Do the Challenges Ever Stop?

Positive Thinking Tip: When you are down to nothing, God is up to something.

It’s thrilling to discover the principles, and it’s especially exciting when you see them work for the first time.

From there, you feel empowered and encouraged to think bigger and test the principles on more significant tasks. But when you face a setback, you might be left wondering, “What just happened here? I thought that if I just live the principles perfectly, the rest of my life would be easy!”

I have an answer for this, and I hope it doesn’t burst anyone’s bubble too much, but we were placed on this earth to grow.

All life is compelled to grow and expand. That is one of the definitions that helps us determine whether something is alive: does it grow?

In order for us to grow, we must have challenges that stretch us beyond our present limits. We must work our mental muscles and exercise our mind, body, and spirit in order to have the joy and experience the success that only comes through growth and expansion. There are few joys that exceed the feeling of facing a difficult challenge, and overcoming it.

The truth is, that if we ever found ourselves without challenges, we would become unhappy and restless.

Remember when you were a child, and your mother tried to teach you how to tie your shoe?

Did it work the first time you tried it? Probably not. And it was probably very frustrating, and likely evoked some tears.

In that moment, there had never been so great a challenge in your life. You wanted to throw in the towel, give up, and if it didn’t make you cry, it probably made you growl in frustration. However, in time, it became old hat for you and you could do it without even thinking.

Sixth Grade

Then when you were in sixth grade, your teacher probably assigned you a book report that would take several weeks and had to fill up about 4 pages. You had never done an assignment that big before, and it was overwhelming. In time, and after being required to do a number of similar assignments, it was no big deal. What took several weeks could be completed in a day, because you had experience.

Fast forward to college.

Remember those projects that ultimately determined your final grade? Remember the countless hours on the computer? Remember closing off your social life in order to meet that deadline? It was overwhelming, and the stress was unbelievable. You had never been required to work so hard on something so important! If you were like me, you shed many tears and begged your professor more than once for mercy.

Then for some of you, you started in the work force and had job pressures and bills to pay. Sometimes it was too much to bear. You thought you had it pretty tough until…

You got married and added a spouse to the picture.

Now there were work pressures, bills to pay, and a spouse to please. Who knew that being responsible to one other person could stir things up that much?

Pretty soon, you got into the routine of things, and even though things are tough, you have no idea what tough means until…

You start having children.

Are there words to describe how complicated things became when kids entered the picture??

Now wait a minute. Think back to the time when you were learning to tie your shoe. Oh, if only life were that easy now!!!

But remember, at the time, when you were six and you had to figure out how to pull the string just enough to make a loop and not enough to make a knot, it was as though the world was falling apart and it was nearly more than you could cope with.

One day, today’s challenges will look like child’s play as you learn to conquer them.

All that I do through my books and programs is to provide the tools you need to learn how to succeed in overcoming the challenges you face today. Will challenges in general go away? No.

But you’ll be prepared to handle bigger challenges, and you’ll grow in faith, hopefully learning to rely more perfectly on God in all you do.

It seems that life will only get more challenging.

WAIT!

I didn’t say life has to get worse, or even harder, but it will constantly deliver more and more ADVANCED challenges.

As we learn the laws and adopt them into our habits, we become successful at overcoming them more and more gracefully. Every challenge could easily seem overwhelming, but only relative to what we’ve conquered in the past.

Challenges are important because they help us build confidence.

Imagine a child who never gained confidence in learning something simple. What if they were required to hold office as president of a large organization? Each challenge is intended to lead us along to receive all that God would have us receive. Each is an opportunity to overcome and gain increased confidence in the partnership we are developing between ourselves and God.

You can get good at handling finances and attracting wealth. Learning to achieve prosperity is a skill that can be improved. Just as you got good at tying a shoe, this is one skill that can become a strength.

Don’t get discouraged if new challenges show up. It doesn’t mean you are failing. It means you have grown to a point where God believes you can handle something else. It is an indication of His increased faith in you.

I heard somewhere, “When you are down to nothing, God is up to something”. There is joy to be had in the struggle. As we learn to find peace in each whirlwind of trouble around us, that is success. Then, the prosperity you want begins to flow naturally.

Seek peace and prosperity comes, seek prosperity and peace flees.

Let me help you find peace, by learning the laws and principles that are dependable and sure. Click here to join me in the Mindset Mastery course – as you allow me to walk you through each lesson and corresponding challenge, your life will never be the same.

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Finding Relief from Heavy Burdens

A Special Message of Faith

In December of 2012 I was asked to speak during my congregation’s sacrament meeting. This is one thing that is common throughout my church worldwide: that members are given opportunities to teach each other about the gospel, and how they are learning to apply it in their lives.

Here’s the message I shared:

When we realized back in 2006 that we had purchased too much real estate at the wrong time, sometimes all we could do to calm the raging storm was to turn off the lights, close our eyes, and let “Peace Like a River” CD soothe our troubled and fearful hearts.

We tried to focus on the Savior, and let Him assure us that in the eternal scheme of things, everything was going to turn out okay if we fixed our faith upon Him.

He showed us that no matter how heavy the burden, he had the power to do for us what He had done for Alma’s people as described in Mosiah chapter 24 when he told them:

“I will … ease the burdens which are put upon your shoulders, that … you cannot feel them upon your backs, even while you are in bondage; and this will I do that ye may stand as witnesses for me hereafter, and that ye may know of a surety that I, the Lord God, do visit my people in their afflictions.”

The Bible tells us to have faith in Jesus Christ, and to love one another. But until recently, I never really recognized an important connection between these two directives, and how it relates to the lift of our burdens.

At the time, I considered the peace I ultimately discovered to be a tremendous personal victory. We were still in a mess, but He taught us peace in spite of it. That all of that could be happening and that we could find peace anyway was a miracle to me.

As our difficulty stretched on, I felt that I could relate in a small way to the man who had been a part of the fateful Martin Handcart company who said, “‘I… pulled my handcart when I was so weak and weary … that I could hardly put one foot ahead of the other. I have looked ahead and … said, I can go only that far and there I must give up…’ ” He continued: ” ‘I have gone on to that sand and when I reached it, the cart began pushing me. I have looked back many times to see who was pushing my cart, but my eyes saw no one. I knew then that the angels of God were there… The price we paid to become acquainted with God was a privilege to pay, and I am thankful that I was privileged to come in the Martin Handcart Company.'”

As hard as it was for us over those last few years, I wouldn’t give up the testimony we gained through it – that God lives and is mindful of us and gives us strength.

However, while it’s true, that when things appear to be falling apart, a return to the Savior (pondering his life’s example, repenting of our mistakes, finding gratitude, and imagining his steady and unconditional friendship) always brings peace, sometimes it can be really hard to set aside personal challenges enough to be able to think about helping someone else.

But what I’ve been learning is that our needs are cared for when we focus on others.

This is probably a more complete and true exercise of faith in Christ. Not just believing that He is real and finding peace in our challenges, but taking it one step further… do we really believe that our needs will be met if we forget ourselves? Do we really trust that the Lord will carry us through our problems if we lose ourselves in the service of others?

I remember back several years when my husband and I were trying to be anxiously engaged in a good cause, but our investment problems were screaming so loudly that it seemed nearly impossible to carry on.

We had come to the end of all of our visible resources – our savings were entirely depleted, our credit was completely exhausted, and with only $200 in the bank and no paycheck in sight (with another $15,000 in bills due in the coming 2 weeks), the moment we had tried so hard to avoid was finally upon us.

It was our anniversary weekend, and so with no other solution in sight, we decided to at least enjoy a dinner together and try to rekindle our hope in the future, and our faith in Christ. During our conversation, it dawned on us that even though we were at rock bottom, we were still alive, still breathing, and still able to help others.

We asked ourselves, if we were homeless, could we still teach? Could we still help others? Would we? Of course we could, and would. So that’s when our conversation shifted. Instead of focusing on our immediate needs, we projected our minds forward and imagined where we saw ourselves in 10 years. Did we think we’d be back on our feet by then? Would we have figured things out and put our lives back together by then? That seemed easy enough to believe. So then our focus shifted, and we brainstormed on the things we could do right away to serve others better, and made those plans.

By the end of dinner, we felt hope again. We felt the Spirit confirm to us that although we were in a pretty ugly mess of our own, we were on the right track.

So we paid the bill and just as my husband was opening my car door, the waiter came running out to the parking lot after us with a voided receipt yelling,

“Since it’s your anniversary, the meal’s on us!”

In that moment, we experienced a little bit of what the Lord had taught his apostles. He had tried to assure them that as long as they would feed his sheep, their true needs would be met. We’ve heard it so many times: “Consider the lilies of the field…” “…trust the Lord with all thine heart” “…fear not…” but how it is possible?

To explain, let me share it the way Elder Jeffrey R. Holland described it:

After Christ was no longer with his apostles, in effect, Peter said: “Brethren, it has been a glorious three years. …But [it] is over. He has finished His work, and He has risen from the tomb. He has worked out His salvation and ours. So … ‘What do we do now?’ I don’t know more to tell you than to return to your former life, rejoicing. I intend to ‘go a fishing.’”

But, … the fishing wasn’t very good. Their first night back on the lake, they caught nothing—not a single fish. With the first rays of dawn, they disappointedly turned toward the shore, where they saw in the distance a figure who called out to them,

“Cast the net on the right side of the ship, and ye shall find,” —and with those simple words, recognition begins to flood over them. Just three years earlier these very men had been fishing on this very sea. On that occasion too they had “toiled all the night, and [had] taken nothing,”…. But a fellow Galilean on the shore had called out to them to let down their nets, and they drew “a great multitude of fishes,” enough that their nets broke, the catch filling two boats so heavily they had begun to sink.

Now it was happening again. [They] eagerly lowered their net, and “they were not able to draw it for the multitude of fishes.”

After a joyful reunion… Looking at their battered little boats, … and a stunning pile of 153 fish, Jesus said … three times, “Peter, do you love me more than you love all this?” Peter said, “Yea, Lord; thou knowest that I love thee.”

To which Jesus responded …perhaps saying something like: “Then Peter, why are you here? Why are we back on this same shore, by these same nets, having this same conversation? Wasn’t it obvious then and isn’t it obvious now that if I want fish, I can get fish?

“What I need, Peter, are disciples—and I need them forever. I need someone to feed my sheep and save my lambs. I need someone to preach my gospel and defend my faith. I need someone who loves me, truly, truly loves me, and loves what our Father in Heaven has commissioned me to do.

“Ours is not a feeble message. … It is the work of Almighty God, and it is to change the world. So, Peter, for the second and presumably the last time, I am asking you to leave all this and to go teach and testify, labor and serve loyally…”

“If ye love me, keep my commandments,” Jesus said. So we have neighbors to bless, children to protect, the poor to lift up, and the truth to defend. We have wrongs to make right, truths to share, and good to do. In short, we have a life of devoted discipleship to give in demonstrating our love of the Lord. We can’t quit and we can’t go back…

To those who have not yet joined with us in this great final cause of Christ, we say, “Please come.” To those who were once with us but have retreated, preferring to pick and choose a few cultural hors d’oeuvres from the smorgasbord of the Restoration [of the gospel of Jesus Christ] and leave the rest of the feast, I say that I fear you face a lot of long nights and empty nets. The call is to come back, to stay true, to love God, and to lend a hand.” – Elder Jeffrey Holland

Now, on Christmas we were blessed to spend some time on the phone with our missionary son Jacob, and I asked him: What can we do for you? What can we do to help you?

He replied, emotionally, “I just want you guys to love each other. I want you to do your best to get along with each other. It’s so true that you don’t know what you have until it’s gone. I just want you guys to also stay in touch with me, keep writing letters, keep emailing me, keep me posted with what’s going on in your lives, the good and the bad…”

Our Father in Heaven – during our separation from Him – wants us to love each other, and stay in touch with Him through prayer. He wants us to go to him with the good and the bad, and let Him be a central part of our life.

And when we have burdens too heavy and worries too consuming to think outside of ourselves, I testify that we can put our trust in the Lord, hand him our burdens, …and as we focus on helping someone else, everything will work out just as it should.

I have a special journal dedicated to this – for when I have a concern or a need that seems to be more than I can handle, I’ll write “What I needed” on the left side, and then on the right side I write “How He helped”. After all, He has asked us to acknowledge his hand in all things – and this is one way I’m trying to do it.

(The following section is an excerpt from a letter I wrote to a friend, giving more details on this new journal tool.)

I felt the Lord inspired me to do something I hadn’t done before, when things were terribly overwhelming to me. The Spirit nagged me for 2 days until I did it… and that is this:

I got a notebook or journal that was specifically to be for one purpose. On the left side of the page, I wrote: “What I needed”, and I listed the things I needed to turn over to the Lord. I imagined angels being given permission to get to work on those items for me, because I was physically, mentally, emotionally unable to handle them myself at that time.  On the right side of the page I wrote: “How He helped” because I thoroughly expected Him to handle some of those things for me, and I wanted to document His hand in the process.

Within 20 minutes, I got a phone call that answered one of the pleas listed on the left.  Over time, it seems that all of them have been either checked off or making good progress. To me, it’s working better than a vision board ever did, because it’s more of a system for the purpose of fulfilling my life’s mission, and for handling the distractions that slow me down as well.

Once I put something on the “what I needed” side, I let it go and I get busy on something that I CAN make progress with, knowing that the other items are being handled.

And now, verily I say unto you, and what I say unto one I say unto all, be of good cheer, little children; for I am in your midst, and I have not forsaken you; (D&C 61:36)

Related: Do the Problems Go Away?

(Back now, to my talk at church…)

I know that God lives, that Jesus Christ is with us, He’s mindful of our heartaches, and ready to help. He is merciful. He loves us. He loves you. He knows what you’re going through; it’s not pointless.

May we exercise our faith in Christ not just by believing He is real, but also by trusting him – literally – to handle our burdens that feel too big, while we look instead for opportunities to feed his sheep.

This is my prayer for all of us.

Originally published on December 18, 2013

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"Perfectionism" and Prosperity

RareFaith-perfectionism

We live in a time when life comes at us faster than it ever has in the history of the world. We get stressed, overloaded, and overwhelmed. Under these pressures, it is hard to remain calm… the state of mind necessary to live in harmony with the universal laws of success. Often we get discouraged and lose faith, simply because we spend so much time beating ourselves up for our flaws.

To qualify for the blessings we’re praying for requires a calm and confident state of mind. But when we’re disappointed in ourselves, it is tough to have faith. The problem is, so long as we’re not perfect, there’s always something to be disappointed about. So what do we do about that? How can we have peace of mind when we’re so imperfect? How can we achieve prosperity so long as we fall short of perfection?

Do we have to THINK, BEHAVE, and DO everything perfectly in order for the blessings to come? No.

In my book, Hidden Treasures: Heaven’s Astonishing Help with Money Matters, I talk about how I had a perfectionist mentality for many years, until, after I married and had children I discovered to my dismay how literally IMPOSSIBLE it is to be perfect, even when you give it all you’ve got.

For a simple example, I’d make a commitment to study a certain amount each day or week, and I’d sit down to read… just as a baby in the other room would wake up and start to fuss. Or, I’d get the kids to bed and open my books just to hear some crying and then one of the toddlers would throw up.

It seemed that something always got in the way of my ability to make a commitment to myself and keep it. I had gotten pretty good at “self-mastery” before starting a family, but all that changed after the first baby. No longer did I have much say in how my time would be spent, even with all of my good intentions of living a disciplined, structured life.

Finally, one day I surrendered in despair. I realized I had become a cranky, sloppy person with the utter inability to finish anything I tried to start. Anything that did get done was done half-shod. I collapsed in tears and expressed to God how sorry I was that I was such a failure. I was devastated and confessed that I was doing the best I knew how, and that as poorly as I was doing, it was all I could do.

For the first time in years I felt Him really smiling down on me. It was as if He was saying, “FINALLY you realize your dependence on me! NOW we can proceed!”

Everything changed after that. How does this lesson apply to me now? I still have all the interruptions that come with family life… even more now than ever. In fact, a paper airplane just hit me in the head and I’m not even kidding.

I don’t have time to plan, prepare, and execute much of anything as perfectly, professionally, or impressively as I should. Let’s say I’m selling something, and if doing the presentation poorly could cost me the deal, I have two choices. I can either think “oh, dear… I did such a bad job” or I can think, “that’s just going to have to be good enough.”

Which mentality will bring success? Which mindset leads to prosperity?

Now that I know my best is never going to be good enough, and now that I know that God understands and is okay with that (so long as I really try), I rely on Him to make up the difference for my inadequacies. When I’m trying to do a good job and I blow it anyway, I think of Him and pray that He can make something useful out of my less-than-perfect efforts.

So long as I have believed that, I’ve seen miracles.

So then, do we have to THINK, BEHAVE, and DO everything perfectly in order for the blessings to come? No. We will not live the principles perfectly, no matter how hard we try. BUT, we can think of God when we come short, and pray for mercy.

Let me give you an example. Years ago, my husband and I made the mistake of trying to purchase multiple investment properties at the same time. The underwriters on every one of those deals became uneasy when they realized what we were trying to do. The first home went through relatively easily, but the second was more tough. The underwriters kept coming back with more unexpected hoops that we had to jump through, including having us show larger amounts available in certain accounts than what they had originally requested, as well as proving that those funds had already been seasoned for so many months, etc…

Each time we managed to jump through one hoop, they came back with yet another and another and another. Originally they only needed to see X amount in the bank and 3 months of payments in reserve. Then, seeing us as a risky investment, their requirements increased to something like X times two and 6 months in reserve, which eventually turned into a required 12 months in reserves plus a letter stating we weren’t accruing more liabilities, even though they already knew we were. It seemed as though they had long since decided not to extend the loan and were hoping we’d just give up.

After meeting their newly imposed requirements over and over, it eventually became impossible to do the next thing they asked. We were so weary that we were ready to just let it go. We had done all we could do. Then a simple thought came to mind: we don’t have to come up with all that extra money and we don’t have to do everything they are asking… all this would take is for one person in underwriting to simply have a change of heart.

Suddenly it all seemed so simple, because it was going to be so much easier for us to pray for one person’s heart to change, than to pray for another $40,000 (or whatever it was – I can’t remember) to show up in our account by the next day, WITH proof that it had already been sitting there for several months, which would have been impossible to do.

Having finally come to peace with giving it our best and letting go of the outcome, we emailed to let them know that we would not be providing them the proof of the additional unexpected funds they were requiring.

The next day, our loan officer called and said that there was only one final token request (something insignificant), and it would be a done deal. There was no more mention of the large sum of money they had wanted before. It all finally went through.

The point? “You need not run faster than you have strength.” When perfection is impossible (and it always is), God can make up the difference if you will ask for His help and then believe in Him. Do your best to only ask for those things that would be in your best and highest good, and then trust Him. (More on that…)

A woman prayed: “Dear Father, I’ve been doing really well today… so far I haven’t yelled at the kids, cussed, thrown anything around in anger, overeaten, overspent, or overlooked my responsibilities… I haven’t watched too much TV, nor driven too fast. I’ve been good natured and cheerful to everyone around me… But Father, it’s morning and time for me to get out of bed. From here I’m really going to need your help.”

That’s what it comes down to: reliance on that higher power. If you choose to believe that somehow, God makes up the difference between your efforts and what’s required, then it’s that very belief which puts you in the right state of mind to receive the blessing… even when you don’t “deserve” it. In all honesty, none of us really “deserve” it. Only by the grace of God are we even breathing. So, to reach our goals, what does He require? Belief. Belief that He has a way to make up for our failings, and asking Him to help.

So, believe you can achieve your ideal life. Do what you can, and then when needed, say to yourself, “this is just going to have to be good enough.” Can you see how thinking this way is in harmony with the laws of success? If we think we aren’t doing well enough, and if we think that our inadequacy will prevent us from succeeding, then we’re right. Trust God to fill in, believe that He will, and you can succeed.

I just got hit in the head again. I’ve tried to edit this article as I’ve gone along, and now that I’m at the end I really should run through it one more time to make sure it comes across the way I wanted it to, and make sure the sentences are readable and flowey, but a precious little 5 year old has been trying to get my attention for more than two hours, so… it’s just going to have to be good enough.

Originally published February 7, 2005

Added August 8, 2015: Those of you who have been following me for a few years know that those real estate investments didn’t go so well! So yes, be careful what you pray for, because you just might get it. Here are some related follow-up articles that you may find interesting:

Gurus are Human
Human Empowerment, In Perspective

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It’s PERFECT: The Mindset that Fixes Everything

I had one week left to prepare for an important event where I would be presenting some critical information about a business deal to some very important people. A knot would tighten in my gut each time I thought about it, but I consciously did my best to breathe deeply and relax, knowing the best outcome would happen, if I could only stay in a peaceful mindset.

The night before the presentation I wasn’t quite prepared, and I knew it, not for lack of trying, but merely for lack of time. I stayed up most of the night putting together the last of my research, trying to line it up to be a cohesive, logical persuasion for those who would be making a decision the next day. How well I did at the meeting could mean the difference between thousands of dollars down the tubes, or putting us potentially more than $100,000 ahead within 2 more months.

Not long before I was to speak at the meeting, I was given some new information about others who would be in the room whom I had not expected, which added to my pressure. Besides allowing myself to become overly concerned with ‘what should I wear?!’ I also had to be concerned with whether or not my equipment would work properly, with no time to test it thoroughly first.

As the meeting began, I knew I had done all I could possibly do to prepare. I had to trust that my best would be good enough, and that my faith in God would help make up for my human deficiencies. It would have to; there was nothing more I could do.

While I intellectually relied on God to make it all ‘okay’, I couldn’t seem to quiet my stressed-out, frantic heart. I was flustered, lost my train of thought frequently, and basically ‘blew it’. The opportunity to secure $100,000 slipped through my fingers as I pushed myself to just get through the meeting and finish saying what I went there to say.

I felt sick inside. What more could I have done? I had given it everything I had. I knew the principles. I knew that ‘when something is really, really horrible, it is in actuality really, really phenomenal,’ but no matter how hard I tried to think right, I couldn’t seem to shake the feeling that it had been a disaster, and nothing more.

I tried to call my mentor to help me get my head back on straight, because I knew that was critical if I hoped to glean whatever benefit there was out of the situation. I HAD to think right, for I knew that my future circumstances depended on it. However, I couldn’t get through, and my messages were never returned.

Finally, I thought of an old friend of mine whom I knew would understand and could help. Why I didn’t think of her first, I’m not sure. I gave her a call, and she laughed with me as I told her how pathetic the meeting had been, and after I had let it all out, she told me one thing that made all the difference.

She said, ‘Leslie, the meeting was perfect. You did your best, and everything that needed to be said was said in just the right way. Those people heard just what they needed to hear, and anyway, who do you think YOU are to decide what should and shouldn’t have been said?’

I knew she was right. I had done my best to prepare, and I had turned it over to God. So who DID I think I was, to pass judgment on what God made of it? Suddenly, I began to consider that maybe my mistakes were exactly what God knew would happen, and what He allowed to happen because He had some higher good in mind for me and the others involved.

Who am I to say that the deal should have happened the way I had wanted it to happen, anyway? One thing for sure, is that when something doesn’t go the way I think it should have, it’s generally because God has something even better in mind, and He is working to knock off my rough edges to prepare me to receive the very best He has to offer.

I choose to believe that.

There are a lot of things I may never know about what ripple effects came out of that meeting. I have since been made aware of some very important ones that did. But if nothing more, it has given me a new tool for the times I am struggling to feel better about a bad situation. I tell myself now, ‘It’s perfect’ even when I don’t see how it possibly could be.

Even the most painful, difficult circumstances in our lives are ultimately for our good. They give us experience, they teach us right from wrong, they help us grow toward our greatest potential if we don’t fight it.

Okay, so I messed up a presentation. I don’t really have it all that bad, do I? Worse things have happened, and besides, in some way, I know that it was all for my good. I came away a little tougher, a little more compassionate, a little more trusting in God.

No matter how painful or embarrassing it was, it’s ultimately for your good and perfect for helping you reach your highest potential.

Whatever seems horrible in your life right now, you can choose to trust. Choose to believe that it’s the perfect thing for your personal development right now. As you calm down and believe this, you’ll find that doing so makes a huge difference in where your life goes from there.

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