Thursday, January 09, 2014

The Best Time To Plant a Tree

The best time to plant a tree is 20 years ago. The second-best time is now.
In this month's Ensign, President Uctdorf counsels, 

Now is the best time to start becoming the person we eventually want to be—not only 20 years from now but also for all eternity.  (January 2014 Ensign, First Presidency Message)

I have long resisted the idea of making "New Years Resolutions", just because it is January.  It strikes me as rather arbitrary rationale.  But I do see that there is merit in the idea of considering the present as a good launching point.  And I am quite accomplished at procrastination, so this is particularly pertinent counsel for me to consider.

I am reminded of an occasion several years ago, when there arose an issue of some controversy here in Provo.  The administrators at BYU had invited vice-president Dick Cheney to be the guest speaker at the commencement ceremony.  Some people decided that they didn't care for him, and they tried to organize protests and political sort of stuff in an attempt to block him from speaking.  It never amounted to much more than another superficial media fest, and Cheney delivered a nice speech, despite the controversy.

One point that intrigued me at the time was one of Cheney's private insights of wisdom that he shared.  I have remembered it.  He said that he had never intended to become involved in politics in the first place.  It was never one of his life ambitions.  But unexpected things kept springing up, as they do through the course of life, presenting him with many unique opportunities.  He said that setting goals was the enabling factor that prepared him to take advantage of these opportunities, when they became available.  When Mr. Bush unexpectedly called him up one day with an invitation to join with him on the presidential ticket, Mr. Cheney said was ready.

Mr. Cheney made reference to the military aphorism that "no battle plan ever survives the first contact with the enemy".  But, he asserted, he made careful plans anyway, because they enabled him to make good, intelligent choices, rather than just reacting or not.  It makes the difference between informed choice and a galvanic response.  One is considered, the other is just an automatic knee-jerk.

President Uctdorf assures us that setting goals is a "worthy endeavor", and that procrastination can "derail" our best efforts. 
Sometimes the thing that holds us back is fear. We might be afraid that we won’t succeed, that we will succeed, that we might be embarrassed, that success might change us, or that it might change the people we love.

And so we wait. Or give up.  (Ibid)
Attempting to withdraw from the struggle is obviously not the best outcome.   It is well worth the effort to press on with our intended goals despite adversity.  Another advantage of advance planning...
We almost certainly will fail—at least in the short term. But rather than be discouraged, we can be empowered because this understanding removes the pressure of being perfect right now. It acknowledges from the beginning that at one time or another, we may fall short. Knowing this up front takes away much of the surprise and discouragement of failure.  (Ibid)

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