Part I of “Choices for Change” series
Some time ago I received a sign that reads “Believe” as a gift from a friend. My oldest daughter soon claimed it as her own and she hung it proudly above her bed. While the sign may have been intended to inspire a belief in Santa or the general Christmas spirit, for my daughter it represented something more. It became her motto or mantra, and a reminder for me as well. Every time I walked into her room I saw my responsibility, as a parent, to let her know I believed in her.
The word “believe” can be applied in several different ways. It can reference your religious faith (“I believe in God”), the trustworthiness with which you credit an individual (“I believe my friend had my best interests in mind”), or the confidence you have in your own abilities (“I believe in myself).” It’s oftentimes the confidence in our own abilities that we want to feel but often doubt the most.
As I was leaving an appointment the other day I saw this quote on the wall:
Sometimes we are our own worst enemy. Our discouragement and doubt can drown out our desire to find success. I can’t even count how many times I’ve heard someone say “You can do anything you set your mind to.” But do we believe it? Our brains have a much greater capacity than we give them credit. In my post “Mind Over Matter,” I discussed how thinking positively can influence our abilities. Believing in ourselves and our abilities is like the story of The Little Engine That Could. The engine’s positive self-talk (“I think I can, I think I can”) kept her mind focused on progressing in the moment rather than the ultimate and seemingly impossible goal of making it to the top. It is not a matter of doing one big thing to make a change, but the millions of little things that change us by small degrees every day.
Are You the Master of Your Fate?
In 1966 Julian B. Rotter conducted a study to determine how we process our ability to be in control of our fate. The results determined that we have either an internal or external locus of control, locus meaning location. Individuals who feel their choices, personal determination, and self-belief affect the outcome of their lives have an internal locus of control. Individuals who feel that there is some external force, luck, or fate that determines how their life plays out have an external locus of control.
The study identified various contributors for why an individual might have one type of locus of control over another, but one of the more important conclusions was that every one of us has the power to change it. The study concluded that we can change our perception and relocate our locus of control to be internal instead of external.
Studying how religious beliefs affect one’s locus of control, Rotter and his researchers found that participants who had an internal locus of control scored high on the God-control dimension. At first glance, it may seem contradictory that having an internal locus of control allows for belief in a power outside of ourselves. What this finding ultimately translates into is the religious concepts of faith and works. James 2:20 says that “faith without works is dead.” Applying this scripture to the God-control dimension of the study would mean that as individuals we work to do all that we can to create, endure, and change the situations of our life, and then have faith that all will be made right through the grace of God in the end. Our works or actions demonstrate the desire and intent of our heart. Our faith allows the external control that a belief in God will make up the difference between what we can humanely achieve and what we want to achieve.
Believe What We Know
LDS Apostle David A. Bednar said, “We often testify of what we know to be true, but perhaps a more relevant question for each of us is whether we believe what we know.” You may be working through a divorce, suffering from depression, feeling alone, dealing with the residual effects of abuse, or struggling with unemployment or a dead end job. What do you know that will help you work through the difficult periods of life? For me, I know that life has a purpose and that we are here to learn.
My cousin’s 2 ½-year-old daughter is at the stage of doing everything herself. While at a park with her this last week I tried to explain how to go up a playground toy. She pushed me aside and said, “I do it myself!” Just like teaching a young child a simple skill, we too learn the most by “doing it ourselves.” It is the act of learning new skills that give us more confidence in our abilities and helps us discover our potential.
Knowing our potential can make all the difference when it comes to believing in our self. Our knowledge might be based on our religious beliefs or maybe on the way that we’ve been raised. Take your knowledge and believe in it! Fill your mind with positive self-talk and keep putting one foot in front of the other. For 2017 spend a little more effort and be determined to believe.
 “Henry Ford.” BrainyQuote.com. Xplore Inc, 2017. 4 January 2017. https://www.brainyquote.com/quotes/quotes/h/henryford145978.html
 Rotter, J.B., Generalized Expectancies for Internal Versus External Control of Reinforcement. Psychological Monographs, (1966) 80, 1-28.
 Bednar, David A., “If Ye Had Known Me.” Ensign. Nov. 2016, p. 105
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Will you allow life to teach you or defeat you