In our journey towards personal growth and spiritual development, self-reflection plays a crucial role. It is a tool that allows us to gain insights into our thoughts, emotions, and behaviors, enabling us to make positive changes and build resilience.
President Nelson’s concept of self-reflection provides a powerful framework for this transformative process, drawing parallels with the practice of sports coaching and emphasizing the importance of edifying conversations. By employing accurate psychology concepts, we can deepen our understanding and further enhance our personal growth.
Setting Emotional and Psychological Goals:
Setting emotional and psychological goals is a powerful way to align our aspirations with our spiritual journey. Research in positive psychology suggests that setting specific and attainable goals promotes well-being and self-efficacy (1).
It is important to acknowledge the challenges and areas for improvement without feeling overwhelmed. Celebrating progress, both subtle and significant, enables us to cultivate gratitude and appreciate the beauty of our individual growth.
The Role of Paper-Based Reflection:
Written reflection serves as a tangible record of our progress and fosters deeper self-awareness. The act of writing engages our frontal lobe, the executive center of the brain responsible for higher-order thinking and decision-making (2).
By putting our thoughts on paper, we create space for introspection, gaining a clearer perspective on our experiences. This process allows us to recognize and celebrate positive changes, even when specific goals may not have been fully achieved.
Engaging in the Discovery Phase:
The discovery phase of self-reflection is an exciting opportunity for personal growth. By exploring new concepts, seeking knowledge from reputable sources, and embracing continuous learning, we expand our understanding of ourselves and the world around us.
The wise counsel from Elder David A. Bednar, a respected leader in The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, encourages us to “seek learning, even by study and also by faith” (3). Through this active engagement in discovery, we discover fresh perspectives and develop new measurement tools to assess our progress accurately.
The Practice and Habit of Reflection:
Similar to mastering a musical piece, self-reflection requires consistent practice and repetition. It is a skill that can be honed and developed over time. By committing to daily reflection, we create a habit that ingrains the process into our daily lives. This habit enables us to transition from reactive thinking to thoughtful and rational contemplation, fostering personal growth and resilience.
Detailed Overview of the Self-Reflection Process:
The self-reflection process encompasses several essential steps. First, we recognize a challenge or problem and take time to introspect and reflect on the situation. This shift from reactive thinking to intentional contemplation aligns with evidence-based psychological principles, such as cognitive reframing (4).
Next, the discovery phase prompts us to actively seek knowledge and gain new insights into ourselves and our relationships. This is an opportunity to apply concepts from reputable psychological research to enhance our understanding of human behavior and promote healthy interactions.
The planning phase empowers us to strategically arrange our thoughts, goals, and aspirations, aligning them with our eternal perspective and gospel principles. Drawing from Elder Dieter F. Uchtdorf’s counsel, we can consider how our plans align with the teachings of Jesus Christ, ensuring they lead us towards lasting happiness (5).
Finally, the action phase compels us to implement our plans and insights into our daily lives, fostering growth in our relationships, character, and discipleship.
Emphasizing the Importance of Reviewing Both Successes and Failures:
In our pursuit of growth, it is vital to review both our successes and failures. By studying our positive experiences, we learn valuable lessons, understand our strengths, and reinforce positive habits. Similarly, analyzing our challenges and failures enables us to learn from them and develop resilience.
Fostering Self-Reflection and Improvement: A Path to Personal Growth
In the journey of personal development and growth, a valuable tool to consider is that of structured self-reflection. For many, this concept might seem unfamiliar, but as President Nelson elucidated in a recent talk, it holds potential for meaningful progress. Reflecting on his words, let’s delve into how the principle of self-reflection can guide us towards achieving our spiritual and personal goals.
Self-reflection is the act of thoughtfully considering your own thoughts, emotions, and actions. This process facilitates greater self-awareness, leading to informed decision-making and improved mental health. Psychological studies support this concept; regular reflection contributes to a stronger sense of well-being and greater resilience to stress (Morin, 2011).
In his talk, President Nelson drew an apt analogy between this process and the method a professional sports coach employs during a review session. Just as a coach carefully analyzes a game, observing both the strengths and weaknesses, we can introspectively review our daily actions, reactions, and choices. In doing so, we can identify areas of growth, without becoming overwhelmed by our perceived shortcomings.
This process should not be one of self-criticism or judgment, but rather a method for learning and growing. This is reminiscent of the scriptural counsel found in Doctrine and Covenants 64:33, “Be not weary in well-doing, for ye are laying the foundation of a great work. And out of small things proceedeth that which is great.”
President Nelson stressed the importance of positive feedback during this reflection process. Instead of focusing solely on areas of improvement, it’s crucial to acknowledge what we’ve done well. In 1 Thessalonians 5:11, we are reminded to “edify one another, even as also ye do.” As we reflect on our own journey, we should offer ourselves the same kindness and understanding we extend to others.
Notably, the feedback should be specific and actionable, offering us clear guidance for future improvement. In this regard, cognitive-behavioral therapy (CBT) is an instructive psychological concept. CBT emphasizes recognizing and changing unhelpful cognitive distortions, leading to healthier thoughts and behaviors (Hofmann, Asnaani, Vonk, Sawyer, & Fang, 2012).
By integrating these principles of self-reflection and feedback into our lives, we foster a healthier self-concept, rooted in both realism and compassion. This practice aligns well with the Gospel, which encourages continual self-improvement while celebrating the inherent worth and potential within each of us.
Self-reflection and self-improvement are journeys that require patience, grace, and humility. By aligning our practice with the teachings of the Gospel and accurate psychological principles, we can make the most of this journey, growing closer to our Heavenly Father and our true selves.
Hofmann, S. G., Asnaani, A., Vonk, I. J., Sawyer, A. T., & Fang, A. (2012). The Efficacy of Cognitive Behavioral Therapy: A Review of Meta-analyses. Cognitive therapy and research, 36(5), 427–440. https://doi.org/10.1007/s10608-012-9476-1
Morin, A. (2011). Self-Awareness Part 1: Definition, Measures, Effects, Functions, and Antecedents. Social and Personality Psychology Compass, 5(10), 807–823. https://doi.org/10.1111/j.1751-9004.2011.00387.x
Cultivating Emotional and Psychological Goals:
A Path Towards Spiritual Self-Improvement
In the journey of self-improvement, our goals are often associated with material success or tangible achievements. While these are vital, a pivotal yet often overlooked aspect of our development lies within our emotional and psychological spheres. Brigham Young once said, “Our education should be such as to improve our minds and fit us for increased usefulness; to make us of greater service to the human family” (Discourses of Brigham Young, sel. John A. Widtsoe, Salt Lake City: Deseret Book Co., 1941, p. 218). And in this pursuit of becoming “of greater service,” fostering emotional and psychological health is of immense value.
Our goals should mirror the emotional states we aspire to inhabit and the personal virtues we wish to embody. These might include developing patience in the face of trials, cultivating a deep sense of gratitude despite external circumstances, or fostering empathy towards those around us. Such goals align with the teachings of the gospel, as we are reminded in Proverbs 14:30, “A heart at peace gives life to the body.”
These goals are not meant to be overwhelming, but rather stepping stones in our eternal progression. They are a testament to our potential for growth and a reminder of Heavenly Father’s love for us. Psychology confirms that setting achievable, incremental goals leads to more sustained progress in our personal growth journey, a concept known as the principle of “small wins” (Weick, 1984).
In setting these goals, it is crucial to acknowledge and confront our challenges without succumbing to despair or feeling defeated. Elder Jeffrey R. Holland taught: “There is something in us, at least in too many of us, that particularly fails to forgive and forget earlier mistakes in life—either mistakes we ourselves have made or the mistakes of others…We can change. We can be whatever we want to be within the limits that God has set. We might as well reach for the stars” (“Our Strengths Can Become Our Downfall,” Ensign, June 1994, 19).
In this pursuit of self-improvement, we must also remember to celebrate our progress, no matter how minor it may seem. Every small victory, every moment of patience, every act of love and kindness is a testament to our growth and Heavenly Father’s guiding hand in our lives. This aligns with the psychology concept of self-efficacy, which states that our belief in our ability to succeed is crucial for maintaining motivation and achieving our goals (Bandura, 1977).
Embracing the journey of self-improvement involves understanding our inherent worth, acknowledging our divine potential, and appreciating the transformative power of God’s love. Elder Dieter F. Uchtdorf has beautifully reminded us, “God sees you not only as a mortal being on a small planet who lives for a brief season—he sees you as his child. He sees you as the being you are capable and designed to become. He wants you to know that you matter to Him” (“You Matter to Him,” Ensign, Nov. 2011, 22).
In conclusion, setting emotional and psychological goals for ourselves can be a powerful tool for personal and spiritual development. As we strive for these goals and celebrate our progress, we come to understand the beauty of our individual journeys and the divine potential within each of us. May we always strive to cultivate these goals in our hearts, bolstered by the truths of the gospel and the unconditional love of our Heavenly Father.
The Power of Paper-Based Reflection:
Navigating Personal Growth in the Gospel
For many of us engaged in the pursuit of personal growth and self-improvement, the act of reflection plays a vital role. As we strive to better ourselves within the framework of the Gospel, journaling or paper-based reflection can serve as an invaluable tool. This practice, much like scripture study or personal prayer, can draw us closer to the Spirit, encourage emotional growth, and foster greater self-awareness.
The Practice of Journaling in Scripture and LDS History
The practice of writing as a form of reflection has deep roots within the Church. President Spencer W. Kimball once said, “People often use the excuse that their lives are uneventful and nobody would be interested in what they have done. But I promise you that if you will keep your journals and records, they will indeed be a source of great inspiration to your families, your children, your grandchildren, and others, on through the generations” (Kimball, 1980).
From Nephi, who engraved his spiritual experiences on plates, to the modern day Church Historian’s office, which keeps records for posterity, the practice of recording thoughts, experiences, and testimony is an integral part of LDS life.
The Psychological Benefits of Journaling
Psychology too provides insights into the value of journaling for emotional and mental well-being. According to Dr. James W. Pennebaker, a psychology professor at the University of Texas at Austin, “Writing about an experience can help you distance yourself from the feelings of overwhelm that can accompany those experiences, providing you with a measure of objectivity and control” (Pennebaker, 1997).
By putting pen to paper, we are given the opportunity to examine our thoughts and feelings from a distance. This practice allows us to process events in our lives, understand the context and meaning behind our feelings, and identify areas of growth or change.
The Importance of Recognizing Subtle Positive Changes
Too often, we overlook subtle changes or improvements in our behavior, thinking, or emotional response. These changes, while seemingly minor, can be powerful indicators of spiritual and personal growth. As President Russell M. Nelson noted, “the Lord loves effort, because effort brings rewards that can’t come without it” (Nelson, 2020). Even the smallest changes in our attitudes or actions can lead us closer to becoming more like our Savior, Jesus Christ.
Writing down these subtle changes, documenting the circumstances, our thoughts, feelings, and actions, can help us appreciate the small victories. It creates a tangible record of progress that can encourage us during difficult times.
Journaling and the Gospel
By practicing reflective journaling within the context of the Gospel, we can better discern the whisperings of the Spirit, recognize answers to our prayers, and deepen our understanding of the scriptures. As we actively engage in this form of reflection, we cultivate mindfulness, which is central to emotional intelligence and mental well-being.
The act of journaling, when done thoughtfully and with intention, can also help us recognize our divine worth and potential. It allows us to see the hand of God in our lives, affirming the truth in Doctrine & Covenants 84:88, “And whoso receiveth you, there I will be also, for I will go before your face. I will be on your right hand and on your left, and my Spirit shall be in your hearts, and mine angels round about you, to bear you up.”
As we continue our journey towards eternal progression, let us remember the power of paper-based reflection. It is a tool in our arsenal, helping us navigate our personal growth within the parameters of the Gospel and brings us closer to ourHeavenly Father’s love.
By developing this habit, we grow more in tune with our feelings and become more mindful of the ways the Lord is guiding us. It brings us clarity in our life’s purpose and helps us connect more deeply with the teachings of the Gospel. The act of reflection is a quiet form of worship, one that encourages growth, accountability, and spiritual progression.
Recognizing the voice of the Spirit, becoming aware of our divine potential, and acknowledging the hand of God in our lives are significant outcomes of this reflective practice. As we pour our thoughts onto paper, we extend an invitation to the Lord to help us evaluate our experiences, understand them better, and guide us in our pursuit of righteousness.
As members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, we are continually striving to become more like our Savior, Jesus Christ. We navigate life’s complexities with faith and reliance on His teachings. Through prayer, scripture study, and thoughtful reflection, we draw closer to Him and our Heavenly Father.
As you embrace this practice of reflective journaling, may you find it a source of spiritual enrichment, personal growth, and deepened testimony. May it serve as a light, guiding your path towards eternal life and exaltation. In the words of President Thomas S. Monson, “As we keep the faith, we find in the trials of our lives the divine love and blessings of the Lord” (Monson, 2013). Let the act of reflection reveal those blessings, those moments of growth, and the divine love that Heavenly Father has for each of us.
Kimball, S. W. (1980). President Kimball Speaks Out on Personal Journals. Ensign.
Nelson, R. M. (2020). Embrace the Future with Faith. General Conference.
Pennebaker, J. W. (1997). Writing about Emotional Experiences as a Therapeutic Process. Psychological Science.
Monson, T. S. (2013). I Will Not Fail Thee, nor Forsake Thee. General Conference.
Doctrine & Covenants 84:88. The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.
Engaging in the Discovery Phase:
Unearthing Your Divine Potential
In the journey of self-improvement and personal growth, one of the most rewarding stages is the ‘Discovery Phase.’ This period of exploration and learning not only enriches our understanding of the world but also illuminates our understanding of ourselves as children of our Heavenly Father. As it’s written in the Doctrine and Covenants, “All truth is independent in that sphere in which God has placed it, to act for itself, as all intelligence also; otherwise there is no existence” (D&C 93:30). Engaging in the discovery phase, therefore, can be viewed as seeking out truth and intelligence, an active pursuit of divine insight.
The process of discovery involves a deep dive into the recesses of our hearts and minds, to bring to light new aspects of ourselves and our capabilities that add value. This is a psychologically valid concept known as “Self-Concept Clarity,” which refers to the extent to which beliefs about oneself are clearly and confidently defined, internally consistent, and temporally stable (Campbell et al., 1996). It’s not about reinventing ourselves, but about discovering and acknowledging who we truly are – divine beings with infinite potential.
Personal growth is often measured by material or societal metrics, but during the discovery phase, these measures start to evolve. Rather than focusing solely on personal achievements, we start looking at the quality of our relationships, the depth of our kindness, the breadth of our understanding. President Gordon B. Hinckley once said, “Try a little harder to be a little better.” During the discovery phase, this means striving to be a better friend, a better parent, a better neighbor, and a better disciple of Jesus Christ.
Part of the discovery phase also involves continuous learning, whether that’s discovering new methods to measure our growth, understanding different aspects of our spiritual selves, or even facing rejection or indifference with grace. Studies in the field of psychology have shown that facing adversity can lead to personal growth, a concept known as “Post-Traumatic Growth” (Tedeschi and Calhoun, 2004). In a spiritual context, facing challenges with faith and resilience often strengthens our relationship with God, enhancing our empathy and understanding for others in similar situations.
The discovery phase encourages introspection and self-awareness, aligning with the teachings of the Church and modern psychology’s focus on personal growth and self-improvement. As we engage in this phase, we draw closer to our divine potential, recognizing our inherent worth as children of God, and our capacity to grow, learn, and improve. This is the essence of the discovery phase – a commitment to lifelong learning and personal growth, deeply rooted in our faith in Jesus Christ and our understanding of His gospel.
By actively engaging in the discovery phase, we acknowledge our divine potential, embrace our spiritual journey, and become better instruments in the hands of God. As President Russell M. Nelson taught, “You are never living your divine potential more fully than when you are learning” (April 2021 General Conference). So, let us embrace this phase of discovery, learn about ourselves, and become better followers of Jesus Christ.
– Campbell, J.D., Trapnell, P.D., Heine, S.J., Katz, I.M., Lavallee, L.F., & Lehman, D.R. (1996). Self-concept clarity: Measurement, personality correlates, and cultural boundaries. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 70(1), 141–156.
– Tedeschi, R.G., & Calhoun, L.G. (2004). Posttraumatic Growth: Conceptual Foundations and Empirical Evidence. Psychological Inquiry, 15(1), 1-18.
The Habit of Reflection:
Building Understanding and Empathy
“Understanding is the first step to acceptance, and only with acceptance can there be recovery.” These profound words of wisdom, penned by J.K. Rowling, lay the groundwork for a practice that is increasingly vital in our busy and interconnected world: reflection.
As members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, we seek wisdom and understanding in many aspects of our lives, including spiritual, familial, personal, and professional spheres. One valuable tool to aid us in this pursuit is the habit of regular self-reflection.
What is self-reflection? Simply put, it is the process of examining our thoughts, feelings, and actions, asking ourselves why we think, feel, and act the way we do. It’s a form of metacognition, thinking about thinking. This practice aligns with the teachings of the gospel and the wisdom of modern psychology. Through reflection, we can build a bridge between spiritual enlightenment and psychological well-being.
To highlight the importance of self-reflection, consider the words of Elder David A. Bednar when he said, “The spiritual gift of revelation will operate in our personal lives. … We just need to learn to recognize it, and this is especially true for young people who are learning and practicing this vital skill of recognizing revelation” (April 2021 General Conference). By regularly examining our thoughts and actions, we cultivate the habit of recognizing the guidance of the Holy Spirit more readily.
So, how do we build this habit? The process can be compared to mastering a musical piece. A musician doesn’t simply play a piece from beginning to end repeatedly; they break it down, focusing on challenging sections, repeating them until they’re just right, then integrating them back into the whole. Similarly, reflection requires us to focus on specific aspects of our thoughts, feelings, and actions, practicing understanding and empathy towards ourselves, and then integrating these insights back into our overall self-understanding.
Incorporating writing into this practice can be powerful. As President Dallin H. Oaks has observed, “Writing down our impressions and thoughts can have a profound influence on us” (“Learning and Latter-day Saints,” BYU-Idaho Devotional, April 2019). Writing helps us externalize our thoughts, see them more clearly, and process them more effectively.
Over time, this diligent practice can become second nature. This automaticity in self-reflection—often referred to as “reflective practice” in psychology—helps us navigate complex situations with grace and wisdom. This practice echoes President Russell M. Nelson’s exhortation that we strive to hear the voice of the Lord and understand His will in our lives.
Thus, fostering the habit of reflection is not just a psychological recommendation—it is a spiritual one. We can become more attuned to the whisperings of the Holy Spirit, develop greater empathy for others, and grow in our personal discipleship of Jesus Christ. As we continue to reflect and understand ourselves better, we can move closer to our divine potential, becoming the person Heavenly Father knows we can be.
The Journey of Personal Growth:
Embracing Reflection and Action in Our Lives
Life is a continuous journey of growth and learning. As members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, we’re encouraged to strive for continual self-improvement and to seek wisdom from all the best books (D&C 88:118). One pathway to self-improvement is through self-reflection, a concept deeply rooted in psychology and cognitive sciences. In President Nelson’s enlightening discussion, he highlighted the scientific approach to self-improvement which consists of four crucial stages: Recognition, Reflection, Discovery, and Action.
Recognizing a problem, challenge, or area of improvement is the first step on this journey. As we read in Ether 12:27, “And if men come unto me I will show unto them their weakness.” Acknowledging our own challenges opens the door for improvement. Importantly, recognition isn’t about self-criticism but about fostering self-awareness, a key concept in psychology that leads to healthier relationships with ourselves and others (Sutton, 2016).
Reflection is an introspective process where we understand and analyze our thoughts, emotions, and behaviors. It is intentionally moving from reactive, instinctive thinking (termed the ‘animal brain’ in neuroscience) to thoughtful, rational thinking, engaging our prefrontal cortex, the area responsible for higher cognitive functions (Miller & Cohen, 2001). This cognitive shift allows us to approach situations more objectively and make more balanced decisions.
In the discovery phase, we seek to learn something new, a concept or idea not previously present in our thoughts. This process promotes active learning and personal growth. As we continually learn and apply gospel principles, we expand our understanding and capacity to act righteously. In a psychological context, this can be viewed as Cognitive Flexibility, which refers to our ability to shift our thinking or to think about multiple concepts simultaneously (Scott, 2015).
Planning involves arranging our thoughts and insights in an order that aligns with our internal understanding, much like composing a piece of music. This mental rehearsal can help solidify our intentions and make our goals clearer. The planning process can also improve our executive functions, cognitive skills that help us manage and coordinate our actions and behaviors (Best & Miller, 2010).
Finally, we come to the action phase, where we implement our plans into our lives, turning thoughts into deeds. James 1:22 instructs, “But be ye doers of the word, and not hearers only, deceiving your own selves.” Acting on our reflections and plans, we bring about tangible changes in our lives and progress towards our Heavenly Father.
By routinely engaging in this process of recognition, reflection, discovery, planning, and action, we can make self-improvement a daily practice. Over time, this practice becomes second nature, equipping us to deal with life’s challenges and making us better servants in the Lord’s kingdom.
Let us remember, the purpose of self-improvement isn’t just to become better but to become more Christlike, drawing closer to our Heavenly Father and becoming better instruments in His hands. As President David O. McKay said, “The purpose of the gospel is…to make bad men good and good men better, and to change human nature” (McKay, 1965, p.8).
– Best, J. R., & Miller, P. H. (2010). A Developmental Perspective on Executive Function. Child development, 81(6), 1641–1660. https://doi.org/10.1111/j.
Harnessing the Power of Review:
Learning from Successes and Failures
As members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, we continually strive to better ourselves and foster personal growth. One valuable approach that can facilitate this spiritual and personal development is a consistent review of both our successes and failures. This practice, which echoes the process many sports teams employ, can provide essential insights and set us on a path of continual growth and understanding.
This concept has grounding in psychological theories and principles. A major theme in cognitive-behavioral therapy (CBT) is the idea that we can change our patterns of thinking to improve how we feel and behave. This transformative process often involves examining past actions — both those that led to desired outcomes and those that didn’t — to understand the thought patterns that were at play (Beck, 2011).
It is just as important to learn from our successes as it is from our failures. When we succeed, we often find that we have implemented the teachings of the gospel in our lives effectively, and we have found ways to face and overcome our challenges. We can review these instances to identify what worked and how we can replicate these successful strategies in future situations. In the sports world, this might look like a football team studying the plays that led to a touchdown so they can execute them again in the future. Similarly, we can examine our actions, thoughts, and feelings during successful periods in our life to understand how to cultivate more of these experiences.
On the other hand, our failures provide invaluable lessons on resilience and perseverance. As Elder Dieter F. Uchtdorf once said, “The disappointments and setbacks we experience can help refine and prepare us to meet the future with faith and confidence” (Uchtdorf, 2014). From a psychological perspective, the concept of ‘posttraumatic growth’ suggests that individuals can experience significant personal, social, and psychological growth from navigating through a major life crisis or traumatic event (Tedeschi & Calhoun, 2004).
In our spiritual journey, it’s not uncommon to face trials or make mistakes. However, by reflecting on these instances, we can uncover valuable insights about our shortcomings and identify areas where we can improve. In this way, our mistakes can become stepping stones toward greater spiritual growth and understanding.
The scriptures remind us, “Therefore, dearly beloved brethren, let us cheerfully do all things that lie in our power; and then may we stand still, with the utmost assurance, to see the salvation of God, and for his arm to be revealed” (Doctrine and Covenants 123:17). The act of review, a thoughtful reflection on both our successes and failures, lies well within our power. By doing this, we can learn, grow, and prepare ourselves for the joyous promise of His salvation.
This practice of self-reflection and review encourages us to embody the principles of repentance and continual learning central to the gospel of Jesus Christ. As we take the time to review both our successes and failures, we can gain a deeper understanding of ourselves and our relationship with Heavenly Father. With these insights, we can strive to become more Christ-like, developing attributes that align us more closely with our Savior and leading us towards a life of more profound joy and fulfillment.
Beck, J. S. (2011). Cognitive Behavior Therapy, Second Edition: Basics and Beyond. Guilford Press.
Tedeschi, R. G., & Calhoun, L. G. (2004). Posttraumatic Growth: Conceptual Foundations and Empirical Evidence. Psychological Inquiry, 15(1), 1-18.
Uchtdorf, D. F. (2014). Grateful in Any Circumstances. Ensign
Harnessing the Power of Routine Reflection:
Strengthening Spiritual Resilience and Mental Well-being
In our journey of personal growth and spiritual development, Latter-day Saints continuously seek ways to align themselves closer to Christ’s teachings. One under-utilized tool in our quest for growth is the power of routine and habitual reflection, a practice rooted both in gospel teachings and contemporary psychological research.
When God commanded Joshua to meditate on His law “day and night” (Joshua 1:8), He provided us with a profound principle of gospel living. This mandate to meditate, or reflect, becomes a pivotal habit that allows us to understand our experiences better, both positive and challenging. Similar practices are now embraced in many areas of psychology, most notably in cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT), where reflection and introspection are core elements to change and growth (Beck, 2011).
Reflection involves a simple but powerful process: recognizing a situation or feeling, reflecting on it thoughtfully, and planning a course of action. Through routine practice, these steps can become second nature, helping us navigate life’s myriad challenges more effectively.
The discovery phase of reflection demands that we engage in active learning to uncover new insights. During this phase, we are encouraged to seek guidance from the scriptures, words of modern prophets, and other reliable sources. This approach aligns well with positive psychology’s concept of “learned optimism” (Seligman, 2006), where individuals are trained to dispute negative thoughts and reframe them positively. The discovery phase can help us challenge negative thinking and become more optimistic, even in the face of adversity.
Next is the planning phase, where we strategically arrange our thoughts or ideas until they align with our spiritual understanding. We take the time to ponder and pray, seeking direction from our Heavenly Father, and outlining our course of action, much like cognitive restructuring in CBT.
The action phase follows, where we seek to implement our plans into our daily lives, putting faith into action and exercising our agency to make choices that align with our gospel values. This echoes the behavioral activation techniques used in psychological therapies, emphasizing that our actions can impact our thoughts and feelings (Dimidjian, Hollon, Dobson, et al., 2006).
By engaging in this process of reflection routinely, we can cultivate a spirit of continuous learning and growth, fostering both our spiritual resilience and mental well-being. But remember, reflection is not just for times of challenge or adversity; it’s equally important to reflect on our successes and victories. As we recount the blessings of the Lord in our lives and identify the things we do right, we strengthen our faith and optimism, fortifying ourselves against the trials of life.
The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints encourages its members to strive for improvement in all areas of life, and the practice of routine reflection is a powerful tool to aid us in this pursuit. By making this a daily habit, we can enhance our spiritual resilience, mental well-being, and develop an increased capacity to deal with life’s challenges, finding joy and fulfillment in our journey towards eternal life.
Beck, J. S. (2011). Cognitive Behavior Therapy, Second Edition: Basics and Beyond. Guilford Press.
Seligman, M. E. P. (2006). Learned Optimism: How to Change Your Mind and Your Life. Vintage.
Dimidjian, S., Hollon, S. D., Dobson, K. S., Schmaling, K. B., Kohlenberg, R. J., Addis, M. E., … & Jacobson, N. S. (2006). Randomized trial of behavioral activation, cognitive therapy, and antidepressant medication in the acute treatment of adults with major depression. Journal of
Consulting and Clinical Psychology, 74(4), 658–670.
Embracing Acceptance and Resilience:
Our Journey of Spiritual Growth
For centuries, humankind has grappled with the existential question of purpose and the mysteries of life’s ebbs and flows. As members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, we are privy to divine insights that help us navigate life’s challenges. However, it is crucial to supplement our spiritual insights with practical psychological tools to foster resilience and acceptance, as they form the bedrock of our journey towards personal and spiritual growth.
Acceptance is a fundamental tenet of many psychological therapies, including Acceptance and Commitment Therapy (ACT) (Hayes et al., 2006). This concept teaches us to embrace our feelings, thoughts, and experiences, whether pleasant or unpleasant, without trying to change, avoid, or control them (Harris, 2006). By accepting life’s events as they come, we foster resilience, improve our mental health, and enhance our overall quality of life.
In the Gospel of Matthew, Christ calls us to accept our circumstances with humility and faith. “Come unto me, all ye that labour and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you, and learn of me; for I am meek and lowly in heart: and ye shall find rest unto your souls. For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light” (Matthew 11:28-30). These words encapsulate the transformative power of acceptance in our spiritual journey.
Resilience, defined as the ability to bounce back from adversity (American Psychological Association, 2020), complements acceptance. In life, we face trials and tribulations that test our faith, willpower, and strength. How we respond to these challenges largely depends on our resilience.
Psychologists have highlighted several factors that contribute to resilience, including positive relationships, optimism, the ability to make realistic plans and carry them out, a positive view of oneself and confidence in one’s strengths and abilities, skills in communication and problem-solving, and the capacity to manage strong feelings and impulses (American Psychological Association, 2020).
Our church teachings regularly highlight the importance of resilience. In his talk “Spiritual Whirlwinds,” Elder Neil L. Andersen of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles encouraged us to “prepare spiritually for the storms that will come upon us” by “increasing our spiritual capacity in an environment of opposition.”
The Interplay of Acceptance and Resilience
Understanding the interplay between acceptance and resilience is critical for our personal and spiritual growth. Acceptance allows us to acknowledge and face our trials with open hearts, while resilience equips us with the strength to persevere and maintain hope amidst adversity.
Elder Jeffrey R. Holland of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles reminds us in his talk “Come Unto Me” of the Savior’s boundless compassion and enduring love for us in our trials, asserting that “however late you think you are, however many chances you think you have missed, however many mistakes you feel you have made…I testify that you have not traveled beyond the reach of divine love.”
These principles underscore our journey through life as we strive to become more Christ-like. As we embrace acceptance and foster resilience, we navigate life’s challenges with faith, grace, and tenacity. We allow ourselves to grow and learn from our experiences, fostering a stronger relationship with our Heavenly Father and our Savior, Jesus Christ.
American Psychological Association. (2020). Building Your Resilience. Retrieved from www.apa.org.
Harris, R. (2006). Embracing Your Demons: an Overview
of Acceptance and Commitment Therapy. Psychotherapy In Australia, 12(4), 2-8.
Hayes, S. C., Luoma, J. B., Bond, F. W., Masuda, A., & Lillis, J. (2006). Acceptance and commitment therapy: Model, processes and outcomes. Behaviour research and therapy, 44(1), 1-25.
Harnessing the Power of Written Reflection:
A Tool for Clarity and Personal Growth
In an increasingly fast-paced world, self-reflection often takes a backseat. Yet, the scriptures and modern psychology both herald its undeniable significance in personal and spiritual growth. The practice of written reflection offers a potent tool for unraveling our thoughts, emotions, and experiences, bringing clarity and understanding into our lives.
The scriptures, from ancient to modern times, are filled with accounts of individuals who used the written word to reflect on their experiences and derive meaning from them. Consider the painstakingly detailed journals kept by prophets such as Nephi and Mormon. They recorded their personal struggles, spiritual triumphs, and divine revelations, thereby making the Book of Mormon a treasure trove of introspective insights.
Modern psychology echoes this sentiment. Cognitive-Behavioral Therapy (CBT), a leading form of psychotherapy, champions the utility of journaling as a therapeutic technique. Writing about our thoughts and feelings helps us to recognize cognitive distortions, adjust maladaptive behaviors, and foster emotional resilience (Beck, 2011). In short, writing is not just a means to record events, but a dynamic process through which we can understand ourselves and navigate our life journey.
While the concept of writing as a form of therapy may not be new, it carries renewed relevance in the age of digital communication. President Nelson’s ‘Deeper’ process—consisting of Detect, Emote, Evaluate, Plan, Enact, and Reflect—advocates for using writing as a means of introspection and emotional regulation. This tool parallels the widely recognized process of reflective writing in psychology, facilitating self-awareness, critical thinking, and personal growth (Ryan & Ryan, 2013).
The ‘Deeper’ process recommends using physical 3×5 cards as a tactile reminder of our progress and a tangible record of our reflective journey. Writing down thoughts and feelings aids in objectifying them, offering us a fresh perspective. This process resonates with the Cognitive Processing Therapy (CPT) approach, where writing about traumatic experiences can help individuals create a new understanding and reduce post-traumatic stress disorder symptoms (Resick, Monson, & Chard, 2016).
As Latter-day Saints, we are encouraged to seek wisdom from the best books (D&C 88:118), and what better book to consult than the one we write ourselves, chronicling our personal experiences and insights? The practice of writing can serve as a concrete manifestation of our inner dialogue with the Spirit, a tangible testament of our daily conversions, and our journey toward becoming more like our Savior, Jesus Christ.
As we engage in this practice of regular written reflection, we may find that it becomes less of a task and more of a sacred ritual. Our words may flow more freely, our understanding may deepen, and we may gain a greater sense of empathy for ourselves and others. As we pour out our souls onto paper, we can experience a personal Pentecost—a profound outpouring of divine insight and self-understanding.
Let’s harness the power of the written word and embrace this practice of written reflection. In doing so, we make room for divine guidance and facilitate our journey towards emotional and spiritual growth. Whether our day was marked by triumph or trial, our written reflections serve as a testament of our resilience, faith, and growth, a chronicle of our personal journey towards becoming more Christlike.
1. Beck, J. S. (2011). Cognitive Behavior Therapy, Second Edition: Basics and Beyond. Guilford Press.
2. Ryan, M., & Ryan, M. (2013). Theorising a model for teaching and assessing reflective learning in higher education. Higher Education Research & Development, 32(2), 244
3. Resick, P. A., Monson, C. M., & Chard, K. M. (2016). Cognitive processing therapy for PTSD: A comprehensive manual. Guilford Publications.
4. Doctrine and Covenants 88:118
Throughout this discussion, we have explored the profound impact of written reflection on personal and spiritual growth. Drawing upon the wisdom of scripture and the insights of modern psychology, we have discovered that written reflection serves as a transformative tool for self-awareness, emotional regulation, and clarity of thought. By engaging in regular introspection, utilizing techniques such as the ‘Deeper’ process, and tapping into the therapeutic benefits of journaling, we can unlock a deeper understanding of ourselves, strengthen our connection with the divine, and navigate life’s challenges with greater wisdom and resilience. As we embrace the power of written reflection, we embark on a sacred journey of self-discovery and transformation.