When I was a Young Woman I like to think I was deeply religious. I prayed morning and night, read my scriptures daily, and attended my meetings, including weekly activities. I happily participated in Girls’ Camp, signed up for Education Week twelve years in a row, and avoided the twin evils of R-rated movies and caffeinated beverages. (Or maybe I only think I was religious then by contrast, having become so irreligious now! )
I also resisted, tooth and nail, the Young Women’s program, refusing under any circumstances to earn what I derisively referred to as a “charm necklace.” Every year I would stoutly attempt to negotiate with my leaders in an effort to receive a series of zeroes on my annual progress reports (it generally failed–”but you’ve accomplished so many goals without even knowing it, dear,” they’d argue. But then, that wouldn’t be a goal, if you could accomplish it without setting it, would it?). I took on a service project that ostensibly was to count as a 20-hour Laurel project but promptly dropped it once I’d reached hour 19. For reasons I can only reconstruct now, I felt adamantly that refusing to participate in The Program was a matter of personal integrity.
Of course, there was the slight problem that while still a Beehive I’d torn my YW goal-book limb from limb one afternoon in a fit of temper, and I was entirely too embarrassed to try to explain this to my gentle leaders, who I feared would not be able to process such behavior, so I claimed instead that it was “lost” (i.e., in a landfill).
But my resistance went deeper than an unconfessed temper tantrum. What I think I reacted to intensely was especially the pressure to earn the award, combined with the implicit equation of one’s personal commitment to God in all its complexity with a publicly displayed piece of jewelry. I felt that I would quite literally be compromising my relationship with God if I acceded to a system that concretized and codified it as a simple checklist of activities that were ultimately outside my control. I wanted to be the author of my religious goals, and I wanted to keep their fulfillment entirely private; I did not wish for them to be pawed over and assessed by a cadre of hovering adults.
(This, of course, is not to say that people who did earn such awards did in fact compromise their relationships with deity by any means, but simply that, in the circumstances I was in, it was my strong conviction. Call me neurotic if you must.)
Years later I would similarly balk when a home teacher set a goal for me to pray with more sincerity–it seemed so presumptuous for another person to intrude on my personal worship, dictate its terms, and profess the authority to evaluate it. (Setting goals for other people’s behavior is never, to my mind, a wise idea.)
Yet ironically, I, The Program’s most recalcitrant detractor, remain to this day a compulsive goal setter. Some part of me adores programs with all their attendant colors and booklets and stepping-stones and ceremony. The problem is, I’m not a compulsive goal-achiever. In fact, it takes so much energy to organize my various goals that I periodically set them, promptly lose track of them, and then start over completely, reorganizing them again.
Right now I’ve categorized my goals into eight color-coded areas. Perhaps, if I can manage this time to make progress in even one area, I’ll buy myself a commemorative charm necklace to celebrate.
What are others of your experiences with programs–good or bad, programs you’ve devised yourself or programs that were thrust upon you? In what circumstances are goals helpful, and how do we motivate ourselves to achieve them? Are there circumstances in which goals are unhelpful?
- 7 December 2007