Try This for a Change: 4 Simple Steps to Self-Improvement
’Tis the season of gym memberships, low-carb diets, and good intentions. Once a year, in the grand tradition of the New Year’s resolution, we resolve to eat healthier and brush up on our Spanish. Read more books and watch less TV. Be a little more patient and a lot more forgiving. We order yoga mats online and wait for serenity and better muscle tone to arrive at our doorsteps in 2–4 business days.
Maybe, like me, you’re able to stick with it for a month or so. But soon the kale smoothies of January give way to the milkshakes of February, and our good intentions become our failed ambitions. We stow our yoga mats beneath our beds, fall back to our old habits, and sigh, “Someday I’ll change.”
Change Is Hard
We all want to grow and learn and be better today than we were yesterday. So why is change so hard? Personal growth is essential to God’s plan. The Savior asks us to become “even as [He is].” How can we ever reach that lofty goal when we fall short of even our more modest ones?
Here’s where I admit that I’m unqualified to give you advice. I have no triumphant personal stories to inspire you, no profound epiphanies to share. I’m just a guy trying to figure things out, same as you. But as I thought recently about what stands in the way of my own progress, a few ideas came to mind—impressions of simple things I can do to improve.
Maybe this is just me giving myself a pep talk. Or maybe you’ll find one or two ideas that can help you change for the better.
Ask for Direction
We forget sometimes, when making plans to improve, to check in with the One who made the plan. The scriptures promise that “he shall direct [our] paths” if only we will ask—but do we remember to ask?
He knows us—and our spiritual blind spots—better than anyone. If we humbly inquire, “What lack I yet?” then He can inspire us to consider paths that we may have overlooked but that lead to the most joy.
Sometimes we’re required to make dramatic leaps of faith. But more often it’s the small hops that move us forward. Small adjustments over time can bring greater balance and peace to our lives.
Too quickly we forget that “out of small things proceedeth that which is great.” Be patient and remember the wisdom of “line upon line” and step by step.
Take Time to Reflect
“Set it and forget it” works great with our toaster ovens and online bill pay, but it’s a lousy approach to our goals. Regular self-checkins ensure we’re making progress (and give us a chance to make adjustments when we’re not). Simply asking, “How am I doing so far?” goes a long way.
For me the sacrament is a perfect time to reflect and recommit to my spiritual goals each week.
“One of God’s greatest gifts,” President Monson said, “is the joy of trying again, for no failure ever need be final.” Don’t let discouragement get the best of you when you fail at first (or second or third).
Keep going. Keep pushing. Keep trying.
Nobody’s perfect, but everybody can be better. Remember that “God cares a lot more about who we are and who we are becoming than about who we once were. He cares that we keep on trying.”
Sean Johnson, from Portland, Oregon, serves in the Primary and teaches the three-year-old Sunbeams with his wife, Joanna.