Hope, healing, progress and joy. These are words President Russell M. Nelson used to describe the process of change — change that we can experience because of Jesus Christ.
President Nelson proclaimed during the April 2021 general conference: “Because of the Savior’s Atonement, His gospel provides an invitation to keep changing, growing and becoming more pure. It is a gospel of hope, of healing and of progress. Thus, the gospel is a message of joy! Our spirits rejoice with every small step forward we take.”
The Children and Youth program encourages all to increase faith in Jesus Christ and become more like Him by progressing individually. This takes place as we learn the gospel of Jesus Christ, as we participate in service and activities, and as we develop personally. We follow the pattern of Jesus Christ as described in Luke 2:52 — growing as the Savior did — socially, spiritually, intellectually and physically.
Setting and achieving goals helps us progress and reach our potential. When you hear the word “goal” what comes to mind? Does it make you feel anxious or do you see it as an opportunity to progress?
Encouraging goals is not meant to overwhelm. Seeking to understand what Heavenly Father would like us to work on will increase our faith in and dependence on the Savior, Jesus Christ. This is something that many of our youth and adults are learning to do. We are all learning and progressing at different speeds, and that’s OK.
Let’s meet one young woman who has patterned her life on some important principles. Tessa Turner, age 15, from Enid, Oklahoma, is self-motivated, sociable, loves life and is passionate about ballet. She plays the cello, is busy in school, loves musical theater, serves in her Young Women class presidency and loves her family. Tessa is also a goal setter. She and her family hold monthly family councils to discuss and set personal and family goals. When asked about the goal setting and keeping process, Tessa shared the following insights from her experience:
- Prayerfully consider how to improve physically, socially, spiritually and intellectually. Then make a list.
- Ask Heavenly Father for help, and listen to the Spirit for direction and council.
- Write it down. Determine the time frame for working on the goal, list step-by-step accomplishments, and depend on Heavenly Father and family for help. Identify how the goal would help them become more like Jesus Christ.
- Try to become well-rounded. Goal setting is all about self-improvement in all areas of life. The Savior wants us to become the best of who we can become. A lot of the goals we set become habits, which, done consistently, help us becoming better and better.
- Real improvement requires doing hard things.
One of Tessa’s goals was to work out each night for 10-15 minutes on body strength exercises to improve her ballet. Some nights this wasn’t possible, and she had to reevaluate her routine and goal to make it workable but not overwhelming. She found that if the goal was too hard, she began to slack off and lose interest, so an adjustment was made to help her progress, be consistent and feel good about herself.
Tessa shared that she struggles with anxiety in some things, so she set a goal to help her learn skills to overcome her anxiety. She identifies what brings her anxiety, such as public speaking and worrying about being perfect. Her dad helps her. She has found workbooks with tools to help her manage her anxiety. Prayer and scripture study help her along with her service as a counselor in her Young Women class presidency. She has had the opportunity to serve in weekly “Share the gospel” coordination meetings with adult leaders. She has gained confidence in sharing her insights with the adults and has found that the Lord has blessed her with her anxiety.
In summing up her goal-setting journey, Tessa said: “Rely on Heavenly Father. Ask for His help a lot. You are here to bring light into the world. The more you rely on Heavenly Father and Jesus, the further you are going to go. I have been able to ‘Hear Him’ more. I’ve felt more worthy to ask Him for help.”
Setting goals doesn’t come easily for all of us, but it is possible through the Lord’s help. We counsel you to get on your knees and pray for a desire (Alma 32:27). Ask with a sincere heart what Heavenly Father would have you do. One young woman, wanting to experiment on this counsel, prayed that the Lord would let her know what He wanted her to do. The Spirit impressed her to get up and clean her room. She wasn’t expecting this answer, but she got up and did what she was directed to do. As she tried to keep her room clean, she found she was happier and could feel the Spirit more. God often answers prayers in ways we aren’t expecting.
The goals you set are for you. Heavenly Father will direct you as you ask in faith. Start simple, but be intentional in your goal setting. Determine specific steps to do each day to help you achieve your goal. Don’t just say, “Well, I’m already doing something, so I’ll just count that as my goal.” Rather than having a checklist mentality, remember that the experience of making and keeping goals will help you become like the Savior. No two people will have the exact same experiences or even have success with the same methods. Adjust if you need to, and counsel with trusted friends, family and Heavenly Father often (Alma 37:37). We are beloved sons and daughters of God. He is not looking for perfection; He is looking for improvement. As you strive to become like Him and His Son, seek and act upon personal revelation, cherish the gift of repentance and seek to improve each day (see the Young Women theme).
Our busy lives force us to focus on things we do from day to day, but the development of character comes only as we focus on who we become. Our Savior is our pattern and guide. As we focus on personal revelation, our Heavenly Father will guide us in setting goals to become like Jesus Christ.