How many of us are doing that? How many of us are taking the action needed to improve our lives? Again, only action produces results. And it doesn’t matter how undesired your reality is today. You can flip any reality into something better when you flip your focus.
More than just seeing
Some may find that a bold claim. If you’re engulfed in your own negative experience, you’ll rightly wonder how simply looking at something different can change anything. But we’re talking here about focusing, not just looking.
Just because you look at something doesn’t mean you’re focused on it. When you drive a car, for example, you’ll look ahead for the most part because that’s the direction you’re going. But occasionally, you look in your mirrors to get a sense of what’s around you. That’s part of safe driving. But how safe would you be looking mostly in your rear view mirror? You’d find driving your vehicle safely difficult if you did that.
That’s the difference between focusing and seeing. Everyone has undesired experiences in life. Simply looking at them won’t create a negative reality. Only when you constantly choose to keep your vision fixed on the negative are you focused on the negative. And a focus on the negative means a reality filled with negativity.
How it actually works
Changing a negative reality is as simple as choosing a positive focus. If a negative reality results from a negative focus, then a positive reality will result from a positive focus. But how exactly does that work?
Many think reality is the collection of what happens to you, but this perspective drives a focus on what others do or don’t do, and the resulting reality is one in which you’re disempowered to change your own life for the better.
What happens to you does play a role in shaping reality, but you play a much larger role with the meaning you assign. You’ll get a certain result depending on your actions. And, yes, other people play a role in determining that result. But whatever the result, you choose what that result means. And that meaning plays a larger role in creating your reality than what others do.
The same undesired experience can come to two different people, and you can find one in complete turmoil and the other in complete peace. The same thing happened to both, so why don’t both have the same reality? It’s because reality is more than just what you experience; it’s also what meaning you choose to give your experience. And the way you assign meaning is through your focus. You choose your focus, and thereby you choose the meaning you assign to your experiences, and thereby you choose your reality.
Stand and own it
When you understand how it all works, the ramifications can overwhelm. If you choose your reality, then the one ultimately responsible if you don’t like your reality is you! That realization usually precedes one of two responses: You’ll either cower back and hide, or you’ll stand up and embrace it.
Cowering can be comfortable, but that choice disempowers you, surrendering you to a victim mentality that keeps you in the prison of always blaming others for why your life isn’t what it should be. But your best life has you empowered with a victor mentality that liberates you. And that’s where the harder choice to stand up and embrace the truth comes in. To have your best life, you must stand and own it.
If you don’t like your current reality, you can flip it when you flip your focus. Stand up, own your life, and start making intentional choices to seize your power of agency and move yourself towards your best life. You’ll feel the empowerment that comes from taking control of your life. You’ll feel the satisfaction that comes from making progress towards your goals. And you’ll learn how to stay positive no matter what negative experiences come your way. And that will bring you more joy in your journey.
That’s why it didn’t take me long to identify “Eyes to See” by Michelle D. Craig as the Conference address to use for the program today. In her remarks, Sister Craig spoke of the need we all have both to see others deeply and to be seen deeply by others. And that’s possible for you when you acquire eyes to see.
Stop doing what you shouldn’t
I’ve long spoken about self-talk. We all give messages to ourselves every day out of habit. For most of us, at least 80% of those messages are negative. A constant barrage of negative messaging can hold anyone back from fully living the joy to be had in life.
The cure for that, of course, is embracing habits of positive self-talk. But you’ll find that next to impossible without first deeply seeing yourself the way God sees you. If you see yourself in any lesser light, it’ll be harder to accept your divine nature and heritage as a child of God. And you’ll feel awkward acting on what you don’t really believe.
That’s why I love how Sister Craig began her remarks with the story of Elisha’s servant seeing a threatening army surround him and his master. But the servant set aside his fears when the Lord opened his eyes to see the truth of his master’s words: “They that be with us are more than they that be with them.” Sister Craig then declared,
If what you’re doing keeps you from living the joy surrounding you every single day, then the obvious first step to experiencing that joy is to remove the obstacle. Get out of your own way. Stop doing what you shouldn’t, and stop thinking in ways that lead you to do what you shouldn’t.
Start doing what you should
Of course, you can’t just stop the bad you think and do. We’re all biologically hardwired to operate out of habit. Our self-talk and most other thoughts and actions we play out of habit. Our habits feed us the instructions we follow to navigate everyday life.
But habits don’t change just because you stop executing bad instructions. Again, you’re biologically hardwired to have a habit, so when you encounter the trigger connected with that habit you stopped, your brain looks for a habit. Not finding one, it kicks in the default response, which is always to go back to the last habit you had.
That’s why you don’t just quit bad habits. You must replace them with better ones. So once you stop doing what you shouldn’t, start doing what you should. And you can begin by partnering with the Lord and allowing Him to show the way.
Sister Craig shared some beautiful stories of how people were blessed and uplifted when others stopped their normal routines, looked around them, and acted on promptings to go and do. She declared,
See the beauty all around you
When you replace less effective habits of thinking and doing with more effective ones, you position yourself to see and to receive the deep joy that really does surround you every single day. That joy comes when you give your all to your true identity and purpose. But you can’t do that if you don’t first see your true identity and purpose.
So start today to develop eyes to see. Stop thinking and doing what prevents you from seeing yourself and others as the children of God we all are. Start thinking and doing what opens your view to the marvelous truths of the restored gospel and the reality of the Savior’s marvelous Atonement.
With a clearer vision of your true reality, you can press forward with joy amidst any challenge. You can feel better about yourself because you’ll see yourself in the splendid potential for glory bequeathed to every child of God. You can feel better about life because you’ll see the beauty that really is all around you. You’ll see more clearly the Lord’s hand working in your life and the lives of others. And that will bring you more joy in your journey.
counterfeits, Sister Michelle Craig spoke of counterfeits in the women’s meeting of the last General Conference. Though I'm not a woman, I read the talks from that session after Conference, just like the sisters have been doing with the priesthood session for years. And I found Sister Craig’s address entitled “Divine Discount” quite applicable for LDS singles everywhere.
Recognize the gap
Everyone at one time or another feels they exist beneath their own capacity. Depending on our chosen perspective, recognizing that gap can motivate us to action or paralyze us into inaction. Action feeds divine discontent, a yearning that propels us to reach higher and become something more than we were before. Inaction feeds disillusioned discouragement, Satan’s counterfeit for divine discontent.
As Sister Craig shared,
How many of us have heard that message before, that we aren’t good enough? Of course, the Atonement of Jesus Christ says we are good enough. But if we still have habits of negative self talk, it can be all too easy to believe Satan’s lying counterfeits.
Action is the key
Sister Craig teaches the importance of action. When the Prophet Joseph felt concerned as a boy about his shortcomings, he asked, “What is to be done?” (JS-H 1:10) and then acted in faith. He went to the scriptures, responded to the invitation in James 1:5 to “ask of God” and ushered in the Restoration.
Likewise, when we feel the gap between what we are and what we would like to become, we should take action. In my own life, I’ve found that staying inactive just breeds more disillusionment and discouragement. It’s easier to talk yourself into deeper negative emotions like doubt, despair, and hopelessness when you aren’t doing anything. But when we do something — anything — that action can open the door of possibility, which can help us to believe our tomorrow can be brighter than our today, that our lives really can improve. That belief is the first step to hope, encouragement, and happiness.
We embrace another source of inaction when we entertain endless debates over whether the promptings we receive to do good come from the Spirit or our own thoughts. Again, action is the key. When we receive an idea to bring goodness into the world, we should focus less on the source of the idea and more on executing it. Sister Craig tells a wonderful story about a seamstress named Susan who followed a prompting to make a tie for President Spencer W. Kimball but then backed off while en route to deliver it. President Kimball’s wife Camille saw Susan at that critical moment and invited her forward, telling her “never [to] suppress a generous thought.” Sister Craig loves that, and so do I. “Never suppress a generous thought.”
Sister Craig continues,
I love that perspective on time management. How often in our focus on getting things done do we miss the opportunity to make people’s lives better? Becoming something more is about the quality of what we are and not just the quantity of what we can accomplish.
Trust in the Lord
Of course, becoming more is meaningless if it doesn’t near us to the Lord. Sister Craig taught that divine discontent will lead us to humility and a recognition that with Christ we can be and do anything. Such a recognition opposes Satan’s counterfeit message that we’re not enough, that we’ll never achieve our righteous desires or accomplish anything worthwhile in this life.
I love Sister Craig’s perspective on the miracles the Savior performed. They “often begin with a recognition of want, need, failure, or inadequacy,” but when individuals gave the Lord their all anyway, He provided the miracle.
Sister Craig expounds,
We can achieve our righteous desires if we approach the Lord in humility, give our all to whatever instructions He reveals to us through the Spirit, and then rely upon Him to make the miracle happen. Whenever we feel we are far beneath our potential, divine discontent can bring us closer to the Lord as we act in faith, follow promptings to do good, and trust in the Lord. And doing that will bring us more joy in our journey.
Howdy! I'm Lance, host of Joy in the Journey Radio. I've been blogging about LDS singles life since 2012, and since 2018 I've been producing a weekly Internet radio show to help LDS singles have more joy in their journey and bring all Latter-day Saints together. Let's engage a conversation that will increase the faith of LDS singles and bring singles and marrieds together in a true unity of the faith.
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