Duce's Wild: Super teens saving themselves from mediocrity, one goal at a time

Published: Friday, Nov. 15 2013 5:00 a.m. MST

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Have you found a scribbled list of long-term goals on the backseat of your car? Have you caught your teen reading the scriptures longer or more often this week? Have you witnessed your son take a long, deep breath when he’d rather erupt? Someone choosing a banana over a cookie bar? An extra jog around the block? A made bed? An unlikely compliment? More studying and less complaining?

You might have just been a witness to “Come, Follow Me” in action — the new youth curriculum for the LDS Church that is focused on self-reliance and goal-setting for the month of November.

As a youth Sunday School teacher, I sometimes scan the suggested curriculum for Young Women and priesthood leaders to make sure I’m providing enough variety for my students' two-hour stretches of Sunday instruction. I want my hour to be productive, enlightening, engaging and only as repetitive as necessary for cognitive consonance. Recently, I was surprised when my daughters mentioned that their third-hour lesson was very similar to mine.

We had spent our hour talking about motivation for goals and self-improvement. We watched the Tyler Haws basketball video to emphasize the importance of hard work and sacrifice in obtaining a goal, as well as President Thomas S. Monson’s quote that you can’t wish your hopes into existence.

One student shared the story of President Dieter F. Uchtdorf’s trial to learn English and another about Elder L. Tom Perry’s son who improved his track performance by raising the bar instead of perfecting the bare minimum.

I shared an epiphanic college story of the day I choose my major — one of those moments deeply etched in my memory and a singularly significant motivation for advanced dedication to higher education.

My students and I were also inspired by their own stories: Two girls had read the Book of Mormon from cover to cover in just three days that week, emphasizing how easy it is to do hard things when you have a friend encouraging you. Another student informally shared his disappointment in a judge’s unexplainable low score in his speech and debate performance, which excluded him from advancing to regional competition. He had a rough lesson in realizing that even when you do all you can do, sometimes others are obstacles to progress. It won’t be the last time he learns to overcome that kind of discouragement.

Individually, each student set a goal in the following categories to help prepare for future full-time missionary service: spiritually, financially, physically, emotionally and socially. Elder Perry’s general conference talk encouraged worthy goals like getting a job to not only learn the value of work but to save money and practice social skills.

My daughters said the following hour was full of more goal-setting as well as an exercise in imagining something that might modify life goals to a new adult reality, like the death of a spouse, a health condition or a natural disaster that turns life on its head.

Our hearts have ached for those in the Philippines working to rebound from nature’s devastation. I overheard my daughters also talk about the tragedy and realize how insignificant their daily trials can be if they don’t stretch their perspectives.

While the “Come, Follow Me” curriculum is ultimately designed to increase our youths’ faith in Jesus Christ, the materials also teach them how to daily follow in his footsteps toward self-awareness and individual potential, and then to use discovered talents to help others do the same.

I’m proud of my Sunday School “super teens” who are fighting personal mediocrity one goal at a time.

Stacie Lloyd Duce is a columnist and magazine editor featured regularly in several Montana and Utah publications. Her columns appear Fridays on deseretnews.com. Email: duceswild7@gmail.com

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