Wednesday, September 23, 2015

Things Don't Always Turn Out the Way We Plan

Sometimes we have been striving for an extended period of time, doing everything we know, to obtain our goal but we’re making no progress whatsoever!

I have had this experience numerous times in my life.  The most recent has been happening over the past 7 weeks.  I started up what I call “Fitness Meetings” with my family.  

We all had to weigh ourselves and report that weight during the meeting.  Then we had to identify our goal weight and how much we hoped to lose every week.  How fast of a track did each of us want to be on?  Lastly, we committed to an action plan—what each of us would personally do to accomplish that goal.  I wrote this all down and created a spreadsheet for us (see image to the right).  We’ve been meeting for 7 weeks now.  I track weight, weight lost, and commitments kept/commitments made.  Each person reports his/her commitments kept and weight results.  We usually have some sort of conflict resolution or motivational talk about fitness.  We’ve watched some videos online of others who have taken this journey and have been successful.  This gives us some strategies we could test out in our journey.

My goal was to lose 2 lbs. a week.  I had to eat right (in the same manner I have in the past, which has returned the expected results) and exercise 5 days a week.  So my commitment to eat right score was 95% and my exercise score was 100% over 7 weeks.  How much weight have I lost?  Not a pound!  So frustrating!

After I stepped on the scale Sunday morning the first thing I was tempted to feel was bitterness.  I’ve sacrificed for this long period of time and nothing! (Malachi 3:13-15)  Thoughts like this flitted through my brain: “This is punishment.  I’ve gone back and forth so many times that I deserve this.  Maybe I have to starve myself now to even budge my weight.”

The results basically stared me in the face, saying, “Your best isn’t good enough.  Denied!”  So I started to question what I had been doing—what I thought was good enough.  Maybe I got it wrong even though I thought I had it right??  These kinds of thoughts may in fact be productive but perhaps not during this painful time.  I knew this much:  I had been doing my best inside my training zone to obtain my goal.  I felt confirmation of that.  I tracked that.  So questioning my process during the time when I was still struggling with the emotionality of the entire situation only resulted in a total jam-up of failure feelings.  

Listen:  "Turn! Turn! Turn!"
I pulled myself back as my Cause has trained me on numerous occasions before.  He told me, “Don’t go there right now.  We’ll evaluate this later.”  So hard for me to stop thinking those thoughts but I did.  I just suspended my failure conclusions.  I wouldn’t believe them even though I couldn’t believe success conclusions either.  His instructions, “Just give it time.” (Ecclesiastes 3)

The other temptation that was hitting me all day was to quit.  And by quitting I mean I started thinking my sacrifice wasn’t worth it.  For 7 weeks I had stayed away from eating treats AND even overeating healthy things.  I was hungry on many occasions but I had told my Cause I would suffer it in order to achieve something better (#GoodBetterBest).  But that something better was not happening.  No results.  So these thoughts entered my mind, “Why even try?  Might as well go eat treats.  I followed all the rules and this is my reward.  Well forget it then!  I guess I’ll have to find my happiness in some other place.”  Enter chocolate cake with ganache filling thoughts.  I didn’t accept these thoughts but I didn’t flat out reject them either because they seemed to be on MY SIDE.  It was like they were floating in front of me as an option to take or to reject.  I could feel my Cause asking me, “Should you believe them?  What is happening here?  What kind of temptations are these?”

I really wanted to lose weight.  I had patiently dealt with a few weeks of going nowhere or making negligible progress.  And each week I upped my sacrifice intensity, eating less, exercising more.  I wanted and needed visible results to sustain my motivation.  Without them, I couldn’t stay committed.  I had studied with my Cause how Results motivate our sacrifice.  When called to make difficult sacrifices, and we don’t obtain results (or take the time to evaluate them), we will be highly vulnerable to temptation.

Sherm is part of our family fitness group.  He had gone to the priesthood session of stake conference the day before where President Wells had told the story of a man named Oliver Granger.  He saw how this story applied to the situation I was in so he shared it with us.  Oliver had been sent to a distant city by the prophet to accomplish some important tasks.  He worked his darndest to fulfill this commitment but was not able to accomplish any of his goals.  Denied!  The following was the Lord’s evaluation of the situation:
“Therefore, let him contend earnestly for the redemption of the First Presidency of my Church, saith the Lord; [let him strive earnestly to keep his commitments he has made with me] and when he falls he shall rise again, for his sacrifice shall be more sacred unto me than his increase, saith the Lord...Therefore, let him [come home]...let no man despise my servant Oliver Granger, but let the blessings of my people be on him forever and ever.”~D&C 117:12-15
His sacrifice shall be more sacred unto me than” the visible evidence of results (increase = results).  When we sacrifice in balance with the Lord’s will as judged by the confirmation we feel in our hearts, and we don’t obtain what should be our reward for our efforts, there is another reward.  A better reward.  Keep reading.

Somewhere along the 7-week journey I had forgotten about the main reason I wanted to get into better shape.  It actually wasn’t about the weight loss.  That was only visible evidence that I was in fact working within my zone and a pretty good fringe benefit.  The real reason was this:  I knew from past experience that when I eat and exercise within my zone, my mind becomes clearer.  I am able to feel the Spirit more intensely.  The promises of the Word of Wisdom are fulfilled in my life:

"And all saints who remember to keep and do these sayings, walking in obedience to the commandments, shall receive health in their navel and marrow to their bones;  And shall find wisdom and great treasures of knowledge, even hidden treasures; And shall run and not be weary, and shall walk and not faint.  And I, the Lord, give unto them a promise, that the destroying angel shall pass by them, as the children of Israel, and not slay them. Amen." ~D&C 89:18-21
Fringe Benefits
That’s what I wanted.  So why wasn’t I evaluating those results? (My Cause asks me).  I got caught up in visible results—the fringe benefits (I reply).  But when I did take a step back and assess if these promises were indeed happening, I realized they were!  Yet transitioning from valuing the weight loss blessings to valuing the REAL blessings was hard.  I had set my heart on the fringe benefits yet again.  I wanted it to be apparent that I had sacrificed.  Time is helping me let go of that (again! #Repentance)

When I have ended with results that aren’t what I planned even when I have been striving to engage in a balanced process within my zone as confirmed by the Spirit and my own tracking, one of the best resolution processes my Cause has taught me is to look at the other results I am obtaining.  Especially the spiritual ones—the ones that are not as readily seen.  These are often the most valuable and the most sustaining.

P.S.  My Cause = Jesus Christ

The following is an awesome blog post at about sticking with it when the going gets tough: 

Habit Formation:  The 21-Day Myth by Jason Selk