Monday, January 1, 2018

President Thomas S. Monson on changes, goals, and success

President Thomas S. Monson (born August 21, 1927) was sustained to the Quorum of Twelve Apostles in 1963. He served as a counselor in the First Presidency with Presidents Benson, Hunter, and Hinckley until becoming Church president in 2008.
"We live in a changing world. Technology has altered nearly every aspect of our lives. We must cope with these advances—even these cataclysmic changes—in a world of which our forebears never dreamed.
"Remember the promise of the Lord: 'If ye are prepared ye shall not fear.' (D&C 38:30.) Fear is a deadly enemy of progress.
"It is necessary to prepare and to plan so that we don't fritter away our lives. Without a goal, there can be no real success. One of the best definitions of success I have ever heard goes something like this: Success is the progressive realization of a worthy ideal. Someone has said the trouble with not having a goal is that you can spend your life running up and down the field and never crossing the goal line."
- Thomas S. Monson, "In Search of Treasure," General Conference, April 2003
Click here to read or listen to the full talk

Any of us who are in "middle age" or beyond have witnessed first-hand the "cataclysmic changes" in technology that President Monson refers to, altering "nearly every aspect of our lives." But President Monson reminds us that we have nothing to fear from change, or from anything else, as long as we are prepared. We may not know what we are preparing for; but the preparation involves continuing progress and growth

I like the imagery of "fritter away our lives" with its implication of a gradual wasting over time. One definition given is "To occupy oneself idly or without clear purpose, to tinker with an unimportant part of a project, to dally, sometimes as a form of procrastination." President Monson suggests that we can "fritter away our lives" by being unclear in our purpose or destination; as we engage in meaningless tasks or activities that distract from worthy goals, we are gradually missing out on the progress we might be making. In the context of the technological advances mentioned in the earlier paragraph, it's easy to see how our technology can contribute to that frittering.

On the other hand, the beautiful definition of success gives us much to ponder. "Success is the progressive realization of a worthy ideal." Just as frittering away happens gradually and piecemeal, so does the achievement of success. As we hold our goals clearly in our mind and work progressively to attain them, the end result is assured! But we must be progressing. That's the benefit of establishing our goals in ways that are clear and well-defined. They can keep us moving forward in positive ways.

(Compilation and commentary by David Kenison, Orem, Utah, 2017)

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