As of lately, one of favorite quotes comes from President Boyd K. Packer:
“The study of the doctrines of the gospel will improve behavior quicker than a study of behavior will improve behavior. Preoccupation with unworthy behavior can lead to unworthy behavior. That is why we stress so forcefully the study of the doctrines of the gospel” (Conference Report, Oct. 1986, 20)
I like to study behavior. It is easy to get preoccupied with changing behavior and setting new goals. Sometimes I think I can offset my bad behaviors by performing kind deeds but rarely does this result in changed behavior.
For example: my plan to lower my cholesterol started by eating healthy meals. But a growing craving for sugar, sausages, bacon and eggs was working against me. It is an ironic game. I might cut out eggs but I justifying eating 5lbs of peanut M&Ms... or vice-versa after eating a cake I might cook a vegan meal.
Another interesting behavioral phenomenon happens whenever I travel. I stop doing all my daily healthy routines. I stop praying. I stop studying the scriptures. I stop eating healthy food. I stop exercising. It is like all of the rules of the universe that I normally follow no longer apply.
So... something strange happened while we were away visiting family for Christmas. I picked up a little book, "Choosing Glory". The author helped me clarified the different laws of behavior (D&C 88:22-24). It really helped clarify some key doctrines. My studying of doctrine was unintentional but I noticed something. I felt this strange inner strength.
There is also something about raising a child. Routines become a life safety. When I don't have routines everything feels like it is falling apart. Traveling especially unravels daily routines... and so whenever we return home I am grateful to regain my routines and recharge my spiritual batteries. But on this trip I somehow maintain a small charge and... I noticed.
It got me thinking about President Packer's quote. If every time I found myself writing goals, I would study gospel doctrine, more of my goals might meet fruition. The last few weeks of study scriptures have been empowering. I started to wonder about what real change is. It seems hard to change especially as I age. Despite gaining a knowledge of the negative impact my behaviors have, it is strange how often I act against my beliefs and better judgment. I definitely can see how I exchange long term happiness for the immediacy of the moment.
On the other hand, even when we remove addictions and bad behaviors from our lives, we still may feel empty. Real change results in a positive behavior. The ultimate goal result is increased acts of kindness. Ideally the new changes would become second nature, result unknowingly in good acts. Change never seems to include going from negative to neutral, it always goes from one opposite to the other... unless you are talking politics. But honestly, when I thinking of change, I think of the things I want to become NOT the things I don't want to become.