[photopress:Girls_Helping_107.jpg,thumb,pp_style]By Jonathan H. Westover
As the New Year is upon us, many of us find ourselves contemplating possible New Year’s resolutions—lose some weight, exercise more, read X number of books, start a new hobby, etc. In creating a list of New Year’s resolutions, we may find ourselves seeking to craft S.M.A.R.T. goals—goals that are Specific, Measurable, Attainable, Realistic, and Tangible.
We have probably all heard about the importance of setting S.M.A.R.T. goals to ensure a better likelihood of actually accomplishing those goals we set for ourselves, but is there ever a time when setting a S.M.A.R.T. goal isn’t so smart?
In exploring this question, perhaps we should start by asking another question: Have you ever known a person that was so obsessed with personal achievement and accomplishment that they were blinded to the needs of others around them? Such a person may be so focused on setting and working to achieve S.M.A.R.T. goals that they walk around with blinders on, frequently referring to their S.M.A.R.T. day planner or chore list, completely focused on accomplishing the task at hand, and nothing else.
How do you feel when you are around such a person? Do you feel important? Do you feel valued? If we stop and really think about it, the answer is probably no, or at least not as much as we may like.
Additionally, have you ever found yourself so focused and driven to accomplish a particular task or goal that you failed to pay enough attention to those around you? Have you ever been called on it by a friend or loved-one? If so, how did you feel? Did you feel that you truly achieved success through the accomplishment of your task or goal?
If we stop and really examine our own hearts, I think we would find that accomplishments achieved independently, and sometimes in spite of others tend to be less intrinsically rewarding and more hollow and shallow.
Certainly, goal setting and a personal drive for self-improvement and achievement are important personal attributes to have. Furthermore, we do not live in a world of extremes. Just because we are goal and achievement-oriented does not mean that we cannot also be attuned to the needs of those around us.
However, if you are like me (tending to be more obsessed with goals) then perhaps a new approach to goal-setting may be in order. Rather than setting goals that tend to be more “me oriented,” perhaps it is time to set goals that are centered on others.
That is why I propose that this year we adopt goals that are not so S.M.A.R.T. In this New Year, my main goal is to not be so focused on personal achievement and success, but rather be focused on the success of others. This means that, while I still must strive for success in my personal work and family pursuits, I will place more emphasis on looking for opportunities to help and be more keenly attuned to others’ needs, wants, desires, and aspirations. I will work to help them accomplish their goals and dreams.
You may easily note that this goal is not specific, measurable, or tangible, in the conventional sense, though I do believe that it is attainable and realistic. Furthermore, such a goal can be measured, though not empirically. It can be measured by the smiles we get from those we help and the warmth in our heart that accompanies other-centered service.
Ironically, I believe that the best and surest way for each of us to accomplish great things in this life is not by focusing on what we need to do to better ourselves and our own situation. Rather it is by focusing on what others need us to do to better them. When we focus on helping others, things in our own lives have a tendency of falling into place, often better than we could have ever planned on our own.
Though S.M.A.R.T. goals and resolutions certainly have their place, perhaps it is time to focus less on ourselves and more on those around us. It is time to set New Year’s resolutions that aren’t so S.M.A.R.T!
Jonathon Westover is a member of the Maple Hills Ward, Tooele Valley View Stake.