"We seldom get into trouble when we speak softly. It is only when we raise our voices that the sparks fly and tiny molehills become great mountains of contention."
- - Gordon B. Hinckley
June 27, 2012
Attainable Goals
by Kathryn Grant

Everywhere I go, I meet good people. They love the gospel and serve others. But I've also observed a common theme. Without exception, they wish they were doing better, and they often make statements like this:

  • I want to study the scriptures every day, but life gets so crazy! Sometimes I don't even remember until late at night when I'm exhausted.
  • I know I'm too negative, but it's hard to break out of that mindset -- especially when things are going wrong.
  • I'm worried about the state of the world and I want to get a year's supply. But I'm not making much progress on this goal that frankly seems overwhelming.

When we don't do things we want to do or that we feel we should do, we might think our faith is weak or that we just aren't motivated. But what if that isn't the problem at all? What if we just need to change our approach? What if there's a way to make it more doable than it seems?

In a CES fireside, Elder D. Todd Christofferson shared an experience his mother had fighting cancer. After surgery she was faced with painful radiation treatments.

She recalls that her mother taught her something during that time that has helped her ever since: "I was so sick and weak, and I said to her one day, 'Oh, Mother, I can't stand having 16 more of those treatments.' She said, 'Can you go today?' 'Yes.' 'Well, honey, that's all you have to do today.' It has helped me many times when I remember to take one day or one thing at a time." ("Give Us This Day Our Daily Bread")

The purpose of this column, "Just for a Day," is to offer ideas and support to all of us who want to do better, and who can do better with a simple approach. Instead of requiring a lifelong commitment to a major change, we'll suggest a simple goal and encourage you to meet it just for a day (or perhaps for a regular interval, depending on the goal).

Making a goal finite and manageable makes success more likely. And when we experience success, even for a short time, we replace guilt and inertia with positive change and increased confidence.

Another key to positive change is one we probably don't remember as often as we should. We need to draw on the enabling power of the Lord as we meet our goals one day at a time. "I can do all things through Christ, which strengtheneth me." (Philppians 4:13.)

This enabling power goes far beyond positive thinking and habit to help us do things we couldn't otherwise do. (See "In the Strength of the Lord," by David A. Bednar.)

So, let's get started. Our first goal is this: Just for a day, don't complain.

This idea was inspired by Catherine Marshall, a Christian writer who has influenced me profoundly. Catherine's faith was a practical one, guided by her regular conversations with the Lord and lived out in daily action. She describes how the Lord once told her to go on a "criticism fast" for one day.

It wasn't easy. Barbed comments rose in her mind, but had to be checked. As the day went on, she found she wasn't saying much at all.

Her first bemused observation was that the world got along quite well without her negative comments. But a richer reward came later in the day. For some time she had been worried about a young man whose life had gotten sidetracked. Now, on the criticism fast, she wondered if her prayers for him had been too negative. As she let go of complaining, she was surprised to be given a positive vision for this young man's life.

She wrote, "Ideas began to flow in a way I had not experienced in years. Now it was apparent what the Lord wanted me to see [by going on a criticism fast]. My critical nature had not corrected a single one of the multitudinous things I found fault with. What it had done was to stifle my own creativity -- in prayer, in relationships, perhaps even in writing -- ideas that He wanted to give me." (A Closer Walk, p. 102 ff.)

Complaining has become a daily ritual for many of us. We complain about the cold, the heat, prices, traffic, long hours, insensitive people. Truth be told, often we complain about our blessings and advantages.

In the words of Julia Cameron, we focus on the "leaden lining." We don't complain to find solutions, but to prove how bad things are. And I suspect, like Catherine Marshall, we don't fully realize the negative impact of our complaints on ourselves and others.

So try it. No complaining, just for a day. You don't have to be perfect: if you find yourself slipping into a complaining mindset, learn from it and try again. And this goal isn't meant to discourage honesty or effective problem solving. But it is meant to help us let go of habitual negativity and the unbalanced view that is a part of it.

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About Kathryn Grant

Kathryn Grant is a user assistance professional with a passion for usability and process improvement. She also loves family history and enjoys the challenge and reward of building her family tree.

As a child, she lived outside the United States for four years because of her father's job. This experience fueled her natural love of words and language, and also taught her to appreciate other cultures.

Kathryn values gratitude, teaching, learning, differences, and unity. She loves looking at star-filled skies, reading mind-stretching books, listening to contemporary Christian music, attending the temple, and eating fresh raspberries.

Kathryn teaches Sunday family history classes at the BYU Family History Library, and presents frequently at family history events. For more information, visit her Family History Learning Resources page

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