Latter-day Saint Life

​5 Steps to Grow and Not Just Go


A man was hiking through the forest when he saw something half-way up a tree.

Looking up, he saw another man climbing.

"What are you doing up there?" the grounded man inquired.

"Trying to get to the moon," came the matter-of-fact response.

Baffled, the hiker furrowed his eyebrows before informing the climber that he was never going to get to the moon up there.

The climber snickered at this lowly man's apparent ignorance. "What do you know? I'm higher than you and still have higher to climb!"

Many of us are just like the man in the tree. We think that moving is getting us somewhere.

Our lofty goals and ambitions cause us to start racing through life, or climbing a tree, never giving thought to whether or not we are actually going towards a finish line. As Stephen Covey put it, “if the ladder is not leaning against the right wall, every step we take just gets us to the wrong place faster.”

So often in life, we make a goal to get married, but we go on tons of dates instead of really getting to know someone.

We want to have a successful marriage, but when we go to dinner with our spouse, we are on our phones the whole time.

We desire to do more with our lives, but we read self-help books as procrastination for actually helping ourselves!

It can be agonizing to give our lives an honest look, only to see that our current course is not going to get us where we truly desire. But at times, going backward is what will ultimately propel us forward.

The most successful people I've observed do two things very well: they work hard and they work smart. If one of those is missing, then you will also miss your end goal. Here are four steps to grow and not just go:

1. Think of your biggest, most audacious goal in life.

Do you want to get a PhD? Get married? Travel to a new place? Think of a goal that really challenges your abilities.

2. Break down that goal into manageable steps to get there.

Every tree has individual branches to climb, but no number of branches will ever get you to the moon. There needs to be a clear path of consistent tasks to get to your goal.

3. Ask yourself what in your day-to-day life is preventing you from getting there.

Are you caught in a rut? Do you have financial restrictions? Are you discouraged or fearful? Figure out what is holding you back.

4. Commit to remove or improve one of those things this week.

Maybe you can do a better job of saving your money this week for that trip. Or you can focus on having courage and faith. Nothing big, but start somewhere.

5. Start doing something that will help you get closer to your goal, not just higher.

It is about not just being busy, but being productive. You can’t just research Doctorate programs and become a PhD. You need to prepare entrance papers, take a test, and actually apply. Likewise, you can’t get married if you are going on first date after first date, but never taking a leap of faith to pick just one to take out again.

Can you shoot for the moon? Yeah, sure.

You might even get there.

But first you'll have to get your head out of the clouds and your feet back on the ground to see where you are going and how to get there. For, in the end, you’re going somewhere, so make sure it is where you want to end up.

Zack Oates is an entrepreneur, hot tubber and blogger (but not in that order, necessarily). He lived in Ukraine for two years serving an LDS mission and started a nonprofit in 2008 called Courage to Hope, which works with victims of domestic violence in Ukraine. He has traveled to six different continents in six months this year, and recently proposed to his beautiful fiancée. Check out his blog,

Images via iStock

Lead image via iStock

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