God taught Abraham a way to think about progression. If two celestial bodies exist, He said, and one moves more slowly than the other, there is probably a third one that moves more slowly still (Abraham 3:6-8). If two people exist, one more skilled than another, there is probably a third who is more skilled than them both (Abraham 3:18-19). “If two things exist,” He said, “and there be one above the other, there shall be greater things above them” (Abraham 3:16). The differentiation indicates that further progress and refinement is possible.
Alma taught a similar principle to the poor among the Zoramites, who were discouraged by their lack of opportunities. If it seems like you have no foundation to build upon, he said, start with desire (Alma 32:27). Then, take a small step, and see where it leads. If it seems to be leading in a good direction, then take the next step. Don’t become complacent and stop moving forward, and certainly don’t confuse progress with completion. Keep moving forward with patience, diligence, and faith, and you will enjoy far greater blessings than you can experience at the beginning of the process (Alma 32:28-43).
Steven R. Covey advocated an intentional balance between production (P) and production capability (PC). He observed that we tend to be focused on generating tangible results, and that we often neglect activities, such as education or self-care, which will increase our ability to produce those results. (See The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People: Powerful Lessons in Personal Change, 25th Anniversary Edition, p. 64.)
Production activities have clearly defined outcomes, and they often have deadlines. When you’re done, you know you’re done, and you can often show other people the results of your efforts.
Production capability activities are ongoing and incremental. When I set a goal earlier this year to improve my piano technique, I did not have a particular measurable outcome in mind. I simply wanted to increase my proficiency. There was no deadline, just the joy of continuous improvement through daily practice.
Goals focused on production can help us improve our capabilities, but they can also have unhealthy side effects. As Alma warned, we can plateau after achieving a goal instead of seeing it as a milestone along an ongoing journey. We can also become obsessed with other people’s perception of our accomplishments instead of focusing on the next steps in our own progression.
Today, as I consider resolutions for 2022, I will balance production goals with production capability goals. Whether my goals are time-bound or open-ended, I will view them as opportunities for continuous personal growth and development.