Last week I helped a student review a recent math exam. Focusing on her grade of 48%, she told me how much of a failure she was.
“Oh, no, you’re not!” I immediately contradicted. “All this shows is your approach didn’t work. Now, let’s find a new one.” We then discussed her learning preferences while I interjected cautions to watch her self-talk.
“If you keep telling yourself something’s hard,” I said, “then it’ll never be easy because you’re training your mind to think of that something only as being hard. You can change your course by changing your story. Tell yourself you haven’t learned it yet and then focus on that yet. Tell yourself it’s possible to learn how to do this.”
With a willingness to believe a different life experience was possible, we analyzed the exam questions she missed. “You’re making the same type of mistake over and over again,” I observed. “This is great, because you’ll get huge gains in improvement from changing just one habit.” After we discussed some practical steps she could take, she left eager to embrace a brighter future.
Failure reflects approach not identity
Many LDS singles are just like that student. When her efforts failed, she told herself she was a failure. Likewise, when our efforts don’t produce our desired blessings, we LDS singles tell ourselves similar stories.
How quickly many rush towards negative thinking after a setback in dating! The date we just had didn’t go as well as we hoped, or maybe it never happened because an invitation was rejected or never even received. Whatever the situation, we tend to think our result reflects who we are.
But our results reflect what we do, not who we are. You’ll always get a small flame when you light a match, no matter who you are. Failure to light the match comes from using a less effective approach. What we do, not who we are, produces our results.
Thus, when we obtain undesired results, we need to doubt our approach, not our identity. What can I do differently to obtain better results? What changes do I need to make in myself? Questions such as these help us to confront our challenges more positively.
Our stories carry power
Our approach includes the stories we tell ourselves. I observed that truth with the student I helped last week. She continually struggled with math because that’s what her story taught her to believe. And she believed it.
Likewise, we LDS singles often tell ourselves stories that impede our progress towards eternal blessings. If we keep saying dating is hard, even though it isn’t, we’ll always struggle with it. If we keep saying we don’t have any opportunities, we’ll never see the opportunities the Lord provides every single day. Our stories carry power.
We can leverage this power to our advantage with the word yet. Including yet in our stories helps us to focus on possibility. Do we tell ourselves stories that bend our belief towards hope our tomorrow really can be different than our yesterday? That’s an important change to make in ourselves so that our approach yields better results. “I haven’t succeeded in dating yet” is much more energizing than the demoralizing “I’ve never succeeded in dating.”
We are creatures of habit
We turn stories of our failure into habits by telling them over and over again. Because we’re biologically hardwired to follow habits, we then keep focusing on our failures. This pattern leads us to more repeated failure. Less effective habits keep us standing in our own way of achieving the eternal blessings we desire.
But we can step out of our own way by replacing less effective habits with more effective ones that will bring us more joy in our mortal journey.
Instead of habitually thinking our results reflect our identity, we can habitually think our results reflect our approach. We can habitually question what changes we need to make in ourselves. We can also habitually tell ourselves more positive stories, ones that empower us to believe in possibility and move forward with energy and optimism.
Earlier today I happened upon that student I helped last week. Her entire demeanor was much improved. I asked if she’d implemented any of my suggested changes in her approach. She joyfully responded she had and scored 83% on her practice exam. I rejoiced with her in her success.
We LDS singles can experience similar success in our own lives as we change our approach for eternal blessings. We make all the difference in the results our efforts bring with the stories we tell ourselves. Make sure the stories you tell yourself support a positive, optimistic approach to your challenges. With that habit in place, you’ll experience more joy in your journey.
Howdy! I'm Lance, host of Joy in the Journey Radio. I've been blogging about LDS singles life since 2012, and now I produce a weekly 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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