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Friday, December 4, 2015

What Do The Things You Are Focused On Say About You?

Since this year isn't over quite yet, I couldn't look up the most popular google search for 2015 worldwide, but in 2014 it was Robbin Williams.  Others in the top ten included Ebola, Ice Bucket Challenge and ISIS.  To be perfectly honest, this is actually quite comforting to me.  This may seem strange to some, especially my regular readers, considering my entry about what types of things we should be comfortable with, but hear me out.

Of course, Robbin Williams death was a really sad thing to all who loved him around the world, there was tons of controversy about the Ice Bucket Challenge and ISIS -- well that's just never a pleasant subject.  But the fact that these were among the most searched things on the planet says something about humanity in general.  To me, it says that if you look at the entirety of the world population, at humanity as a whole, we care about each other and seek for each other's well being and safety.  I think it shows the overwhelming, innate desire that God put in each of us to care for each other, to make sure we are all safe and happy as much as possible.

From a Latter-Day Saint perspective, this matches the Plan of Salvation perfectly.  The Book of Mormon so effectively reminds us that "men are that they might have joy", that "it must needs be, that there is an opposition in all things. If not so,... righteousness could not be brought to pass, neither wickedness, neither holiness nor misery, neither good nor bad."

But going back to my main train of thought, based, at least, on the most frequent concerns of people worldwide as reflected by google (among other sources as well), God's plan is going forward well.  People are, at the core and as a whole, focused on finding happiness, the very thing God intended us to be, even if they don't know exactly how to find it.  Latter-day scripture emphasizes this point further: "For there are many yet on the earth ... are blinded by the subtle craftiness of men, whereby they lie in wait to deceive, and who are only kept from the truth because they know not where to find it"

But let's get down to brass tacks now.  The world at large is still focused on happiness, but where are you or I or those closest to us focused?  The Lord tells us that "For as he thinketh in his heart, so is he."  Yes, we will all be distracted from moment to moment and from day to day, but is the general direction we are heading leading us away from or toward the ultimate happiness the Lord has in store for us?

W Network is great this time of year because they have a ton of Christmas specials on that focus people's attention to things the Savior taught, like integrity, honesty, combating fear and hurt with faith and hope, etc.  As a kid I was, understandably so at that age, focused a lot on getting "stuff" for Christmas.  My mom had to actually either give us money and say this is for you to go and buy something for [enter sibling's name here] for Christmas or even go out and buy something from them for us to give to them and say "this is from you to them, so go wrap it up yourself and put that it's from you and put it under the tree" just to get us to even think about what we could give to others.  It's not something I'm proud of, but it says a lot about what really mattered to me as a kid.

Well, my perspective has drastically changed since then and the things that make me happy now are much different from back then.  I try so hard every year to think of something I can get or do for my wife without her knowing so the look on her face on Christmas day can be so happy I'll never forget for the rest of eternity.  However, she's very creative with her questions to me and she ends up finding out about most things she gets, if not all of them, every year.  There's still one thing I have planned for this year that she doesn't know about yet so I hope it stays that way.  But either way, my priorities are so different from how they used to be that I feel much better about what my focus says about me know compared to, heck, even as recently as 5 years ago.

It's nowhere even close to what I want it to be and I have so much to improve on that sometimes I wonder if my future self, say 10 years from now, would look at me and just shake his head in shame, but I know for a fact that I'm on the right track, that where I want to be, the kind of person I'm trying to turn into now is nowhere near as petty and selfish as were my aspirations 10 years ago.

I think it's healthy to give, minimum, a good 10 to 30 minutes a day just reflecting on what our priorities are saying about, or doing some kind of self evaluation.  Would you rather spend your Sundays doing something with some kind of commercial emphasis or give every effort to strengthen your relationship with our Father in Heaven?  Would you have the courage to turn down a business transaction on the Sabbath or kindly encourage a random stranger to stop smoking?  Is social media or the scriptures more appealing to you personally?  Do other's successes (especially when it would have been your success) bring you joy or envy?  Are you likely to use expletives (profane or not) when angry or frustrated?  You can find questions like these at the end of chapter 6 of Preach My Gospel and they are a fabulous way to get a good idea of what needs improvement.

Please don't get depressed because of this.  My purpose here isn't to in any way do a rewrite of Alma 5.  Rather, it is just to make us think about both ends of the spectrum, where we are doing right and where we can improve.  What do the things you are focused on say about you?