(from the drawer of drafts, originally started in January…)

I’m somewhat of a dreamer.  I tend to think in terms of ideals.  In my mind, I have this image of how I want my life to be- my job, house, and family, as well as the type of person that I want to be.

I think the gospel and teachings of Church leaders encourage us to be somewhat idealistic.  The scriptures teach ideals (like being perfect), that we aren’t likely to achieve in this life, and Church leaders teach these same high standards that the faithful all strive to obtain.  I cannot disagree with the practice of striving for the ideal when it is promoted by Heavenly Father.

In practicality, I believe there are positive as well as potential negative aspects of striving for the ideal.  I think it is healthy to have a high standard that keeps me wanting to learn, to achieve, and to improve.  I think it also keeps me from becoming too complacent or content with what I might have learned or achieved.  It is good, I believe, to have lofty goals to keep you “anxiously engaged.”

But in other ways, I think that these lofty goals can be detrimental if we don’t approach them with the right perspective.  Striving for the ideal can result in ingratitude if it causes you to dismiss the blessings you have with an ever increasing need for more/bigger/better.  Also, the pursuit of ideals can lead to comparing ourselves with others, and such comparisons are generally not productive.

If our priorities are unbalanced, striving for the ideal will likely lead to a focus on things of lesser importance (a nicer home, more things, etc.) at the expense things that really matter most (relationships with family and friends, faith, etc.).  This is similar to Covey’s concept of climbing the ladder of success and reaching the top only to find that the ladder was leaning on the wrong wall the whole time.

Also, striving for some ideals will inevitably require the involvement of others, and these are especially prone to frustration.  For example, if I am striving for a certain type of family environment, I will likely be frustrated if other family members do not share this same ideal.

For me, the biggest challenge is feeling that I’m not progressing toward the ideals that I want to achieve.  I realize that progress is incremental and sometimes nearly imperceptable.  Although I may not often detect progress toward many of my ideals, I hope that I am progressing more than just chronologically.

The trick, I think, is finding the right balance between learning from the past and preparing for the future while living in and enjoying the present.  All are important, and an excessive focus on any one can diminish the value of the others.

What do you think?  Is it better to have high ideals that we may never reach but that keep us learning and striving even with some frustration, or to have lower expectations that may be easily achieved even though much of our potential may be untapped?

I enjoyed this talk from 30 years ago that touches on this topic.  And as an added bonus, my original title of this post was “Dreams,” so enjoy this song by Supertramp:

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