Axioms we should live by

Recently I was told given some counsel that I’ve thought about daily since receiving.  The person giving this counsel was someone I love and admire dearly and I know she loves me and it was because of this love for me that she spoke to me in the way she did.  In following her counsel, I’ve been feasting on the word of God (scriptures, talks from the General Authorities and other inspired leaders, etc) for the last few days.  Elder Robert D. Hales gave a talk at a BYU graduation in 2003 outline Ten Axioms to Guide Your Life.  Two of them have jumped out and bit me…hard.  For this reason I need to share them with you and my thoughts/reflections on these axioms.

Axiom 2:  (Sidebar:  this is NOT a math thing I promise…even though it kinda sounds like that).  Elder Hales says “pursue your goals with all your heart, might, mind, and strength.  You are doomed to failure if you pursue them in a vacillating manner.”  Hmmm…ok….what exactly is vacillating anyway?!?!?  Well it means to waver or hesitate.  To put it bluntly…if you pursue goals in a vacillating manner you are pretty much a flake.  When you vacillate, you are stuck.  You can’t, as Elder Hales points out “move forward with conviction” and “we feel are way along, as if we’re afraid of the dark.”  He goes on to say, “it is so much better to turn on the light of faith and move ahead with energy and commitment.”

This really got me thinking…

First I had to think about did I have any goals.  I mean sure we all say (hmmm….OK not all but probably  most of us) we have them.  Are there things I want in my life, of course.  When I evaluate my current circumstances, do I want for more, do I wish for more, do I dream for more?  Yes.  Am I unequivocally committed to achieving more…to setting goals geared to get me whatever the “more” it is I’m after and exercising the required discipline and effort to obtain that more? Ouch, I was bit hard.

I’d like to tell you that yes, I have set goals, mapped out concrete steps for achieving them and am so disciplined I’m halfway done with a dozen goals already.  The problem is, the Good Book says “thou shalt not lie”…(well it really says not to bear false witness but that means lie), and so I can’t.  I’ve made a tad of progress though.  I sat down a few weeks ago (wow maybe it’s been more like a month actually) and created some visuals of the things I want, printed out the pictures, and put them in my client notebook for photography…where I thought I’d see them often.  I even put deadlines on these ideas because I once heard that a goal without a deadline is just a wish.  Problem is…that notebook I thought I’d see often hasn’t been in front of my face since I put the pictures in there.  EPIC fail, but we’ll talk about that when I share the 2nd Axiom of Elder Hales to reach out and take a bite outta me.  So without having the goals constantly before me, and without having a specific action plan to achieve these goals, how can I possibly expect them to become a reality…newflash…I can’t.  Wow.

What was on that list doesn’t matter as much as the simple fact that I lacked a critical component to achieving ANY of those goals.  I have not pursued them with “all my heart, might, mind, and strength.”  I haven’t strategized a plan, and if you happen to keep up with me on Facebook or know me personally you may know that discipline is not exactly my strength.  Probably right up there with patience actually.  There’s hope don’t worry…I’m learning patience so I’m confident I can learn more discipline too!  Hopefully I’ll learn it faster than I’ve learned patience though.

I have been exceedingly vacillating in my pursuits.  Gasp, I did it…I put my short-comings in black and white for God (well He kinda already knows) and everyone to see.  No WONDER I can’t make any real genuine progress toward obtaining these goals.  More to think about because now I have to decide what I’m REALLY willing to work toward.  Maybe I don’t want ALL those things I thought I did…maybe I’m not ready to do the work to obtain all those things, or maybe I am…I will have to ponder it and figure it out…SOON.

So…this 2nd Axiom of Elder Hales took a big bite outta me, but it didn’t break the skin thankfully.  Lately I’ve been very discouraged.  Not depressed…I’m painfully aware of the difference so please just trust me on this K?  I’ve told several people I feel like the only thing I am successful at is failing.  The list is so so SO long of things I’ve failed at in my adult life and, in another talk I have read several times since discovering it recently, Elder Baxter says “what a difference it would make if, instead, we took account of our strengths, raised our eyes off the ground, and gave ourselves credit for how far we have already come and how much we have already achieved” so I won’t bore you with all those things I know I have failed at.  I’m still working on an account of my strengths and giving myself credit for how far I’ve already come and everything I’ve already achieved.  Surely it’s more than what my current thoughts give credit to or for.

At any rate, Elder Hales’ 5th Axiom not only broke the skin when it bit me, but it may have even drawn some blood.  He says “failure is one of the greatest teachers if we have the faith to learn from it.”  He goes on to say “we should embrace the opportunity to learn from our mistakes, analyze where we could have done better, and make plans to improve.  In doing so, we discover that setbacks and disappointments are ‘but for a small moment’ and ‘shall be for [our] good’ (D&C 122:4, 7).  With faith, we can take seriously the Lord’s counsel to ‘search diligently, pray always, and be believing, and all things shall work together for [our] good’  (D&C 90:24).”

Hmmmm…remember when I said I’m an epic success at failure?  Maybe the problem is I haven’t learned whatever lesson it is I’m to learn from these failures and so I have to keep getting different twists on the same lesson over and over and over and over and over and over and ov….you get the idea.  Let’s examine this for a minute shall we?

If I’m given 10 opportunities to learn patience and I’m still not patient, I’ve failed.  I’ve failed to learn the lesson on the importance of patience which means I will continue to struggle with things that require this important skill.  When this happens, when something occurs that I just don’t have the stomach to wait patiently on or for ir in or whatever, I find myself anxious, frustrated, and often defeated and discouraged all over again.  Clearly I need so spend more time analyzing what I can do better because I certainly want these routine (and arguably what feels like constant set backs) to be for that small moment Elder Hales references from the scriptures.  It seems like my setbacks have instead been one epic bad dream that I can’t wake up from.  Kinda like that movie Groundhog’s Day only worse…much worse.  Time to re-evaluate what it is I keep doing that is giving me the same overall feelings of failure.  I love that line in Lion King where Rafiki says something like “oh yes the past can hurt but the way I see it you can either run from it, or learn from it.  Going forward, I choose to learn from it.  I’m already learning from it actually.

In the last couple of days one of the things I’ve learned is this.  While I’m well-intentioned, I’m often poorly-follwed-through.  I’m a starter, but not so much of a finisher.  This week I will make a concentrated effort to start less and finish more.  I’ll let you know how it goes.

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