Doing what they felt was right did not seem to change their fate, but neither did they expect it to.
That’s not why they followed the prompting. They only followed it because it was the right thing for them to do in that moment, and they knew it.
So, what happens next? Actually, what happens next doesn’t really matter. What matters is that they made a choice that aligned with the Bigger Plan, even though they couldn’t see what that was.
Again, just because we CAN, doesn’t mean we SHOULD
What if my goal to be ‘free’ in the here and now brings me an idea or a strategy that can work, but which may have long-term unfavorable consequences that I can’t foresee?
What if the same goal could be achieved in a way that doesn’t hurt anyone?
Or rather – setting the goal aside altogether – what if I decided to let someone else’s life matter more than my own?
I was reminded of my grievance: “I guess MY life doesn’t really matter here,” and something shifted. Suddenly it went from being a lament, to a declaration of joy:
“Oh my goodness… My life doesn’t matter here!!!”
I experienced a strangely restful sensation deep in my soul when I abandoned myself completely to the possibility that I may even lose my eternal reward if I stop trying so hard to shape our circumstances into the vision I’d always had for our marriage, and instead, just give up on MY goals, and spend my life making him happy.
That’s when this popped into my head:
“For whosoever will save his life shall lose it: and whosoever will lose his life for my sake shall find it.” ~ Matthew 10:25
So THIS is where he has been leading me. THIS is what it’s all about! I had heard that verse many, many times, but had never experienced it’s meaning until now.
Again, nobody would fault the missionaries for defending themselves. They had every right to do what was necessary to survive. They would have been fully justified in their actions, as are many people who choose to respond to their marriage difficulties differently than me.
But it is still a choice. In the missionaries’ case, God had a different plan, and fortunately they paused long enough to notice. As for me and my goals, I hope I will always pause to see if God has a different plan for me than the one I’m pursuing.
Bringing it all back:
Remember the moment when Probst was prepared to carry out the plan, but something caused him to pause and ponder?
That was me, feeling like I needed to slow down and listen.
Remember that moment when he sat on the mattress and reflected on his decision to NOT go through with their plan?
That was me, simplifying my life and quieting the voices in my head that had been urging me to dream bigger, go faster, and do more.
Remember that moment when he put the handcuffs back on?
That was me, choosing to put my marriage above my goals that had been straining our relationship.
Remember when he was told to write his last goodbyes and he began to cry?
That was me, mourning the death of my dreams.
Remember when he resolved to protect the other missionaries even though it probably meant death?
That was me, resolving to preserve our relationship, even though I was unhappy and had lost hope in our future.
Remember that moment when they realized they felt calm?
That was me, too, as I discovered a sweeter joy than I had ever felt from any of my goal-setting victories. And this time, the feeling didn’t come ‘from within’. It seemed instead to come from outside of me, as if God really wanted me to be clear that it was a gift FROM HIM, letting me know he was really there, mindful of me, and giving me strength and assurance that it would all be worth it in the end.
The rest of the story
As for the missionaries, there is a shift and a happy ending. I hope you’ll get to watch it sometime, because it is powerful. As for me, I’m also seeing things shift in my life in ways that I never expected. I’ve been keeping the details to myself, while I tried to figure it all out and make sure I was coming to the right conclusions.
I made the decision to let go of my dreams without expectations. I was resigned to whatever my new fate would be. I entrusted my life to God’s hands without conditions.
While I practiced intentionally living without a focus on my goals, my husband noticed a shift, too. It was a gradual process, but over time he noticed I was expecting less. I talked less about our plans as a couple. I simply worked on doing well, my basic, mundane, day-to-day responsibilities (instead of always trying to do something that would build our ‘successful future’).
Eventually, without any pressure from me, he began to set some pretty lofty goals for himself, even the kinds I could see. I didn’t expect him to. I didn’t even NEED him to. I almost didn’t WANT him to, because I thought it might make me feel guilty for not doing the same. (Doing so too early for me would be akin to an alcoholic stepping back into a bar.)
Ironic, isn’t it?
No, he did it for himself. (And I don’t want anyone to conclude that this is what would always happen in a case like this. It’s not about letting go to make someone change, and it’s important to be clear on that.)
But within a short period of time, he lost 35 pounds and took up cycling to keep it off. He started cycling 13 miles to/from work every day, racking up as many as 150 miles a week. He even got up at 3 am on a Saturday morning and cycled from Mesa, AZ to Payson, AZ (80 miles) with a group, after only 4 months preparation.
He’s been tracking his progress with an online app, showing that in some areas, he is outpacing veteran cyclists and ranking among the best in the valley. He is even scheduled to participate in a 2-week cycling tour/leadership training in Australia next spring.
Who is this guy??
His success in this one area began to spill over into other areas of his life, too. Work was better. Our relationship was better. Our family felt stronger. We laughed more, and enjoyed life more. It didn’t matter to me what he did, or how he spent his time. But I was really proud of him for working so hard and doing so well.
And best of all, we were finally able to get on the same page with some goals that we could both be excited about, and came to an agreement on a plan AND pace for how we would accomplish them together, hence the reason for my earlier post on what I think about Dave Ramsey.
Getting on the same page again about something was a dream come true for me.
No, we weren’t tackling our couple goals at a pace I would have chosen by myself (they could always be bigger, better, or achieved faster), but it really felt like a good compromise, and I was just happy that we were united again in our vision for the future.
A few months later though, I had a setback.
His cycling started taking up more time and money, and he seemed to have forgotten about our plan. I think it was still there in the back of his mind, but it had become a chore for him to remember it, because he wasn’t nearly as passionate about them as he had become about his cycling goals.
So naturally, I began to resent his cycling, and found myself back in the throes of frustration all over again. I was angry and wanted him to know it.
Having learned my lesson before, I didn’t want to have to learn it all over again, so I had to find peace in letting go. I NEVER expected that I would have to give up on THESE: the smaller, simpler, slower dreams that we had decided upon together.
In many ways, giving up on these smaller dreams was even harder to do than giving up on the big ones. Because once these are gone, what’s left?
I felt anger, bitterness, grief — all of it, all over again — but this time even worse.
We had just seen the movie “War Room” as a family, and it inspired me. So instead of battling it out with him directly, I decided to try the War Room approach. I didn’t have a lot of hope that it would work…
BUT IT DID! Not the first time, but soon enough.
(Someday I may go into that in more detail, but today is not that day. This post is already long enough.)
In short, God changed my heart.
He removed the scales from my eyes and I suddenly saw my husband differently than I had ever seen him. Twenty-year-old chronic issues, deeply buried grievances, hidden wounds from years of conflict, clouded paradigms… all healed in an instant. Perceptions fixed that I didn’t even know needed fixing.
I didn’t even know it was possible. Well, I guess I thought it was possible, but I didn’t think it would be given so easily.
I’d look at him and think, “I GET TO LOVE HIM!” Suddenly I couldn’t wait to serve him. Make him good food. Ease his burdens. Care more about his concerns than mine. Work to create an environment where he feels great. Make our home a place he wants to be. It had always been such a chore before, but with a change of heart and new eyes, I even felt motivated to do things I didn’t enjoy doing before.
It was a miracle – unexpected, unplanned. A surprise gift. But even though it was God’s doing and not mine, I had been gently guided to do what HE needed me to do, namely prepare myself to receive it… not even realizing what I was preparing myself for. Remember, I had “made the decision to let go of my dreams without expectations. I was resigned to whatever my new fate would be. I entrusted my life to God’s hands without conditions.”
And in response, he did this.
God is ABLE TO DO HIS WORK.
I can, with confidence, testify that I’ve seen him do it. Sometimes we just have to stop ourselves from being the limiting factor.
Trust in his plan for your life. Let him lead you. Trust your Father in Heaven above all other mentors. People may play the role of messenger to deliver his message to you sometimes, and thank heavens for that blessing. But always check what you learn from them against what he speaks to your spirit directly.
So what about setting goals?
About Timing. HEAR ME NOW:
The SAME voice that told me to stop setting goals is the SAME voice that once told me to start setting goals. Remember, “to every thing there is a season, and a time to every purpose under the heaven” (Ecclesiastes 3:1).
What’s next for you?
In other words, this is NOT about abandoning goals, and it’s not even about setting priorities. It’s about decluttering, and listening.
This is why one particular message at last week’s General Conference caused me to immediately hop on Facebook and say, “OOOOHHHH – Larry Lawrence’s is my favorite so far! #LDSConf – Shantel – that right there was bootcamp summed up in a conference talk, wasn’t it??”
If you don’t have time to watch the whole video, here’s the excerpt that made me want to shout, “YES!!!”:
I knew a faithful mother who humbled herself and asked, “What is keeping me from progressing?” In her case, the response from the Spirit came immediately: “Stop complaining.” This answer surprised her; she had never thought of herself as a complainer…
A humble young man who couldn’t seem to find the right young woman went to the Lord for help: “What is keeping me from being the right man?” he asked. This answer came into his mind and heart: “Clean up your language.” …
A single sister bravely asked the question: “What do I need to change?” and the Spirit whispered to her, “Don’t interrupt people when they are talking.”
The Holy Ghost really does give customized counsel. He is a completely honest companion and will tell us things that no one else knows or has the courage to say. (emphasis added)
One returned missionary found himself stressed with a very heavy schedule. He was trying to find time for work, studies, family, and a Church calling. He asked the Lord for counsel: “How can I feel at peace with all that I need to do?” The answer was not what he expected; he received the impression that he should more carefully observe the Sabbath day and keep it holy…
Years ago I read in a Church magazine the story of a girl who was living away from home and going to college. She was behind in her classes, her social life was not what she had hoped for, and she was generally unhappy. Finally one day she fell to her knees and cried out, “What can I do to improve my life?” The Holy Ghost whispered, “Get up and clean your room.” …
The Holy Ghost doesn’t tell us to improve everything at once. If He did, we would become discouraged and give up. The Spirit works with us at our own speed, one step at a time, or as the Lord has taught, “line upon line, precept upon precept, … and blessed are those who hearken unto my precepts, … for unto him that receiveth I will give more.”
That’s it. It’s all about what’s next.
Freedom matters. Achievement matters, and YES! Goal setting is vital, and not just for making life better for ourselves, but also for accomplishing God’s purposes. But goal achievement is only one tiny little piece of life.
Ironically, we can miss the mark if goal-achievement BECOMES our life.
I imagine the heavenly choirs broke into singing when they observed me finally feeling and recognizing their subtle clue that I was onto something new and wonderful.
So what about all the things I envisioned for my future? I still believe in them, but decided that perhaps they don’t really need to happen in this life, if at all.
Some of my new mantras through this process became:
“Treasures in heaven” – If I have to choose between enjoying riches here or there, I’d rather have them there. I trust that riches will be mine in both places, IF they are needed for me to accomplish my life’s mission.
“Don’t be the limiting factor” – I believe that God has a bigger vision for my life than even what I can imagine. So I’ll trust him. I will live the principles, just to be sure that I’m not the limiting factor in what God can do with me.
“Tranquility” – to live with my spirit at peace, assured that God is guiding my life and that I’ll be prepared to handle whatever I will face.
“Unseen help is active and real” – I still believe in unseen help, but my goals are back to being more eternal in nature again.
“Peace be still” – Whenever I feel anxious or worried, I remember these words, which at one very difficult time, unexpectedly cut through the noise and chaos in my mind and immediately dissipated all of my concerns.
“Simple, consistent, good habits lead to a life full of bountiful blessings” – Richard G. Scott. I will remember that, “by small and simple things, great things are brought to pass.” I choose to simplify.
I am certain that once this process is complete, I’ll be back to my intentional and active goal-setting endeavors again – but this time with greater wisdom. I still know that…
Anything is possible, but I don’t have to want everything.
When I’m ready to run again, I expect to counsel my wants, and keep moderation in mind. I will try harder to be grateful in all things, and more patient with everyone. But most of all, I intend to keep an eternal perspective, and always do as Joseph B. Wirthlin instructs:
Come what may and love it.
Wishing you all the best on your journey through life.
Related: My church talk on Eternal Marriage