Life Planning
October 1973

“Life Planning,” New Era, Oct. 1973, 32

Life Planning

John’s a senior in high school, and he’s worried. He’s worried because it’s time to make some important decisions, and he doesn’t know yet what he wants to do for a living. He doesn’t know if he should go to college or trade school or get into the service, or maybe just grab the first job he can find after his mission and hang onto it. He really doesn’t know for sure what his goals in life are, but he knows he’s got to start preparing himself right now one way or the other. So he takes his dad’s advice and prays about it.

No answer.

And yet he has consulted the best career counselor who ever lived. Nobody’s a nobody. The Lord has prepared everybody to do something in an excellent way. It’s our responsibility to find out what that something is. A man’s occupation is an important part of his foreordained mission in life, and he owes it to himself to seek the Lord’s help in choosing a career.

But too often we ask the Lord to tell us what he’s already told us. Like John we expect to receive a neat typewritten answer without ever studying what’s already been given to us. When Oliver Cowdrey asked why he was unable to translate the Book of Mormon plates, the Lord told him:

“… you have supposed that I would give it unto you, when you took no thought save it was to ask me.”

“But, behold, I say unto you, that you must study it out in your mind; then you must ask me if it be right, and if it is right I will cause that your bosom shall burn within you; therefore, you shall feel that it is right.” (D&C 9:7–8.)

The Lord has already revealed a great deal about our individual missions in life. We each receive a patriarchal blessing that helps clarify our future. When we are confirmed, ordained, set apart, administered to, given a father’s blessing, or otherwise blessed by the power of the priesthood, we often receive instruction and advice that help illuminate our callings. We have received inspired counsel from parents, friends, and Church leaders from time to time, and each of us has enjoyed personal impressions through the Spirit. All these guideposts have been given to us so that through prayerful consideration we can understand God’s plan for us. Our likes, dislikes, and talents are also aids that we should use in reaching a decision. Our talents are given to us for a reason, and we are expected to use them.

Here is an exercise that may help you study out in your own mind what the Lord would have you do with your life, based on these sources of revelation. Fill out a chart according to the directions. When you reach a plan that feels good to you, pray about it. If it continues to grow and feel good during your best spiritual moments—then you will have some faithful goals and plans for your life.

The next step will be to start preparing for the future you’ve chosen. It may take some courage—courage to change your plans, to earn less money than you could expect from another field, to work hard, to disappoint some people who had different dreams for you, or even to create a whole new profession to fit your destiny. But if you know it’s right, do it.

Column 1:

Things I Love to Do
List everything you really love to do. (Examples: tennis, paint, build things, music, play with kids.)

Column 2:

Things That Really Count
If you knew you had a week to live, how would you spend your time? List the things that you think are really important.

Column 3:

Things I Do Well
List things you feel you do well or others tell you that you do well. (Examples: sing, smile, “way with kids.”)

Column 4:

Talents I Have
From your patriarchal blessing and other blessings you have received (when you were blessed as a baby, confirmed a member of the Church, etc.), list those things that might have been mentioned by way of gifts or talents. (Examples: mother, teacher, missionary, leader of people.) List any of these things you feel inside, whether or not they have been mentioned elsewhere.

Column 5:

My Missions or Callings in Life
Also from blessings, counsel, or personal impressions, list any missions or callings you feel might be in store for you. (Examples: missionary, father, friend to needy.)

Column 6:

Warnings: Things to Watch Out For
From your blessing or elsewhere, list those things that you really need to be careful of. (Examples: humility, material things, pride.)

Column 7:

Head this column any way you want, with things that might help you see your life better. (Examples: strengths, things I don’t like, unusual weaknesses.) Many times unusual weaknesses are signs of potential strength. Many great public speakers got that way by working on their speaking because they were so frightened and did so poorly when they began.

Column 8:

Just jot down any idea that comes into your head that might fit a pattern you see in the information you have just collected. For instance, if you really love the outdoors, your family really counts, and you have a talent for writing, a brainstorming idea might be to be a park ranger and do free lance writing about wildlife, and spend time with your family.

The brainstorming session is the cutting edge of the system. It’s through carefully and spiritually pondering the alternatives arrived at in this session that you’ll evolve an inspired plan that you can take before the Lord for his approval. So be creative and prayerful in finding alternatives that fit the guidelines you jotted down on the chart. Remember that while the job itself need not provide all the opportunities you want, it should at least allow them and, hopefully, facilitate them.

For instance, if you love to write, have a strong interest in science, and have been inspired to do genealogical research, you could perhaps plan to be science editor of a newspaper in an area where there is a genealogical library. If you also like children, you might choose instead to teach science in school and do freelance writing as well as keep up your research. You might even choose to be a professional genealogical researcher, do volunteer work with retarded children, and keep writing and science as hobbies.

I once asked a man in a fireside group what he would like to do more than anything else if he could just do whatever he wanted. His face lit up, he sat on the edge of his chair, his hands came to life, and he told me that he’d just love to have a whole room full of power tools and bring all the kids in the neighborhood in to help them build birdhouses, playhouses, chicken coops, or anything in the whole world they wanted to build. He loved kids; he loved tools; he loved building things; his whole face was aglow with it. I asked him what he was studying at school; the light went out, and he told me he was studying to be a civil engineer. Why? Because his father was one, it paid good money, and so on. I knew he had the capability of being a good civil engineer, but I asked him, “Have you ever thought about teaching shop instead and spending all day working with power tools and teaching kids how to build things?” He just about fell off his chair. His mouth hung open. His eyes lit up again. It had simply never occurred to him to take stock of what he really liked to do, of what really mattered to him in choosing a career. He had never stopped to think that his wonderful love for young people might be there for that kind of a purpose. He had decided the biggest part of the rest of his life with his eyes closed.

It’s a mistake we can’t afford to make. Pray, study, ponder, choose, and pray some more. And then do it all over again if necessary. If we plan our lives and professions in harmony with the Lord’s wisdom and our own deepest and truest values, we will have a much better chance of doing what we were sent here to do.

Remember, this is just a way to learn to “study it out” and find out more about you and your life. Try; don’t be afraid to dream and ponder. The Lord will help you find that which you can be happy doing, and do it in a special way.