A few years ago my mom and dad wrote extensive personal histories, which they then printed and gave to us children for Christmas. What a treasure these have been to me. I learned so much as I read about what the years of my young life were like from their experience. So much was going on that as a child I had no idea of-- for instance there was a great deal of stress for my dad at his job that I was not aware of and could not have understood as a child. Reading about it as an adult really helped me understand my dad better and put things in perspective.
The biggest epiphany I had while reading these histories was about my mother. She wrote about how during her 30's she had an interest in self-improvement. She made a list of 12 qualities she wanted to develop, with some details about how she wanted them to manifest in her life as well as specific goals for how to work on them. I loved that she put all this in her personal history!
What blew me away though was that as I read this list I said to myself, "this totally describes my mom!" I was born when my mom was 39, so my memories of her are when she was in her 40's and 50's. And she was practically perfect. It had never occurred to me that the reason she was practically perfect was that she had deliberately worked on her character before I came along, setting goals and achieving them. I had been looking at myself and saying "I am nowhere near the caliber of mother to my children that my mom was to me," well, when my mom was my age she was probably a lot more like me. But she made herself better. I can do that too.
Here's the odd thing: one day five years ago when we were living here at my inlaws I told my visiting teachers this little story about my mom. It really left an impression on one of them, Heidi. Two years later we were visiting Utah and the one Sunday we happened to be at church here Heidi happened to be speaking in Sacrament Meeting and she told about my mom and her self-improvement and the effect it had on me and on her. I thought that was a pretty amazing (not) coincidence that I just happened to be there when she gave that talk. I am sure God had some reason for that, though I am not sure I fully understand it. Maybe it was just to see more clearly the ripple effect our positive actions have. And maybe it was also to keep this all more often on my mind.
I do think about it a lot, especially at this goal-focused time of year.
I am especially excited about goals and self-improvement this year because for most of last year I was just trying to survive. I am so excited to be able to be proactive about my life again. I am working on a vision statement, some positive affirmations, and some goals to start with. I've got a lot to work on, but I am my mother's daughter, so I have a lot of hope!