I’m not a runner, but I run. I don’t run well, I even joke that some people can walk as fast as I run. I use to only walk though, so I feel good that I can run at all. About 11 years ago is when I decided I wanted to get better at running and started working on it. I started slow, (walk/running), around the square block by our house. I got better and better and after 3 months I could kind of make it without stopping; kind of.
One Saturday morning my daughter Meghan who was around 15 at the time, said she would go running with me. So we headed out and I noticed she was better at running her first day and could go faster and farther without stopping than I could. What an eye opening experience for me. I commented to her about this and she said the most profound thing, “Mom, you just have to decide to run.”
This phrase went through me and I have thought about it many times since. When I get tired and want to stop, not just running but anything, I say to myself, “Melonie, you just have to decide to______.” Decide to:…. run, get up, have faith, trust God, eat healthy, study in the morning, let it go, that you can do it. Something about this phrase speaks to me. When I say it to myself it gives me mental strength to do it. This phrase has helped me dig deep and exercise discipline many times in the last 11 years.
We just finished our last training with the missionaries. I decided for the last doctrine training I would teach here on the mission I would talk about something Sister R asked Elder Clayton when he came to our mission a few weeks ago. She asked, “How does someone develop better self-mastery?” This is a fantastic question for not only this young generation but for everyone living in our world of instant gratification. It seems it is the foundational principle for every other doctrine we have ever trained on, so I decided we should look at it more in depth.
We have had 12 different discussions with 12 different zones over the last 2 weeks as we have gone around to say good-bye to the missionaries, answer questions and talk about the transition of receiving a new mission president. In my training we have talked about how self mastery is our spirits having control, power and dominion over, not just our actions, but our thoughts. We have talked about the reason why it is important- that we need to be able to abide the law and become that person who can live with God again. Self Mastery over the natural, fallen man inside of us and giving our will to God is the key to this process. Then we had many interesting discussions on how to do this.
Two things have stuck in my mind as we have shared over the last few days:
ONE- Everything is a decision. It’s just like what Meghan said to me, you just have to decide. Recognizing everything I feel, think, do and become helps me see that my life is my own and I am the master of my fate, the captain of my ship. Even coasting and just treading water is a decision. Faith is a decision. Love is a decision. Hope, trust, forgiveness and mercy are all decisions. Sleeping in, getting to bed late, eating dessert, not exercising, and even being mad or offended are all decisions. Elder Maxwell said, “You better want what you want because you’re going to get it.” I love that. I decide if I will run, hate, be angry, speak kindly, judge another, save my money, pay my debts,love, etc. We are constantly making decisions. When we have the vision to see into the future of what we want to be, have, and do and make decisions and choices that will get us to that place that is self discipline. I think of it as being “firm of mind”.
I’ve seen this in missionaries lives. I have seen most missionaries decide they could work hard, train well, lead in righteousness and love others. I have seen amazing progress that feels like exponential growth in most missionary’s lives.
But the opposite is also true. We’ve seen a few missionaries, very few, never really reach the potential we see inside them. Even at the end of their mission they are still saying, “I can’t, it’s too hard, I’m not able.” They have still progressed and grown, and they are good young men, but they just can’t quite see what we see inside of them. I feel they just are not able to see clearly their divine potential and just decide they can do it. They just never quite get there. I want to just shake them and say you are so much better than you think you are, you are capable, you just have to decide you can do it. Then I realize they are deciding. They are making a decision that they can’t, won’t, or are not able. (These few are not missionaries who have depression or anxiety.)
When E. Clayton came to our mission he shared the scripture, 2 Ne 2:26…men are free forever, knowing good from evil; to act for themselves and not to be acted upon.. He said, “This means, you are not a Kleenex box; an inanimate object sitting there with no choice, only to be acted upon.” I love that. You are not a Kleenex box, suffering through whatever happens to you. We don’t live our life on accident, even when we do nothing and the day just rolls over us with no purpose. We still chose that.
We can live our life with purpose, on purpose. When we’re mad it’s because we want to be mad. When were hurt and can’t forgive it’s because we want to be hurt and not forgive, more than we want to be free and happy. We get what we want. We can or can’t do what we decide we can or can’t do. Recognizing and accepting this brings a tremendous amount of power to us. Because then we come to accountability with acceptance and responsibility.
TWO-The other thing that really stuck in my mind from our discussion is that how we feel about our sacrifices determines our staying power of discipline. If a child wants to learn to snowboard they come up with a plan instinctively. They want a season pass, they arrange for driving, they figure out how to get equipment, they want to spend the time driving, and love the work of practicing to get better. Desire and motivation increase the ability to be self disciplined.
To me this means having a vision of what I want to become, obtain and achieve and loving the sacrifice or work to get there means I’ll do it. If I want a college education and see the vision of what that will do for me I don’t mind saving money and going without that nice car, new clothes or full price movie. If I want to be physically fit more than I want dessert and to sit around relaxing then I’ll love to eat healthy and exercise. If I really want to be a scriptorium I love spending time studying. If these are just dreams that sound great but in the moment we hate saving, eating healthy and studying we will never have the staying power to make those dreams a reality. If we tell ourselves how much we hate something, how we don’t want to do it and how hard it is, we will never keep trying, working and making the sacrifice. But if we love our sacrifice we have tremendous staying power.
THREE-Ok, (you know me), I just want to add one more thing a missionary talked about that stuck in my mind. He shared something his dad taught him. Most of us have heard the analogy to teach about choice and consequence of when we pick up a stick we pick up both ends, one end is the action, the other end is the consequence, for good or bad. When you pick up the stick you pick up both ends, you don’t get one without the other. When we choose an action or thought we also pick up the consequence that goes with that action or thought. Well this missionary made the comment about the way his dad taught him about choice. He taught him to never think of the action when making a choice, but only think about the consequence you’re choosing. When you pick up the stick don’t look at the end of what you’re doing, look at the end of what you’re going to get. What a wonderful thing to teach- Look, see clearly what you’re picking up, and then decide if you want to do it. How would that change our life if we always made choices based on what the consequence was going to be.
I know self mastery is the foundation of purity, virtue, education, financial stability, spirituality, confidence, conversion, great work ethic, integrity, patience, etc. We just have to have it to achieve anything meaningful. We need to be the kids who can wait for the marshmallow so we can get something better later. We can’t serve God and mammon. I know it is through Christ, Jesus that we can be more than conquerors. He is our anchor, our hope, to be more than ourselves. We are not alone in the fight. He gives strength and second chances. I’m really glad for that second chance. We get to practice because of our beautiful savior, and it gets easier and easier when we do.