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Mormon Malaise

Mom’s wisdom:

An unwillingness to set standards or goals for ourselves, of course, can result in a Mormon malaise, going nowhere but very anxiously.

Neal A. Maxwell, RSCS, 1982, p. 115


{ 25 comments… add one }
  • Janiel Miller February 20, 2012, 11:06 am

    I seriously thought this said Mormon Mayonnaise.

    But now that I am reading it correctly, I must say that I don’t know many LDS people, especially women, for whom not setting goals or standards is an issue. I think we set tons of goals and standards. But then we run around like proverbial chickens trying to be perfect in everything at once, which makes us go nowhere very anxiously. So perhaps Elder Maxwell was referring to a specific type of goal or standard. Or a healthy way of meeting them–as in having an actual plan or prioritized structure. And doing it calmly and with faith and the Spirit so we’re not freaking out all the time. Which is what I often do. Freak out, I mean.

    Or maybe he was just talking about mayonnaise.
    Janiel Miller recently posted…Express Yourself. On Purpose.My Profile

  • Robin February 20, 2012, 11:35 am

    I think I see this in my teenage daughter. There aren’t many LDS teens in our area and she feels that the few that are here are a bit snobby. (Does anyone else have this complaint?) Anyway, she spends her time “on the fence” so to speak, Saying she wants the goals of the gospel, and YW in Excellance, but not really spending her time working on them. She finds time to spend running here and there with her non-lds friends, but not really accomplishing much. It’s very frustrating.

  • Daniel February 20, 2012, 11:47 pm

    I think having the goal isn’t the problem, it’s your ability to reach that goal. If someone really wants something they will work for it. If not, they won’t and they’re probably just talking without the walking. Anxiety will come when they want something, and work toward it, and find that it is beyond their reach.

  • Alison Moore Smith February 21, 2012, 12:55 am

    Janiel, my experience is completely opposite yours.

    I know few women (or men) who set actual goals. I know lots of people who say they want to do something someday (but never do) and lots who deal with situations as they come up — daughter gets engaged, you plan a wedding; school’s starting, buy school clothes — and those who deal with external forces, but almost none who set independent, long-term goals.

    When I teach workshops on goal setting, there is almost no one who can even tell me a long term goal they’ve set.

    Robin, that can probably be said of most teens at some time or another. Question: have you taught her how to set goals? do you set them yourselves in a way she can see?

    Daniel, that’s so true. But I find that most goals are pretty attainable. So many have great IDEAS or DREAMS, but they don’t ever become anything actionable. Doing day to day stuff takes all the time there is and life just passes on.
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  • Alison Moore Smith February 21, 2012, 12:56 am

    But Mormon Mayonnaise is a REAL problem!
    Alison Moore Smith recently posted…Mum’s the WordMy Profile

  • jennycherie February 21, 2012, 5:22 am

    “Doing day to day stuff takes all the time there is and life just passes on.”

    This is absolutely my number one frustration in life. I spend all of my time just surviving and so rarely make progress on anything lasting. At times, I even try to keep it very quiet that I am going to have a day at home to work, because something or someone will crop up with an urgent need. AAargh!!
    jennycherie recently posted…Joy to the WorldMy Profile

  • Frank Pellett February 21, 2012, 9:27 am

    I think a major difficulty for most people is instead of setting their own goals and standards, we wait for someone else, like the Church, to provide them for us. It’s easier than thinking for yourself, and it gives you something to grumble about (e.g. I cant believe they make me have only one set of earrings).

    You are responsible for setting your own standards and goals. We are here to act, not be acted upon.
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  • Alison Moore Smith February 21, 2012, 10:27 am

    jennycherie, your concern is so common. I find that goals are usually only met when people MAKE them urgent.
    Alison Moore Smith recently posted…Scary ParentsMy Profile

  • Alison Moore Smith February 21, 2012, 10:30 am

    Frank, I couldn’t agree more!

    Most LDS women I know are reasonably reliable to do things ASSIGNED to them or to do things they are CALLED to do. Sometimes to the point of running themselves ragged. But to think of something they really want to accomplish and see it through? No way.

  • Amber Mae February 21, 2012, 11:52 am

    I think that a lot of people misunderstand how to set goals. Setting long-term goals can be SCARY because there is so much room for failure on the way. What we need to realize is that it’s OK to fail now and then as we grow our way to those long term goals. Also, we don’t have to do it all at once. When you set short term goals it gives you the chance to work your way up and gradually improve. It’s the whole line upon line precept on precept thing.
    Amber Mae recently posted…Conquer the World – another original songMy Profile

  • Janiel Miller February 21, 2012, 2:44 pm

    Oooh! I think I might agree with everything everyone has said here. And I am finding a common thread.

    Alison, I may not be understanding the types of long-term goals you’re talking about, but for me a long-term goal might be to get in shape and stay there. So I go to the gym every day. But along the lines of Frank’s comment, I wasn’t very consistent with it until I started living at the chiropractor and physical therapist because my back and hip and ribs were out every day and the only way to keep them in was to exercise consistently. I was forced to make and keep that goal.

    As Jenny said, though, most of my days get buried under things that crop up even when I do set long-term goals, and sometimes I miss the exercise because of it. However, generally I am motivated enough by pain and incapacitation that I can keep the fitness goal and let one of the crop-ups go.

    So, as Daniel and Robin intimated, if you want something badly enough you will work on it. Otherwise it’s likely that the rest of life will get in your way–whether that’s working and serving or just having fun.

    And finally, as Amber said, failure is scary. So you have to want your goal more than the fear of failure.

    All of which seems to point to the same thing: You have to want something badly enough to do it. And it would be nice not to have circumstances force us into achieving a goal.

    Hmmm. So. Alison, I think you need to do a goal-setting/keeping workshop here on Mormon Momma. Teach us how to want it badly enough.

    I’ll bring the mayonnaise.
    Janiel Miller recently posted…Express Yourself. On Purpose.My Profile

  • Alison Moore Smith February 21, 2012, 4:23 pm

    LOL But I can’t! There’s the rub!

    I was talking to a woman the other day who is just so “meh” about her life. She’d morbidly obese, she is barely making ends meet, her relationships are lousy, her house is unkempt. You name it, it’s a mess. But what does she do in her spare time? She watches TV. She doesn’t even make an attempt to better any part of her life.

    She’s an extreme example of life apathy, but there are so many bright, talented, amazing people who — it seems to me — just don’t think they are bright, talented, and amazing. They think just living day to day is all they can do and it’s enough.

    Last night for FHE we watched “The Help.” What a powerful movie. I’m always struck by two of the “maids.”

    Aiblileen saying, “I is kind. I is smart. I is important.” over and over to the little girl. And Constantine telling Skeeter how she would do something important some day.

    I think everyone is here to do something important! I don’t necessarily mean publicly or famously, but not just run-of-the-mill doing laundry.

    I know a young woman who has a gift. Her gift is one of making friend, of fitting in, of humor. She can (and has) literally changed lives just by going into a typical cliquey situation and including everyone and befriending the least cool in the group and bringing them in.

    The woman isn’t famous or well-know, but her impact is incredible — and she does it wherever she goes. It’s that “let your light so shine” thing, I think.

    But so many people don’t even see their gifts or have allowed others to bury them or something. And so they settle for NOT changing lives and making an impact. And they sit and watch TV. And it’s so SAD!

    P.S. I’ve decided that Bryce Dallas Howard is the best actress on earth. Not just because one of my best friends in college is named Dallas Howard, but because only an incredible actress could make you HATE her so much. Didn’t you just want to pop her one?
    Alison Moore Smith recently posted…Abolish the IRSMy Profile

  • Amy February 21, 2012, 9:08 pm

    “But so many people don’t even see their gifts or have allowed others to bury them or something. And so they settle for NOT changing lives and making an impact. And they sit and watch TV. And it’s so SAD!”

    But it is so easy to judge others and think they aren’t living up to their potential when they very well may be. Honestly no matter how well you know someone you don’t really know what they are doing where they have been making a difference etc. There was a time in my life where I was literally using all of my time, energy, faith and talents to save my marriage and my family. But the only ones who knew it were the therapist and the bishop. I KNOW from things people said to me that there were many during that point in my life who thought I needed to set some goals, to improve myself and my home etc. . . . My house wasn’t perfect then (although some days it was spotless from needed to have something in my life be organized and make sense).

    “but there are so many bright, talented, amazing people who — it seems to me — just don’t think they are bright, talented, and amazing. They think just living day to day is all they can do and it’s enough.”

    Yeah people thought that of me. Guess what living day to day was literally all I could do then. And I was literally giving it my all. And then some. Eventually there came a point that life allowed me to have more visible outside goals and make progress that others could see. But there is not a long term goal more important or more vital than the one I was giving my everything to during a time period where it looked to the outside world like maybe I was apathetic and had slacked off. So PLEASE be careful to judge others. You just never know.

  • Alison Moore Smith February 21, 2012, 9:46 pm

    Honestly no matter how well you know someone you don’t really know what they are doing where they have been making a difference etc.

    Amy, you’re absolutely right. I’m so glad you chimed in and shared your experience. And I’m very sorry for the difficulties you’ve experienced.

    But that plays both ways. If we can’t know they aren’t reaching their potential, then we can’t know that they are all trying so hard and doing so much and beating themselves up, either. (Which is the usual take on the situation.)

    Understand though, this is part of my business. I can only go on what people say and assume it’s true. People tell me themselves all the time that they can’t do this and they can’t do that and they are too busy to do what they really dream of. But they CAN tell me about every episode of Dr. Phil or Survivor or whatever.

    I’m not talking about visible goals — as I said above. I’m talking about PERSONAL goals. I don’t walk around pointing to people who look like they don’t have goals. People talk to me and email me because of what I write and what I do. And they SAY they want this and that, but they don’t DO anything about it. Like it’s going to magically happen. Someday.

    Back in the college (and I’m sure Janiel and Tracy know what I’m talking about), when I performed a lot, people would come up to me all the time and say, “I would do anything to sing like you!”

    After about the billionth time, I stopped thanking them and started snarking, “Oh, wow! Who are you studying voice with?”

    This was the awkward silence and staring portion of our story. Of course, they weren’t taking lessons or practicing or giving up X to learn to sing. Almost universally the people who said this were doing nothing to learn to sing and hoping that vocal expertise would fall on them from the sky. In other words, they not only wouldn’t “do anything” to sing well, but they wouldn’t do *anything* (except fantasize).

    That’s how I want to play the piano, by the way. By magic. 🙂 I don’t want to practice, but I do want the skill to fall upon me.

    That said, I do think people can often do more than they think they can. Susan Easton Black once told us (the ward RS presidents when she served as stake RS president (yea, wow)) about her post-divorce experience. You know, dropping out of school to put your husband through dental (I think?) school, having three kids, only to have him run off and desert you. She curled up in a ball and wouldn’t get out of bed. Until her VISITING TEACHERS forced her way in the house and coerced her to take…piano lessons. Seriously.

    Very abbreviated version, she went from being alone, depressed, and unwilling to get out of bed to having a PhD and being the first female religion professor at BYU who is a sought after speaker and author — and probably the foremost expert on Joseph Smith in the church.

    Turning a life around isn’t easy and it isn’t quick and it sure isn’t magic, but I do believe that this is the kind of power people have. And, yes, I’m speaking from experience.
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  • Daniel February 21, 2012, 11:50 pm

    I guess I’m an oddity when it comes to making goals and making them actionable. I know that some of them are very long term (like learning to play the piano), but the day to day actions are easy (practice at least 10 minutes a day after breakfast and before bed). I’ve never failed to reach a goal that was reasonable and I could do on my own.

    I just need to learn to give up on one particular goals that is seemingly impossible (and becomes more so as I grow older) so that I can spend my time toward something I can accomplish. No one’s been able to tell me how to let go of it yet. Any ideas on how to force yourself to stop and give up?

  • Alison Moore Smith February 22, 2012, 1:09 am

    LOL Daniel. A question I have NEVER before been asked.

    Sheesh. If I could either LOSE the baby weight (my “baby” is eight) or be happy with myself NOT losing it, I might be able to help you!

    As it stands I’ve been on NutriSystem (again) for over two weeks and have lost…drum roll…1.3 pounds. Yes, folks, that’s .65 pound per week for eating out of a BOX.

    When I decide to be fat AND happy, I’ll let you know how I did it!
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  • Amber Mae February 22, 2012, 9:37 am

    Daniel brings up a really interesting point. What about the secret goals? The bucket list goals that a lot of us don’t even try because of fear of failure. How long should we work towards those?
    I know people who have spent decades and thousands of dollars trying to start businesses that never get off the ground. This comes at the expense of their families. When should they just give up? When does a goal cross over into the realm of a pipe dream?
    And Allison, I know what you’re saying about singing. I’ve gotten that comment my whole life, although I never had a snarky reply to it. lol.
    Amber Mae recently posted…Conquer the World – another original songMy Profile

  • Alison Moore Smith February 22, 2012, 11:47 am

    I’ve gotten that comment my whole life, although I never had a snarky reply to it.

    Amber, that’s only because you’re nicer than I am!
    Alison Moore Smith recently posted…Best Home UpgradesMy Profile

  • Daniel February 22, 2012, 8:43 pm

    The difficult part about my goal is that it’s to find a wife and have a family. I’ve been working at it heavily for about 13 years now. It has been my exclusive goal for the better part of ten. I’ve done everything I can think of and now it seems to have massively backfired on me. When I was younger it wasn’t uncommon to meet a girl every month or so, but now that I’m older I’m lucky if I meet one every six months. Then instead of the dating game, it’s turned into “what’s wrong with this person” game. A funny story comes from the last girl I asked out on a date. She was cute, educated, healthy, independent, and we got along on the first three dates. Then on the fourth date, I took her swing dancing (as she said she liked dancing), then she preceded to attack my arm when I tried to dance with her. That’s when she told me that she didn’t like to be touched by other people! I asked her if it was anyone or just guys or what. She said it was everyone and I could ask her family if I didn’t believe her… Hmmm… :-/

    Now, I don’t want to go into why people are single. I’m more interested in how people accept that they are not going to able to find someone? I feel guilty (like I’m not doing what I’m supposed to be doing) if I go visit a national park rather than go to a social venue and try to meet a girl. Meanwhile, my other single friends go on trips to Europe and feel no guilt. They have a laissez-faire approach to the whole thing that I wish I could have.

  • jennycherie February 22, 2012, 9:18 pm

    Daniel – I was just talking to a friend about this the other day. For so many years, she has been unwilling to even consider ever marrying again. She is not actively seeking, but she is finally able to listen to the prompting saying “be open.” I think as long as your attitude is “I would marry if I could,” then your every activity does not have to be geared towards meeting women. In all seriousness, you can meet people anywhere, so why not just do what you enjoy and what makes you a contributing member of society and just be you. And maybe, while you’re living a great life, you’ll meet a great woman who enjoys doing what you enjoy doing. Or maybe not. Maybe you’ll just make yourself into a really great person. I’m not sure this is a goal you can ever really let go of, because it’s a righteous desire and it’s a good thing that you want to be married and have a family.
    jennycherie recently posted…Joy to the WorldMy Profile

  • partone February 22, 2012, 9:35 pm

    Great story, Daniel. Glad you are here.

  • Janiel Miller February 24, 2012, 12:18 pm

    Daniel. What Jennycherie said.
    Thank you for being candid and sharing. I think, too, that rather than “giving up” on your goal–which would be pretty hard for your heart to do–you should simply live. Have the goal in the background, be open to new opportunities, but live. You’ll meet people as you are out there living. And maybe they’ll be the kind you won’t find if you’re always desperately seeking. A better kind. Just my two-bits. Adjusted for inflation, 50-bits.

    As for the making-and-following-through-with-goals topic, Alison, I think it gets a lot more complicated when there are underlying factors involved. Like the woman you cited who watched tv instead of improving her life–she sounds depressed to me. Clinically. Things like that often come from unresolved emotional issues (speaking strictly as a non-professional here), and when those are present it’s a whole different ballgame to make goals and follow through.

    I totally agree that people need to be taught how to do it. I’d love to take a course. But sometimes it may be that there’s a need for some divine intervention in the form of the atonement–healing, peace–first.
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  • Erin March 11, 2012, 5:52 pm

    Sometimes I am so very tired of people, even GA’s telling me to set goals. Goal-setting? I barely have energy to get through the day, sometimes.

    Maybe that *is* my goal, to figure out how to get through the day more effectively and with joy (not to be confused with happiness).

    Okay, I guess I have proved Maxwell right! Never mind! :^)
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  • Alison Moore Smith March 11, 2012, 6:07 pm

    Erin, honey, your comment made my day. 🙂

  • Anna March 13, 2012, 1:23 pm

    I was overwhelmed with my own life a few years back. I had personal and health problems, a real tragedy came along. my husband was ill and unemployed for years, I lost the ability to sleep well and became obese, and that is certainly not all on the list. I sort of collapsed under the weight of it all, to the point where just making it through a day was a real accomplishment. Usually, I didn’t even get that far . People just criticized me, and I had no friends, especially in church. Like the lady you described, Allison, I can really understand just sitting in front of a TV to get away from it all!!!
    And I had been a person who, just a few years before, even with severe challenges, had enough discipline to keep an immaculate house, take care of my three children who were all in diapers at the same time, live on a limited income, and was a dance teacher,etc.
    So this kind of stymied living, that you described up there, Alison can happen to anyone, not just ” ne’er do wells”. (like so many people think, which is why I got so much criticism and impatience) Have enough bad and hard stuff happen to you, and you are under physically and emotionally. Or, just getting TOO caught up in modern living can do it to you, too, where you are so overscheduled and demanded on, that your best efforts only translate into mere survival.
    one thing that finally helped me to get ‘off the couch’ so to speak, and begin to feel hopeful again was the Flylady. Alison, you must know about her. She is just really good at talking to these ladies who are really in trouble, and don’t believe they can get off the couch, or even out of bed,
    Martha Cilley brought me my life back and gave me control over my home again when I thought I couldn’t do it. I highly recommend her to anyone who is overwhelmed or losing control for any reason, and doesn’t feel strong enough to get it back.
    I learned about her from a Fascinating Womanhood class I took, my first effort to help myself. This also was very good for me. Although there are a lot of scoffers out there who don’t appreciate these teachings, I found them to be very deeply and profoundly spiritual, while at the same time being highly developmental and nurturing to my true nature, NOT superficial, subservient and manipulative, as the critics say.
    I so admire Fascinating Womanhood for the enduring timeless classic that it is, and, in my opinion, the author, Helen Andelin, is among the greatest women of the 20th century. For those who are raising eyebrows, I suggest you take a deeper look at her.
    I also changed my diet to conform strictly with the WOW. Also, practicing temperance had to become a constant, and the Dr Bridell book was very helpful for me here. I can’t recommend that book enough!
    You can have peace, calm wisdom and accomplishment. You can bounce back from the storms in life like a great lady. Really

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