I needed to break out of my negative cycle.
I plopped down on my couch and immediately started reading the New Era. I flipped through the pages, eagerly reading all the inspiring stories and messages. But one page stood out. It was the “Questions and Answers” page. At the bottom of the page, it had the next question.
“How can I motivate myself to do the things I ought to do but often don’t—like personal prayer, scripture study, and homework?”
That question seemed to hit me in the face. I was facing that very same question; it seemed to follow me wherever I went.
Motivated for the Wrong Reasons
Once upon a time, I had the motivation, that was for sure. But I had it for the wrong reason. I was too focused on outward things rather than actual spiritual growth. I would have to force myself to read scriptures. I would have to force myself to pray. I would have to force myself to do homework. All this pressure without the spiritual component was leaving me tired, and my forced motivation left me. That’s when I couldn’t motivate myself anymore. That’s when I sought the answer for the desire of a right kind of motivation.
But before that realization, I gave up. I avoided scripture study, procrastinated it, and, oops, forgot about it and didn’t do it that day. Scripture study and prayer became painful. I felt like I was a failure for not doing my scripture study. I was stuck in a negative cycle—just how Satan wanted me to be.
I knew that Heavenly Father and Jesus Christ wanted prayer and scripture study to be a positive experience for me. I had a question that I couldn’t seem to find the answer to: “How do I get out of this negative cycle?”
The Right Kind of Motivation
I started small, and with the help of others, I learned about the right motivation.
1. I allowed myself time.
Heavenly Father and Jesus Christ did not want me to run faster than I could run (see Mosiah 4:27), or eventually I would’ve collapsed. I realized that Heavenly Father wanted me to have patience with my process of perfection and growth.
2. I tried to move beyond words such as oughtta, shoulda, coulda, woulda.
These words put pressure on me and distracted me from the joy of pursuing spiritual growth. Jesus Christ expected my growth, not perfection. Also, there was a time where I felt like I should stop praying. Satan would tell me I wasn’t worthy to pray because I gave up. He wanted me to cut myself off from Heavenly Father’s love and communication. This is one of his traps! In 2 Nephi 32:8 it says: “If ye would hearken unto the Spirit which teacheth a man to pray, ye would know that ye must pray; for the evil spirit teacheth not a man to pray, but teacheth him that he must not pray.”
I learned that Heavenly Father wanted to hear from me. He welcomed me home, like the prodigal son. I had distanced myself from God, and I learned that no matter what, He would always have His hand stretched forth.
3. I began with the end in mind.
When I felt the pressure of praying, scriptures, and homework, I began with the end in mind. My dad taught me this. Sometimes we get to do things we don’t necessarily want to do, but we do these things to get where we want to be.
In the beginning, Satan said he would save everyone; he sought to destroy our agency (see Moses 4:1–3). But I do have agency, and I want to return to my Father in Heaven and Jesus Christ.
Who I Choose to Be
I’m glad that Heavenly Father allows us our agency. I know that He wants me to feel the happiness of the gospel. I’m still learning how to not let Satan in my head, and I’m not perfect at it. But that’s what the gospel is all about, right? It’s about learning, growing, and becoming like Jesus.
I hope I can become like Jesus Christ, my Savior, one day. This is who I want to be. Now I can tell myself, “I’ll be who I choose to be, not who I have to be.” I feel like that’s the message Heavenly Father has sent to me.
This article originally ran in the October 2018 New Era.