Life is Hard…(Or Is It?)

“Your subconscious mind does not argue with you. It accepts what your conscious mind decrees.” -Dr. Joseph Murphy

I liked to distance run as a child, so in ninth grade I decided to go out for cross country. I went to the introductory meetings, but that was as far as I got. The coach was disappointed when I quit before the season even started. Why did I quit after having been excited about this sport? I suddenly got it into my head that it was going to be too hard.

Where did that “I can’t do it” belief come from? I’m not exactly sure, but every time I talked to my parents about cross country, they made comments like, “Why do you want to do that?” or “It’s going to be hard.” I don’t recall the exact words, but with every comment they made, I realized I was not going to be supported if I continued cross country. If I had been strong, I would have done it anyway, if only out of a desire to prove myself. But unfortunately, I was weak and had little self-confidence at that time.

Going into my senior year, I realized that it was my last chance to run cross country. I didn’t want to graduate from high school having regrets. During that previous three years, I had developed greater confidence in myself, so I went for it. I had a great time and loved being part of a team. I made some good friends, whom I wished I had gotten to know years earlier. However, I was never a strong competitor and was always back running with the freshmen girls. The other seniors, having had trained the previous three years, were out of my league. It was disappointing knowing I could have been like them if I hadn’t quit in 9th grade.

It would be easy to blame my parents for not supporting me, but I don’t. They simply weren’t, and still aren’t, interested in sports or competition. They didn’t really play sports growing up, and none of my brothers really did either. I think that they also weren’t excited about the prospect of having to drive me to and from practices and meets, which would have demanded a lot of their time. (And let’s face it, cross-country isn’t exactly thrilling for spectators!) Or maybe they wanted to protect me from disappointment and failure. Now I’m able to look back and see other motives for the negative commentary and lack of support, but at the time, all I could see was that they didn’t think I could do it, so it meant I couldn’t do hard things.

This was a belief that limited me–physically, mentally, emotionally, and socially–as I grew up. Thinking that “I can’t” is actually one of the most widespread and destructive beliefs in our society. The belief that “Life is hard” is something I hear all the time. I’ve bought into many beliefs that fall under that category, such as:

  • Change is hard.
  • Exercise is hard.
  • Marriage is hard.
  • Raising children is hard.
  • Keeping a clean and orderly home is hard.
  • Teaching is hard (and unrewarding).
  • Overcoming addiction is hard.
  • Trials are hard, and necessary in order to grow spiritually.

Are these statements true? In my experience so far, they seem to be. But I wonder how much I’ve needlessly struggled and suffered simply because I have always believed things are supposed to be hard? Maybe everything would seem easier if I change this idea that “Life is hard” to more empowering belief, such as that “I flow easily and effortlessly through all the challenges and experiences life brings.”

There are countless other limiting beliefs, especially in the areas of finances and love. A lot of our limiting beliefs come from adults who have influence over us as we’re growing up, as was the case in this example. But these kinds of beliefs can come from anywhere: our peers, the media, myths, debunked science, etc. Beliefs are never “true,” they are simply a models that help us make sense of our world. However, in our minds, they represent reality as we know it. Our subconscious minds make no distinction between fantasy and reality, truth and fiction. It simply takes at face value whatever our conscious mind feeds it.

So, if we don’t examine our beliefs, the scary thing is that these programs are running us and could be sabotaging our success without our even realizing it. The good news is that we can reprogram these beliefs so that our minds work for us rather than against us, so that we can reach our goals. How can this be done? Use this simple tool I learned from Jack Canfield (author of The Success Principles):

  1. Brainstorm all the beliefs you can think of that you feel are limiting you. Make a list of all the things you heard growing up that might somehow still be limiting you. Identify which belief you want to change.
  2. Determine how this belief limits you.
  3. Decide how you’d rather be, act, or feel.
  4. Create a turnaround statement that affirms or gives you permission to be, act, or feel this new way.

An example using this tool might look like this:

  1. “I can’t do hard things.”
  2. This keeps me from taking on challenges that help me grow and allow me to create, keeps me from joining new social circles and creating new friendships, and contributes to low self-esteem and lack of self-confidence.
  3. I would rather face challenges with a positive attitude that I can succeed. I would like to feel empowered and capable. I’d love to accomplish more.
  4. “I am capable of succeeding at challenging tasks.” Or, “I enjoy new experiences that challenge me and make me grow.”

Once you’ve created your empowering turnaround statement, to reprogram your subconscious mind, speak it out loud several times a day for a minimum of 30 days. Repetition and intensity are the keys here. This process is powerful. Any idea implanted this way can penetrate the subconscious mind, going deeper than reason, deeper than the conscious mind could ever hope to go.

Why should life keep being hard when it doesn’t have to be? I know I’m going to be working on this over the next month. I hope you’ll give it a try, too!

Look to the Question; the Answer Lies Within

“If you do not ask the right questions, you do not get the right answers. A question asked in the right way often points to its own answer.” -Edward Hodnett

In life, we’re guaranteed questions, but not guaranteed answers. No problem, though. What if I told you that the answers to many of life’s questions can be found within the questions themselves? Asking powerful questions can help us understand the subconscious patterns of the mind that created the question, shedding light on the assumptions, stories and beliefs we hold. Enough insight can be found through analyzing these things that in so doing, the question can often be answered in a deep, personal and satisfying way.

This process, although simple, isn’t necessarily easy. The tricky part is to make sure you’re asking the right questions. According to Ursula LeGuin,

“There are no right answers to wrong questions.”

How do you know if you’re asking the right questions? The assumptions within the question have to ring true for you. I’ll show you how to break a question down into its assumptions in a minute. If you find yourself asking “wrong” questions, these can actually be insightful as well, if you really think about how and why you’ve asked them.

A “wrong” question I sometimes ask is, “Why are my kids being so annoying today?” Analyzing this reveals far more about myself than it does about my children. If I direct the question away from them and toward myself, it morphs into, “Why am I so annoyed with my kids today?” That’s a little better, but still not a strong question. When I try to focus my attention on the positive rather than the negative, the question becomes, “What is keeping me from treating my family with patience and love today?” And to make it really self-empowering, “How can I take the lead in creating an atmosphere of patience and love in my home?” That question is so much more powerful than the first one in creating change because I’m taking responsibility for my own role in the environment of the home, rather than passively focusing on the negative behavior of others.

Once you have asked a powerful, “right” question, you’re very close to arriving at the answer. Art critic John Ruskin said,

“To be able to ask a question clearly is two-thirds of the way to getting it answered.”

Are you ready for the tool? Get a paper and pencil and try this exercise. (Or if you’re like me, start typing on your computer.) No really, take action and do this right now. It’s powerful.

Start by asking yourself, What is the greatest source of dissatisfaction in your life right now? Write down the answer. Don’t just think about it!

Now consider this: If you could ask God just ONE question about this problem — and you were guaranteed to get an answer — what would that question be? Write the question down.

After you’ve done that, use these steps: (Credit for this tool goes to Stephen Palmer.)

  1. Identify the assumptions embedded within the question.
  2. Then, analyze the assumptions and ask of each of them, “Is this true?” Then, “If not, what is true? What am I missing?”

If you’ve analyzed your question rigorously enough, you should have been able to find several answers that you can use to create the necessary changes toward living a more satisfying life!

If you’re not quite sure what I mean by analyzing your assumptions, see the following example:

Greatest source of dissatisfaction: My marriage. Question: Why is my marriage such a struggle, and what can I do to make it better?

These are some assumptions embedded within this question, and an analysis of each:

  • My marriage is a struggle. (True, from my perspective)
  • There is a reason that it is a struggle. (True)
  • It should not be such a struggle/struggling is bad. (False—struggle is necessary for my growth. But there are more and less effective ways to struggle.)
  • It can get better. (True—hold on to faith and hope. There’s also a lot more that’s already going well that I’ve failed to notice or appreciate.)
  • I can do something or several things to improve my marriage. (True—There’s more I could be doing that I’m avoiding or putting off.)
  • It is up to me, not my spouse, to make it better. (Mostly true. I can always improve, but my spouse plays a role too and can make his own choices. I need to be patient and supportive while he works some issues out for himself. Something I can always do is to pray for him.)

Solution: Be patient, supportive, open and hopeful. Find peace in the knowledge that this experience will help me grow. Learn about and experiment with some new strategies and skills. Pray for my spouse’s hurts to be healed and for our trust in each other to be mended. Be grateful for the good things about our relationship.

See how that worked? These answers were actually embedded within the assumptions of the question itself. This 5-minute exercise ended up providing some valuable and helpful insights and have led to further soul-searching questions filled with more enlightening truths!

I hope that this tool can assist you in creating breakthroughs of your own!

Trailing Clouds of Glory

This Sunday is going to be a special day for our family. Our sweet three-month-old baby boy, the sixth member of our family, is getting a special blessing and having his name added to the records of our church. Most of our extended family will be there for the occasion.

This blessing is special because it comes from God, whom we call our Heavenly Father. My husband, our baby’s earthly father, will voice the words of this blessing. As he is tuned into Heavenly Father through the Holy Spirit, the words to say will come into his mind. In these blessings, babies are typically blessed with health, wisdom, loving relationships, spiritual qualities, and more. I’m really looking forward to our baby receiving this gift from his loving fathers.

Our baby (whom we’ve nicknamed “Wally” to protect his identity online) has been an absolute joy to have in our family. My other children constantly fawn over him to the extent that I’m afraid they might smother him! Wally has brought such an innocence, sweetness and purity with him. He is yet untainted by the darkness of the world.

utah-newborn-photographer-roberts-29

We believe that babies can still recollect their previous existence with their Father in Heaven, and that if they could speak, they would be able to communicate some pretty wondrous things. The knowledge of these things must be hidden from us during this mortal life so that we may develop faith and other spiritual qualities which allow our characters to become more and more like that of our Savior, Jesus Christ. We believe that this process of growth, along with forming and strengthening family ties, is the reason we came to this Earth.

My favorite poem ever is William Wordsworth’s “Ode: Intimations of Immortality from Recollections of Early Childhood.” The complete poem is hundreds of lines long (and well worth the read), but these few lines, the most well-known in the poem, perfectly capture my beliefs about babies and our life before birth:

Our birth is but a sleep and a forgetting:

220px-william_wordsworth_at_28_by_william_shuter2The Soul that rises with us, our life’s Star,

Hath had elsewhere its setting,

And cometh from afar:

Not in entire forgetfulness,

And not in utter nakedness,

But trailing clouds of glory do we come

From God, who is our home:

Heaven lies about us in our infancy!

When we see these babies, in their nakedness and helplessness, it may be easy to assume that they have forgotten everything about where they existed previously. And yet…there’s something they bring with them–God’s love and purity. I can picture the imagery of the clouds of His glory trailing behind these babies as they come into our arms and dispersing gradually as the child grows outside of His presence.

The poem continues through the life of a growing nameless Boy, who recollects at times that light which he was surrounded by at birth. The Imagination is that light of God working through our minds in our childhood, which then morphs into the exalted Reason of the adult mind. Man is whole and complete when he is able to bring reason and the imagination into harmony with each other.

Holding sweet baby Wally is often a spiritual experience for me as I reflect on how recently he was in the very presence of God. Before we will be able to feel comfortable in our Heavenly Father’s presence someday, we need to return to this innocent and pure state. Many adults think that childhood is something to “grow out of.” While there are “child-ish” things we need to leave behind, there are so many “child-like” qualities that we need to develop and embrace. I love this scripture from the Book of Mormon which outlines these qualities:

For the natural man is an enemy to God, and has been from the fall of Adam, and will be, forever and ever, unless he yields to the enticings of the Holy Spirit, and putteth off the natural man and becometh a saint through the atonement of Christ the Lord, and becometh as a child, submissive, meek, humble, patient, full of love, willing to submit to all things which the Lord seeth fit to inflict upon him, even as a child doth submit to his father. -Mosiah 3:19

I feel humbled and honored as a mother to be in the presence of these exalted little ones. While it is my duty to teach them a great many things, they teach me things that are even more important. They exemplify unconditional love. If I don’t relearn how to love this way, as I did as a child, it won’t matter what else I accomplish in this life. It truly is the smallest, weakest, and simplest things through which God manifests that which is grandest and most glorious.