Every now and then you come across a principle that literally changes your thinking and, ultimately, your actions.  That’s what happen to me. In 1995, just after we brought out our first book I Don’t Have to Make Everything All Better, we became acquainted with Dr. Blaine Lee, a founding vice president of Covey Leadership Center. He had attended a youth fireside we presented and we had the opportunity to talk with him after. This developed into a friendship. He was very encouraging to us and gave us some helpful ideas to get our book known. Some time later he told us of the book he was writing and asked us to read his manuscript.

From that manuscript and subsequently from the first paragraph of his book (The Power Principle, Simon & Schuster, 1997, p. 1.) I copied a statement that has remained with me and on my bulletin board ever since. In my marriage and family therapy practice I have used this many times. It is:

“The principles you live by create the world you live in; if you change the principles you live by, you will change your world.”

WOW! Read that again and let it sink into your thoughts and mind.

When I first sit down with a couple in my office I share with them a few points of my philosophy concerning therapy. One of the points is, “I am big on personal responsibility and will emphasize

that many times .” Generally, at some time during the session, I will quote the above principle and ask the question, “There is a key word in that statement, what do you think it is?” Most of the time as the clients think a moment, one will pick “principles” and the other will pick “change’. I will then ask them to see if they can pick out the word I think is important as I quote it again. “The principles YOU live by create the world YOU live in; if YOU change the principle YOU live by, YOU will change YOUR world.” Is this not the essence of the gospel put just a little different way?

A Very Personal Question.

Pause with me for a moment and ask, “What kind of world am I living in?” Is it characterized by what is contained in Doctrine and Covenants 121:41, 42, and 45 ― persuasion, long-suffering, gentleness, meekness, without guile, love unfeigned, kindness, charity to all, faith, and virtue garnished thoughts unceasingly? That is a big list and we often ask, “How do we get there and feel like we have arrived?” We are used to traveling in our world with a destination in mind. If I want to go from Washington D.C. to New York City, I follow the map and road signs until I arrive. Upon arrival, I can relax and say “I have arrived!”

In the journey to a personal world filled with the above attributes, there is no arrival. It is a continual journey practicing those characteristics until they are a part of our own world. It is a continual choice we make when our world is challenged in different uncharted ways.

What Happened?

“Our marriage is not happy and I am thinking of calling it quits,” Fred* blurted out. “We argue over everything, there is no respect, and she doesn’t appreciate how hard I work.” Jill* could hardly wait for her turn and she let loose with, “He yells at me, calls me names, won’t listen to me, and looks for every reason to not be home with me. It is hard with two kids and all their demands.” This is their “now” world.

After getting some additional information, I asked Fred the reasons he asked Jill to marry him. He said, “She was fun to be with, and so kind. We could talk for hours, and loved to do some of the same things.” He said it was like they were made for each other. To the same inquiry, Jill told me that Fred treated her so kind, listened to her, was such a gentleman, and they just wanted to be together. This was their “beginning” world.

The question really is:  “What happened?” As each of you read this you can go back and compare their two worlds and list the principles that were lived and the principles that were lost. It is easy to do this when you are not in the middle of it. Their beginning journey went into uncharted paths, they lost their way, and individually lost the principles they originally had. What were the uncharted paths? They are the challenges each married couple faces: living together daily versus dating and going to separate homes; having bills to pay together; adjusting to children; job and/or school pressure; church callings; and the list can go on. You know the list and each entry on the list changes your world.

What is the Process?

This type of scenario has been played out in relationships with parents, children, friends, and at work or school. The situations are different but the process is the same. In every situation, each of us must ask ourselves, “What are the principles I am willing to live regardless of what others do in order to create the world I want to live in?” Regardless of how we grew up, each of us know the basic principles to bring about the desired results.

With a little bit of help, Fred and Jill began to see how they individually contributed to the situation and how each could again apply the principles they already knew. When they returned, they reported some challenges and some successes. “He came home on time and seemed to be happy to be at home. When I talked to him he listened,” Jill reported. Fred said, “We started to argue then stopped and tried to listen to each other’s point of view.  It was hard but we did it a few times. Hey, we even went out on a date.” They both said the past week was so much better than the previous weeks. Though not perfect, they could see a glimmer of the  light at the end of the tunnel. Their journey is to continue applying what they already know.

Just like Fred and Jill, they knew how to be kind, respectful, how to listen , and enjoy each other. When they returned to what they knew, their world changed. When each of us have challenges in parts of our lives, go back to the attributes you already know.

Elder Jeffrey R. Holland’s counsel has application to this situation. He said, “When those moments come and issues surface, the resolution of which is not immediately forthcoming, hold fast to what you already know and stand strong until additional knowledge comes.” (Elder Jeffrey R. Holland, Lord I Believe, Ensign, May 2013).

Another couple, Samantha* and William*, came in with their marriage and family life in a shambles. She told of her many friends who treat her better than her husband and he told of his success as a salesman. My questions to them were, “Do you treat William like you treat your best friends, and do you treat Samantha like your best customers?” They each looked very sheepish and answered, “No.” The actions they were already using with others were not being applied to the most important relationship in their lives.

Each of us needs to look at the list in D&C 121:41, 42, 45 and pick out the simplest principles and check to see if those are really active in our own world. If there are some areas that are not bringing happiness or success, then “….if your change the principles you live by, you will change your world.”

* Names changed to protect client privacy

For information on the Lundbergs’ books visit their website at https://www.garyjoylundberg.com/. To download their e-book Wake-up Call: What Every Husband Needs to Know, only 99 cents click here.