Wednesday, December 31, 2008

Resolute in our Resolutions

Where has 2008 gone? It seems just yesterday that Quinn and I were getting pumped up to start a blog as one of our resolutions. We had visions of changing the world with our bi-monthly posts of wisdom. Ironically, I feel the person who has benefited the most from "phil good" has been myself.

In addition to fulfilling my resolution to start and continually contribute to this blog, I succeeded in other goals that I set for myself at the beginning of the year. I failed in many others. With the start of 2009, I must admit I am excited to ponder upon the ways in which I can make much needed improvements in my life. As I was studying resolution making this past week I came across a few principles that I believe will help this year's resolutions make a greater impact on my life. First, the importance of goals. Elder M. Russell Ballard said:

I am so thoroughly convinced that if we don't set goals in our life and learn how to master the techniques of living to reach our goals, we can reach a ripe old age and look back on our life only to see that we reached but a small part of our full potential. When one learns to master the principles of setting a goal, he will then be able to make a great difference in the results he attains in this life.

I am not Elder Ballard, and therefore do not know what principles of goal setting he was referring to, but here are some principles I have come across.

Proverbs 29:18 states "Where there is no vision, the people perish: but he that keepeth the law, happy is he." By beginning with a vision of the desired outcome, we can begin to form goals that are the stepping stones which lead to a fulfillment of that vision.

By having a clear vision, goals become more than something to give us short-term feelings of accomplishment; they give us purpose and direction in the present. In the past I have failed at goals, not because I gave up or did not put forth effort, but because the goal itself was lacking. I have found that quality goals have certain attributes. Quality goals are:

1. Specific
2. Realistic
3. Challenging
4. Measurable

If the goal is too general, we are unable to focus our efforts. If the goal is unrealistic, giving up becomes an easy rationalization. President Ong taught me that you should achieve your goals 50% of the time. If you accomplish your goals 100% of the time, they are not challenging enough and you could be growing more; less than 50% of the time, the goals may begin to be discouraging. Finally, if our goal is to be more humble, but we have no concept of how to measure it, we are unable to judge how our progress is going.

Although I am not sure what my 2009 resolution list will include, I hope that each of my resolutions encompasses these principles so that my efforts to fulfill them will lead me closer to fulfilling the vision I have for myself.

Sunday, December 28, 2008

The Holiday Crescendo

I find it interesting how the Birth of Jesus Christ is celebrated on December 25th. Biblical scholars around the world debate the actual birthday of our Savior, with little agreement except as to the fact that it was not on the 25th of December. Even though the current day set aside to mark the anniversary of the birth of the Messiah is not correlated with the actual event, the timing of the Christmas celebrations seem to have meaning nonetheless.

In my humble opinion, Thanksgiving marks the beginning of the holiday season. The fourth Thursday in November marks a day when families join together, play football, prepare a feast, eat great food, enjoy company, and most importantly give thanks for the many blessings in their lives. Without the emphasis on giving thanks, Thanksgiving becomes just a day where people gather to eat fancily prepared food. However, with the emphasis on gratitude, people's attitudes shift. By being grateful, people become more aware of their inadequacies, recognize their reliance on others and God, and their attitude becomes more focused on "haves" instead of the "have-nots." As people make effort to count the blessings in their lives, they are often suprised by the sheer number and quality of the tender mercies they find.

As Thanksgiving ends, a more humble people (assuming that thanks was given) moves forward in life with Christmas just around the corner. For Christians and non-Christians alike, the Christmas season leads people to be focused on giving. For some, the giving is of the service type, seeking out those who are in need, and attending to those needs in the best available manner. For others, the giving consists of gifts, whereby people seek to find gifts that are able to somehow express the love they have for the recipient. For many, it's a combination of the two. Regardless of the means of giving, people find a way to look outside themselves and lift the burdens of another; such acts are chalked up to people being overcome with the Spirit of Christmas, which is actually the Spirit of Christ.

Christ came into the world, born in a manger. He was the Son of God, and yet His birth was without fanfare. The Creator of us all, He who stood at the right hand of God, was born in the most humble of circumstances. Those who know very little about the Lamb of God often know of His birth and His death; each event being an epitome of sacrifice. However, as one studies His life, it becomes apparent that His life itself was the essence of sacrifice for loved ones. Through His sacrifice He gave us all the ability to overcome death and sin; the former a free gift given to all, and the latter an opportunity for us all to take, if we so desired. Those who desired would need to develop faith in Christ, repent of their sins (or change from their sinful ways), be baptized by one with authority, receive the Gift of the Holy Ghost and endure to the end.

The humility that accompanies Thanksgiving prepares people for the giving of Christmas. When someone recognizes how much of the good in one's life comes from another, the desire to give and serve others grows. By acting on that desire, one follows in the footsteps of the Savior, bringing about a faith in Christ. That faith leads to repentance or change, which we all strive to accomplish with something known as New Year's resolutions. I find it amazing that over the course of a few months, people, as a whole, begin walking in the path that Christ outlined for us in His gospel. Many people's resolution to change fail them, and goals which were so passionately decided on fall by the wayside. But for those who resolutely move forward their lives become better; they experience to a small degree the joy of the atonement of Christ, as they change their nature and fulfill more of their God given potential.

So although Christ's birth occurred on April 6th, the sandwiching of Christmas between Thanksgiving and the New Year's allows for a perfect holiday crescendo, which will hopefully carry us upward as we continue our journey into 2009.