Interlude: First Love (Revised), performed by Stanton Lanier, on the Treasures of Peace: The Stanton Lanier Collection album
What motivates you? When you set a goal for yourself, what keeps you going? I watched the winter Olympics, and marveled at the talent and perseverance of the athletes. They had set the Olympics as a goal, sometimes very young, and there they were — they’d made it. You’d see them listening to their coach, standing at the top of the slope, or beside the rink wall… just one in a series of conversations stretching back years. What kept them going, striving for their Olympic goals?
We make goals, too. Some of us set a goal for Lent a few weeks ago. If you think a little further back than Ash Wednesday, you’ll get to New Year’s Day. Did you make a New Year’s resolution? It seems so long ago, and statistics say most folks have broken them by now. How are you doing? Are you staying on track?
Setting the goal at all is actually an important step. A motivational speaker I heard once said to write down a set of 10 personal goals, every six months. The act of writing them down was important. Each goal needed to be specific. For each one, you needed to envision how your life would be different, better, having achieved that goal. Then, after six months, you’d go back, and see how you did. His assertion: you would accomplish more than you expected. My experience: he was right. I still use this goal-setting method.
One method that we, and the Olympians, use to reach our goals is practice. Practice, practice, practice. Athletes certainly practice, and I associate that word with playing piano. My daughter had to practice driving. We practice meditation. Judging by the bumper stickers, a lot of folks also practice random acts of kindness — their way of making the world a better place. Not a bad goal, actually. But think about it — practice is something ongoing. You get a little better with each repetition. Like the Olympic athletes who fall ill, or break bones, we have setbacks. But like them, we can pick up the practice again, and keep going towards our goals.
Still, staying on track can be hard. What we need is a coach. Someone who can give us tips, encourage us, critique us, guide us to the next level, and keep us going towards our goals. And cheerleaders, too. The ones who congratulate our successes, and stick with us for the long haul. That support is so important.
Support for my life goals is one of the things that brings me here each Saturday. Being here supports big picture goals like a closer relationship with the Holy Spirit, but other kinds of goals, too. Here, in the peace and beauty of this space, I can get back to the basics. Back to the breath. Back to the life-giving mantra. And back to the One who supports us the most. Making time in my life, to sit still, and listen for guidance from the most experienced coach of them all.
In the Book of Common Prayer, we have a prayer for young people that adapts well to those of us past the age of the Olympians, yet still striving to reach our goals. Let us pray:
God our Father, you see us, your children, in an unsteady and confusing world: Show us that your ways give more life than the ways of the world, and that following you is better than chasing after selfish goals. Help us to take failure, not as a measure of our worth, but as a chance for a new start. Give us strength to hold our faith in you, and to keep alive our joy in your creation; through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.
Delivered at Resurrection Catholic Church, Aptos, California, on March 3, 2018.