Photo by Kyle Ellefson on Unsplash
I wanted to write about the thoughts that have been swirling around in my head about how we have so much power in our lives. And changing our thoughts changes our behavior and our results. I am going to discuss a few ways and angles that I have been learning this same principle.
Circumstances trigger Thoughts which create our Feelings, which create our Actions, which create our Results. The result points back to the thought. So if I want a different result with something in my life then I need to change my thought.
If you “run a model” for anything in your life, you can see how this is true. And you can see how if you change your thought about the circumstance, the new thought creates new feelings, which will create new actions, and new results. This really shows how much power we really have over how we experience life.
Here’s a real life example from a few weeks ago. I ran this model and coached myself during my morning routine one day. This is what I wrote in my journal…
July 19, 2017
C: R wakes up during my morning routine and cries, wanting me to get her
T: Why?!?! I just want peace and quiet so I can do my routine and focus on me!
F: Distressed, loss of control
A: Ignore her for as long as I can stand but eventually go up and quickly feed her so that she will stop crying and I can get back to what I was doing.
R: Go crazy inside because of hearing her cry (and the emotions that stirs up in me.) And feel resentful of her that I have to take care of her and can’t control my surroundings.
C: R wakes up during my morning routine and cries, wanting me to get her
T: It’s not about me. This is about her. This is an opportunity for me to serve R and to shine some of God’s love for her through me.
F: Purposeful, driven
A: Go up to her room, hold her, comfort her, feed her, and cuddle with her.
R: I feel happy because I was able to be an instrument in God’s hands.
This situation just happened a few minutes ago. R woke up, when she was crying I felt those all too familiar feelings of overstimulation, lack of control of my surroundings, distressed, trapped. I just wanted her to stop crying so that I could keep doing what I was doing. I was getting worked up inside and irritated that I had to go help her. But she didn’t stop. So I got up and decided to go feed her. On my way up the stairs, I tried to process my negative emotion. I said to myself “This is distress. I am just feeling distressed. It is just caused by sentences in my brain. It’s just because of what I am thinking.” And immediately the thought came to me “I don’t have to help her. I can choose to help her. And when I choose to help and serve my kids, I am really doing it for them. I am being an instrument in God’s hands. I am helping to show them that God loves them – and I am just the window to His love.”
And you know what? That new thought changed my feelings about the situation. I got her out of her bed, and just kept thinking about how I was serving her and this wasn’t about me. This was about her.”
Second, I want to talk about this same concept but with a gospel perspective. I was listening to a podcast the other day and this part stood out to me…
“I want to refer to a statement made by President Packer years ago, that I think is the key to what we are trying to do here. And I’d like to see this reinstated. It’s in Preach My Gospel, but I don’t think it’s receiving the time and thought and pondering that it needs.
Throughout the church and later on in your families, you’re going to counsel. And in the counsel you’re going to be discussing the behavior of people you love or people that you have responsibility for. In almost all of our counsels we spend an inordinate amount of time talking about unacceptable behavior. ‘Oh, we’re not getting our home teaching statistics- they’re not done. The visiting teaching is not done. The tithes are not up. The people are not living the Word of Wisdom. How do we get people to attend the temple? How do we get more people to accept callings?’ And we spend all this time talking about what needs to be done and President Packer has a little clue for us.
Let’s go to his statement- watch. Right up at the front. “True doctrine, understood, changes attitudes and behavior.” You ought to underline that because I testify to you that this is a true principle. Now, what I’m teaching you today, I’ve tried, I’ve done, and it works every time. This is tried and tested and it’s never failed. That’s pretty good, isn’t it? That’s a pretty good record. “True doctrine, understood…” catch the ‘understood’ part, “…True doctrine…” make sure it’s understood, “changes… behavior.” The rest of the quote says, “The study of the doctrines of the gospel will improve behavior quicker than a study of behavior will improve behavior. Preoccupation with unworthy behavior can lead to unworthy behavior…” It’s a vicious cycle.
So, what we do is, we spend all of our time in counsels in the church and in your families, as husbands and wives, mothers and fathers of the future, talking about the behavior of your children. And the more you discuss inappropriate behavior, what does it do? It encourages inappropriate behavior. It’s a vicious cycle. So, what’s the answer? “That is why we stress so forcefully the study of the doctrines of the gospel.” I think this is a key priesthood principle that you need to really take a look at.
So, what do we do? Only discuss behavior to the degree that you can identify the behavior that’s unacceptable. Then, stop talking about it. Once you’ve identified it, whatever it is, then go to the word of God, go to the scriptures. Find the doctrine that ties to that behavior and teach it. And as you teach that doctrine, the word of God that has power and virtue in it, according to Alma 31:5- there’s virtue in the word of God. If you’ll teach that, the Holy Ghost will carry the word of God, that doctrine, unto the heart of the person and the Holy Ghost will change the behavior. You see that cycle right there? So that’s the take-off today. “True doctrine, understood, changes…behavior.” I testify to you that that is true.”
I thought this was so enlightening and inspiring. I have heard this quote (by Boyd K. Packer) before, but I haven’t always given it a ton of thought and I didn’t really know how to put it into practice. But I loved what he said about it here. I’m going to repeat it… “Only discuss behavior to the degree that you can identify the behavior that’s unacceptable. Then, stop talking about it. Once you’ve identified it, whatever it is, then go to the word of God, go to the scriptures. Find the doctrine that ties to that behavior and teach it. And as you teach that doctrine, the word of God that has power and virtue in it, according to Alma 31:5- there’s virtue in the word of God. If you’ll teach that, the Holy Ghost will carry the word of God, that doctrine, unto the heart of the person and the Holy Ghost will change the behavior.”
I love that. After I listened to this part of the podcast episode, J and I talked about it and we decided that we are going to work on using this concept more in parenting our kids. We plan to put this into practice during companionship inventory (got this idea from my friend, Celeste, and we’ve been doing this every week for almost a year. It’s been so good for our marriage.) on Sunday evenings. We are going to discuss each of our kids and what behaviors we see them doing that needs to be changed. And then we will discuss the behavior just enough to figure out what doctrine we need to teach them. And then we will make a plan to teach that specific doctrine to that specific child.
We also talked about picking out a scripture that teaches that particular doctrine and having the specific child memorize that scripture (probably by writing it out a few times.)
Side note…we got the writing idea because on Sunday during church, P had a meltdown. J ended up having to take him to the van because he wouldn’t calm down and stop throwing a fit. J missed almost all of Sacrament meeting because of it. So after church, J was talking to me about how we needed to come up with a consequence. I’m not really sure how we came to this conclusion (I think J got the idea from The Poisonwood Bible), but we decided to have him write an affirmation.
Originally, J wanted him to write it 100 times but we ended up settling on 25 because we realized that 100 wasn’t realistic for a 5 year old (who technically shouldn’t even be able to write at this age yet but P is an overachiever. haha) and also because the affirmation that I picked was kind of long. (“I have the power to choose how to respond to my emotions. I choose to process my negative emotions.”) It took P a few days to complete all 25, but he finished it yesterday. And by the time he finished he had it memorized. We might sound like cruel parents to make our 5 year old write an affirmation 25 times, but other consequences that we’ve tried in the past haven’t worked. They’ve served the purpose as a “punishment” but haven’t actually caused any real or lasting change. P needs a lot of emotion coaching (which is a big reason why I have been drawn to learning all of these things in the first place). I am hoping that the more P practices thinking this thought, the more engrained it will be, and it will influence his behavior for good.
And going along with this, there is actually a doctrine that can be taught in regards to what I’m talking about with thoughts and behavior/results. It’s called the Law of the Harvest. I liked this explanation from a BYU devotional by Robert J. Parsons called As a Man Thinketh. It’s kind of long but I really liked how he said it (and the quotes that he uses).
“This spring my eight-year-old son and I went through the normal spring ritual of planting a garden. It is a delightful experience. We have learned two things over the years.
First, when we plant corn seeds, we receive corn back. When we plant radish seeds, we get radishes, carrots beget carrots, etc.
Second, we also learned that whatever we planted came back in abundance. When we planted zucchini, we got lots of zucchini.
These two principles are referred to as the law of the harvest. I am grateful to Brother Frederick W. Babbel for helping me understand this concept and realize the significance of this principle of the gospel. He authored a great book entitled “To Him That Believeth.”
Brother Babbel writes:
“Some people call this the Law of Cause and Effect; others call it the Law of Action and Reaction; still others call it the Law of Karma. References in the holy scriptures usually refer to it as the Law of the Harvest. This law can be named as the first law given during the creation of this earth and all form of life thereon. [See Genesis 1:11–12, 27–28.]
Everything multiplies “after his kind.” This includes plants, fruit trees, birds, fish, insects, animals, and human beings. . . .
As we apply this principle to daily life situations, we will discern that it also applies to our thoughts, feelings, and actions. . . .
Whatever you give to life will return to you—multiplied! This applies to our daily thoughts, feelings, and actions, be they positive or negative, uplifting or depressing. Hence, we need to make wise decisions.
Because of this principle, you can make for yourself a heaven or a hell on earth. You alone must bear the responsibility for the choices you make.
Who sets the standard of what forgiveness you may expect to receive? You do. (Matthew 6:14–15.) If you wish to be forgiven, you must first forgive others.
Who sets the standard of how you will be judged? You do. (Matthew 7:1–2.) Your own judgment by your Heavenly Father will be compassionate or harsh, depending upon what standard you have set in judging others.
The things you desire from life, you must first give to life. (Matthew 7:12.) What about acquiring the things you want? Like the seed planted in the ground, life can only return to you that which you first have given—with the added promise that everything you give must ultimately return to you multiplied. Perhaps that is why a sage of bygone years said a great truth, “Give to the world the best that you have and the best will come back to you.” And we might add, it will be multiplied!
If you feel that you are accident-prone, or a “worry wart,” or a “Why-does-this-always-happen-to-me” sort of person, you have become a victim rather than a master of this law. . . . This law can work for you as well as against you.””
Brother Babbel continues:
“In the Bible, Job is the epitome of a just and perfect man with many problems. At the beginning of his record it appears that he did not understand the implications of the Law of the Harvest.
As a young person in Sunday School, it used to bother me a great deal when our teacher related to us the story of Job and his excruciating suffering and pain. The explanation was always that we must be patient in our afflictions and sufferings, just like Job.
The rationalization was always that the devil wanted to test Job and that God gave him the privilege of literally wrecking this poor man’s life and everything he had built up. I could never accept that kind of a God, one who would compromise or “make a deal” with the devil. My experience has confirmed to me that he is a God of love, a God of kindness, and a God of patience. . . . I could not conceive of his deliberately permitting this type of suffering to happen to a perfect person.
After reading the biblical account many times, [I finally realized] that Job tells the real cause of all his disasters in the third chapter, twenty-fifth verse: “For the thing which I greatly feared is come upon me, and that which I was afraid of is come unto me.” (Job 3:25.)
In other words, Job acknowledged that he was afraid, that he was a worrier. What would he do if he lost his health? What would he do if he lost his possessions? What would he do if he lost his business? What would he do if he lost his house? What would happen if he lost some of his loved ones? What would happen if he lost his entire family? What would happen if his closest friends turned against him? Such thoughts, apparently, preyed on him continually.
The law is that the things which we think and the things which we harbor generate our feelings, and these feelings result in our acts which produce the harvest. For “whatsoever a man soweth, that shall he also reap.” (Galatians 6:7.) “For as [a man] thinketh in his heart, so is he.” (Proverbs 23:7.)
Since Job sowed seeds of worry, doubt, and fear, the devil had access to him and the harvest was calamitous. He lost everything but his faith in the Lord.
The things that Job was admittedly so much concerned about, came to pass. They became so unbearable that he wished that he had never been born, that he had been hidden under the greatest mountain chain so that not even God could find him or have any recollection of his existence.
But with all his problems and troubles, he did not deny God. Finally the Lord came to him and said, in effect, “Job, wake up and be a man. Don’t you recall how happy you were in the morn of creation and how eagerly you looked forward to the wonderful opportunity of coming to this earth and partaking of the beauties here? Now stop whining and be a man. Gird up your loins and speak as if thou hast understanding.”
When Job perceived the message and realized that he had sown the seeds of his own problems and undoing, he took on new courage. (Job 42.) He then departed from fear and desired the things which are of God. He was eager to follow the guidelines that the Lord had given him. Note how the Law of the Harvest began to work for his benefit when he changed his attitude.
The scriptures reveal that when Job realized the cause of his dilemma and asked the Lord’s forgiveness, his blessings were multiplied abundantly; he was rewarded two-fold in family, in friends, in flocks and herds, in health, and in all that makes for an abundant life.” [Frederick W. Babbel, “To Him That Believeth” (Salt Lake City: Bookcraft, 1982), pp. 25–29]
What are some of the seeds that we may plant in our lives? The seeds of the adversary include the following:
Fear (worry, anxiety)
But the seeds of our Father in Heaven would have us plant are these:
[Babbel, p. 33]
I saw this image on Instagram yesterday and I think that this quote sums it all up nicely.