“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 really are.”

Elder Russell M. Nelson, 2000

There is something fantastic and magical about the beginning of a new year. Sort of like the feeling I try to impress upon my kids as they rest their weary heads on their pillows after a “bad day,” feeling all but defeated by the world.  We often repeat to each other in a courageous attempt to move forward “tomorrow, is a fresh start!” A new year is definitely a fresh start in so many ways but so is every day, indeed, a  fresh start. The day-to-day increments of improving ones self is powerful and profound, particularly as you look back on the windy road traveled. A new year provides a splendid opportunity to sit back, ponder, pray and evaluate your life, where you are relative to where/who you want to be. It is only upon reflecting on where you have come from, that you see how far you have gone, sometimes one time breath at a time.

In the refining process of life, trial and error, we gradually become new people, shaped by our choices and the many consequences (good or bad) that follow. Growing and progressing with each and every day, (hopefully) becoming better and better with every bend in the road, a  truly magnificent opportunity. One of my favorite quotes from Elder Neal A. Maxwell is about the opportunity we can gain as we face trials:

Rather than simply passing through trials, we must allow trials to pass through us in ways that sanctify us. (Neal A. Maxwell, “Enduring Well,” Apr. 1997.)

This is so very profound! SO often I lay down my head at the close of a day, feeling as if I have taken a beating from every direction, but in that is a glistening opportunity for me to become and BE a better human being, a better woman, a better daughter of God. If our goal is to ultimately be more like Him (which mine is), to live in His presence one day, then how could I possibly expect to go through life without having experiences (often times trying) that indeed sanctify?

There is an interesting dichotomy in life which suggests we are suppose to be happy and content with who we are and the lives we have been given but to also have goals and be working towards something more. I believe there is a divine balance (that in and of it’s self is a personal goal of mine) that when done with inspiration is a extraordinary way to navigate through life with purpose.  Setting meaningful and thoughtful goals is a perfect opportunity to sanctify, cleanse, rid our selves of the unneeded “baggage” we so often get attached to. Goals, when committed to, help us step out off idle and get moving forward. Setting goals can be painful at times because it requires us to be vulnerable and look squarely at our weaknesses and areas that need growth or improvement. That is hard, Anais Nin said it perfectly “And the day came when the risk to remain tight in a bud was more painful than the risk it took to blossom”. That is the overwhelming fidgety feeling I get every January 1st as I contemplate my list of goals aka “New Years Resolutions.” Sure there is always a little disappointment at what didn’t happen, but unfailingly  SO much more did SO I gladly take the plunge to dig deep, soul search into those areas of my life that need it most, even if it stings a bit, that is OK.

I heard someone recently say “goals, sham-oales… why bother… why set myself up for disappointment…?” Clearly they were not intrigued with the opportunity to set what could be life-changing goals and feel defeated at the list of past unachieved goals.  I was saddened at this comment because I knew the joy that comes from working everyday to achieve goals and the sublime satisfaction of knowing I am working (sometimes relentlessly) toward becoming a better person. I have a quote in my entry way that says “Everyday try a little harder, to be a little better.” That is the essence of why we are here. Some days those movements are minuscule and other days they are huge strides, the point being, it is important that we are progressing in one way or another, everyday. A life without goals is a life without direction.

Howard W. Hunter said “True greatness…always requires regular, consistent, small, and sometimes ordinary and mundane steps over a long period of time. (“True Greatness,”  1982.)

For me, the New Year tends to magnify my life experiences and in that context, brings into focus all that I am still yearning to become. The opportunity to set goals, re-evaluate who I am and where I am going is not something I take lightly rather it is a big deal. It is motivating and exciting to know I can become, with effort and diligence, a better person. Setting and achieving goals is a great way to become the person I desire most to be. One day, I hope to qualify completely to be in the presence of my Lord and Redeemer, the very one who made it possible for me to reform, change, and grow.

I am so grateful for the tradition of goal setting and the new year. It is a valuable tool that helps me along this path of life. It is a valuable tool that helps my children and husband too. As a family, at the beginning of every year ,we set family goals as well as personal goals. My husband and I also set goals for our marriage that have proven to be an extraordinary blessing and undoubtedly supplies us with a funny conversation as we look back at past years goals. 🙂 It helps us realize that life isn’t so bad, tomorrow really is  a fresh start. Even though at times it feels like we are treading water, we really are progressing in large part due to our efforts in keeping, remembering and striving to achieve our goals. If today did not yield to results we had hoped, we can keep those goals and aspirations close and focused and move forward with faith to the next day. There is peace in that. I love a new year and I love goals. Goals add meaning and substance to this wonderful thing called life!

Happy, Happy New Year! It is going to be a great one!