What is a Goal?
A goal is a something you plan to achieve. And by “plan”, I don’t just mean thinking it out, but actually creating steps and working on them to achieve your goal. It can be small like getting to bed on time or making your bed every morning. It can also be big, like getting promoted to your dream job, or traveling to all the U.S. national parks. Setting goals are important to make sure we stay on track in our lives and don’t get easily distracted by “every wind of doctrine” (Ephesians 4:14).
The most important goal we can set in our lives is one that we will never achieve in this life. As Elder Russell M. Nelson stated in his April 2008 conference talk, “This life is the time to prepare for salvation and exaltation.” Often referred to as Eternal Life, this is the ultimate, life-long goal we should have. Why? Because Eternal Life is God’s greatest gift to man. It is desirable beyond anything we can imagine in our current mortal state. The joy and love we can experience are explained in a dream the Nephi’s father Lehi had.
In The Book of Mormon Lehi has a dream about the Tree of Life. He also sees many other people attempting to reach the tree, but others who are not holding on to the Word of God get distracted and pulled away by other things they encounter along their journey.
“[Lehi] beheld a tree, whose fruit was desirable to make one happy . . . [he] beheld that it was most sweet, above all . . . the fruit thereof was white . . . it filled [his] soul with exceedingly great joy; [he was] desirous that [his] family should partake of it also . . .” (1 Nephi 8:10–12).
Lehi saw in his dream that there is something more precious and desirable than anything we can get in this life. Lehi told his family about his dream and Nephi asked God to show him the dream and its meaning. Nephi then also saw the dream. He was taught that because Jesus Christ loves us, he was crucified for our sins. That Jesus’s sacrifice would make it possible for us to repent and gain eternal life. Eternal life means living with Heavenly Father as families in his kingdom. In this type of life, we get to partake of God’s love just like in the dream when Lehi partook of the fruit of the Tree of Life.
Symbols and their meanings in Lehi’s dream
- The tree (1 Nephi 8:10) – The love of God in giving the world his Only Begotten Son (1 Nephi 11:21–22; John 3:16)
- The fruit (1 Nephi 8:11) – Eternal Life – God’s greatest gift to man (1 Nephi 15:36; D&C 14:7)
- The Rod of Iron that leads to the tree (1 Nephi 8:19) – The word of God (1 Nephi 15:23–24)
- The Strait and Narrow Path (1 Nephi 8:20) – The way to Tree of Life / Eternal Life (also see: Matthew 7:14)
- Mist of darkness covering the path to the tree (1 Nephi 8:23) – Temptations of the devil (1 Nephi 12:17)
- Great and spacious building (1 Nephi 8:26–27) – Pride of the world (1 Nephi 11:36)
The word of God is found in the scriptures, and from our Prophet and Apostles that lead Jesus’s Church today. Reading The Book of Mormon every day can help us stay on the path back to our Father in Heaven.
The temptations of the devil can confuse us and lead us astray. Satan tempts us every day to leave the straight and narrow path. Holding steadfast to the “Iron Rod” helps us stay on the straight and narrow path. This can include reading daily from The Book of Mormon, following the commandments, praying, being honest, choosing good friends, choosing good entertainment, and so on.
People who value the “Pride of the World” will view those who believe the teachings to God as peculiar, and will mock them. Satan encourages these people to make fun of those who believe in the Word of God.
Eternal Life – The Ultimate Goal
As we keep our main goal returning to live with our Father in Heaven, it will help us get through life’s challenges with greater ease. This goal, however, is not without its challenges. One of the biggest I’ve seen is those who are hard on themselves. Just remember, we all fall so short of this goal, so it is easy to get discouraged. This is why Jesus gave his life for us and atoned for our sins. Look to Jesus, rely on him, take on his yoke, and your burden will be lightened (see Matthew 11:29-30).
Find smaller goals that you can focus on now, that will help you meet this much larger goal. For example, pick the one commandment you struggle with most and make it your primary goal to do better on for the next month. You can also focus on self-improvement goals, or doing more to help others. Set goals for your family, your career, or anything else you feel will help you improve.
Elder M. Russell Ballard in his April 2017 General Conference talk Return and Receive said,
“Over the years, I have observed that those who accomplish the most in this world are those with a vision for their lives, with goals to keep them focused on their vision and tactical plans for how to achieve them.”
The entire talk is an excellent source for learning about Goals and how to implement and use them in your life. I definitely recommend reading the entire talk.