Finding a Focal Point
“Go to BYU, play football for BYU and get married in the Salt Lake City temple.” These are not goals one would expect from a nine year old, but when Brett Palmer (BS ’09) was in third grade, his mother taught him the importance of setting goals. That’s not to say Palmer looked exclusively to the distant future; one of his short-term objectives was “a Super Nintendo.” Later, Palmer’s mother attached the list of long term goals (including college, football and marriage) to his bedroom door to serve as a reminder. This practice proved to be effective: Palmer eventually went on to achieve everything on his list.
That’s not to say the process was easy. Palmer’s first hurdle came his sophomore year of high school, when a sports injury forced him to reconsider the possibility of earning an athletic scholarship. “At [the time], my GPA was like a 2.5,” Palmer explains. To compensate, Palmer began working in earnest to improve his academics and “from that point forwards, I averaged about a 3.9.”
When the time came to apply for college, Palmer still had his sights set on BYU. “I didn’t send in an application anywhere else. It was BYU or bust for me,” he says. Palmer admits this might have been a risky move, as his GPA was still below the current average for BYU admissions. Still, thanks to his hard work, Palmer was accepted into his dream school. After almost a decade, he’d achieved the long-term goal of attending BYU.
As he headed to BYU, Palmer brought his original list of goals along with him. While he worked to apply the academic rigor he’d fostered in high school, Palmer also went on to tackle his second challenge: the BYU football team. When Palmer returned from his mission, he learned he’d missed tryouts, but that didn’t deter him. “I started training at that point,” he explains, “So I ended up the next year, in February, making the walk-on team.” This was an exciting development! Finally, after over a decade of preparation, Palmer had achieved his second long-term goal.
To his surprise, however, he found that balancing football with a heavy credit load meant his grades started to suffer. Palmer had to make a judgement call. Falling back on the foundation of goal setting that his mother had taught him, Palmer looked ahead to future long-term goals, like a career, and decided to leave the BYU football team. “Short term, it probably would have been great for me to keep playing,” Palmer explains, “but long term, I don’t think I could’ve maintained the grades needed to be able to go to graduate school.”
Palmer doesn’t see this as giving up, though. “Even though it was a really big goal to play in an actual game and put on the uniform, I had felt accomplished enough that I had gone there and I had pushed myself and been accepted as one of the walk-ons on the football team.”
From there, he only had one thing left on his list of goals from 3rd grade: get married in the Salt Lake City temple. After leaving the football team, Palmer’s football skills happened to make him the perfect candidate to coach an intermural flag football team. Coincidentally, the team’s quarterback, Lauren Sammis (BS ’07), would eventually become his wife. “She caught my eye right from the beginning,” Palmer admits, adding that he once took the entire team out for donuts just to get a chance to talk to her. A week or two after the donuts, he asked her on a proper date. “I was just smitten with her from the outset, so we started dating that day and I proposed to her February the next year and then we were married in May.”
Yes, they were married in the Salt Lake City temple.
While his original objectives have all been achieved, Palmer’s attitude of goal-setting has continued into his marriage, career, and family. “My wife and I, each year we sit down and we set relationship goals and we set goals for our business that we own as a family.” Some of these goals, like opening a physical therapy practice, Palmer has accomplished, while other goals have taken longer to achieve. “It’s given us a focal point, something to look towards and work towards,” Palmer says, “When we know what we’re working for, we’re able to work together, and we’ve been able to achieve a lot more than I think either of us thought we were capable of doing because of it.”
Now, Palmer is a father of three, and he’s already started to teach his children the importance of goal setting. “While I haven’t done the exact same thing my mom had, I probably will at some point. [My son] is going to be going into 3rd grade next year…the same time I put those goals up on my wall, so I think it’s probably time to sit him down and make some of those long term goals with him.”