Hey family and friends!
First of all, I must apologize for sounding so whiny last week. Of course it's difficult when appointments fall through (as three important ones did this week as well) but nothing that every other missionary doesn't experience at some point in his or her mission. On top of that, I feel as though some of that could have been avoided or turned into better experiences if we had been more organized/diligent/prayerful. Just a learning experience.
I'd also like to correct a typo from two weeks ago: I wrote 700 when the correct number would have been 600. Voilà. Now I have a clear conscience.
**disclaimer: I now have a lot of thoughts to share and not a lot of stories**
Recently I have been learning a lot about the power in setting goals. A quote that has hit me every time I've read it is by Elder Ballard in Preach My Gospel: “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."
As I near the end of my mission, that is my biggest fear: not attaining my potential as a missionary or as a person. (Interesting to see the change when I first came on a mission—initially I was scared that I'd change too much; now I'm scared I won't have changed enough.)
Let's go back to the quote. Every time I've read it in the past, I've focused on the "setting goals" part of it. Only recently have I been led to ponder the second part: "learn how to master the techniques of living to reach [your] goals." I realized that I've set a LOT of goals of my mission that have gone unattained. Why? Because I haven't mastered the techniques of living to reach them. Sometimes my goals weren't really goals at all; they were daydreams.
So that was the subject of our discussion in district meeting. We started by all thinking about our goals—all the goals we'd set that still applied to us. That meant our weekly goals, transfer goals, New Year's Resolutions and even things longer-term than that. Most of us were surprised to find that we couldn't even remember what many of our goals were; and for the ones we did remember, we often weren't on track for achieving them.
We decided together that three things were important: remembering the goal; knowing how, concretely, to go about accomplishing it; and keeping the motivation to go forward even when the initial inspiration has long since worn off.
Remembering comes with writing it down and keeping it somewhere you'll see it often. It includes setting little alarms (and not getting annoyed at your device when they go off). It involves doing little things to keep your mind on it: keeping it daily in your prayers, putting post-its in your kitchen, or setting your iPad password to "hityourgoals" as I've done.
Knowing how is a big one. For every cloudy, unmeasurable, seemingly distant goal, there needs to be concrete plans for reaching it. To do this, we just need to break it down. Need to lose weight? Well, you'll need to start exercising more and eating healthier. But those don't count as plans. How do you exercise more? You need to learn how to exercise properly. You need to get the proper clothes and shoes. You need to find someone who will help you create a program. You need to set a workout schedule. These plans, then, can be broken down even further into bite-sized, daily pieces with set times to accomplish them. Then you always know what the next step is toward the desired final product.
Lastly: staying motivated. We've come to the conclusion that staying motivated involves a few things. First is making sure to avoid setting too many goals. The way you feel when looking at a sink full of dirty dishes, or a backpack full of college homework, is the same way you'll feel when you look at a list of too many goals you've set for yourself. Keep it short, precise and simple. Next is accountability: to yourself, the Lord and a friend or leader who will follow up with you. Last is to always keep the desired result in mind, ideally by writing down why you want to hit this goal. A great way to lose motivation is losing sight of the big picture—the vision, if you will. Well did the writer of Proverbs say: "Where there is no vision [or it just gets forgotten], the people perish."
Voilà quoi. Only very recently have I been trying to put these into practice, and even though I haven't mastered these techniques, my fumbling efforts have already brought great results. Once I reach this goal I'm working on, I'll set new goals to help me grow (while making plans to maintain the good results of this first goal, of course) and hopefully it'll be onward no upward from there, until the perfect day.
I sincerely apologize for the essay. If you want any Belgium-specific news, here it is: Virginie, the woman I wrote about two weeks ago, is incredible! She came to church again and brought the three children that still live with her. It was awesome. All of the talks and discussions seemed to be focused on her needs. We'll be teaching her tomorrow morning we'll be able to evaluate her progression from there. But she is really happy with all she's discovering, and I can really see that the Lord has been preparing her for a while. (:
Aside from that, the district did amazing this week! Normally, the work takes a big hit in week 6 (the last week of the transfer) because missionaries are just tired—of their companion, their ville, their mission—and the end is in sight. But this week, we set a district record for new investigators, member-present lessons, other lessons and amis at church! Two of our companionships even hit or exceeded all of the Standards of Excellence that the mission defined as the key indicator goals that each companionship should strive for. And I wish I could say it was because of something I did, but the missionaries I've been blessed with have been amazing. It was all them.
Entering into my 16th transfer is a scary thing. But we're setting goals to make it the best transfer yet. Stay tuned.
Photos of our Brussels P-Day:
Photos of our Brussels P-Day:
Elder StanfordMission française de Paris