There’s no doubt about it, beginning almost anything is hard.
You see, it even took a cliché statement for me to even begin to write this article. It’s not that I don’t love writing . . . it’s just that starting is a challenge. It’s one that all of us have to face over and over and over again.
The good news is that there is so much potential in everything we begin. If that wasn’t the case, we wouldn’t do it.
Related: 5 Tips to Help Your Kids Set Goals (and you too)
The bad news is that following through and actually carrying out what we decide to do is hard. It often doesn’t last long. We always mean it too . . . but so often we fall short.
Do you know what we turn to when we fall short? That’s right! The Gospel. The answer is always the Gospel and the Plan that God and His Son laid before us.
So here are 5 powerful patterns (P’s) that we can learn about God’s way of “In The Beginning.”
1. Purpose – Genesis 1—3
In the beginning . . . of everything, we should have a clear purpose in mind.
As we read the account in the first few chapters of Genesis, try to read the creation story without a specific purpose behind all of God’s creation. It changes the story a little bit, doesn’t it? Ok, maybe it changes it a lot.
All of a sudden, we’re reading about the best arts and crafts story ever. While God is quite the artist (just look at the beautiful planet around us for proof), that’s not exactly why He created this world. Our understanding of what took place in the premortal existence gives us such a deeper look into the creation.
The purpose of our creation is so that we can become like Heavenly Father.
As we learn to keep this purpose in mind, our lives become so much more meaningful, and our choices so much more significant. The purpose is what drives us to completion. It’s the motivation behind everything we do.
So, as we set out to accomplish something, whether it’s spiritual growth, overcoming or creating habits, or even participate in physical activity or competition, we need to keep the purpose in mind. The big question will always be: why are we doing this?
Keep asking yourself why so you can keep progressing.
2. Plan – John 1:1-5
I’ll admit it. This part is hard. Some people are natural-born planners. I am not one of those. I tend to figure that I am capable enough to just get things done in the moment. Of course, I also almost never finish things that I set out to do.
In the beginning, we need to have a realistic plan of how to get to where we’re going.
The good news is that in this step we do not have to have every detail decided. That would be impossible. Rather plans should just be the foundation for our final product.
John tells was who was with us in the beginning, and what He did. From the very beginning of our existence, God’s plan centered on Jesus Christ. Even the Savior could not know every detail of His mission as the Savior of the world. He could not comprehend the suffering and pain He would have to go through until He actually went through it (see Alma 7:11-14).
Still, there was a plan of how He was going to be able to work out our salvation. It was a perfect plan that would work with every person that would ever be born.
While our plans may not ever reach that level, it is important that we have one. Plans are the roadmap that takes us from where we are to our ultimate goal (our purpose). We may not know what the road actually looks and feels like . . . but we at least need to know which road to take.
3. Promise – Matthew 11: 28-30
So we have a purpose. And a plan. We know why we need to go where we are going. And we know how we are going to get there. Shouldn’t there also be assurances along the way?
Absolutely. God always makes promises and blessings as we progress towards our goal.
Thus, the third P of beginning is remembering the promises that we have along the way.
In probably one of the most comforting scriptures in the standard works, Christ declares that if we come unto Him then “[He] will give [us] rest” (Matthew 11:28). Nowhere in there does He require us to actually be perfect before His promises are fulfilled. We find those promises along the way.
When you set out to accomplish something, what assurances do you have along the way? The reward of our efforts shouldn’t just come at the end . . . we wouldn’t accomplish anything! At least I wouldn’t, I’m not sure I’m disciplined enough.
A goal to lose weight happens in increments, and along the way, you will find bits of more energy and motivation. A goal to get married is accomplished by a growing relationship where love isn’t the end result, but the process. A goal to eliminate pride happens one act of service at a time until you can recognize that thinking of others, even for small amounts of time, is much more rewarding than thinking of yourself.
No matter what we begin there are blessings and promises that we must recognize along the way, in order to succeed.
4. Path – 3 Nephi 27:13-15
At last, everyone’s favorite part. This is where the purpose, the plan and the promises all come together into the details of our actions. This is where we strap on our helmets and where the road meets the rubber. It’s essentially the meat of beginning, but it cannot be accomplished without the other described patterns.
At the beginning of everything, we must establish a clear path forward.
This is different than making a plan. Remember the plan is the road map. The path is the specific details of the road we planned to take.
It was the plan of our Heavenly Father that allows us to be saved through the Savior. It was the path of Christ’s gospel that tells us how this is accomplished. It’s through faith, repentance, baptism, confirmation and enduring to the end that we are saved, not just because a Savior was provided.
The path typically will not dictate the whole plan that we have set up, just our next few steps forward. It takes into account where we currently stand, our motivation and any roadblocks in our way. A path may take the form of resolving not to eat sugar for a week, or to not say a bad word for a day.
Regardless of the overall progress that we have made, it always assures us that there is a way forward. The goal is not lost.
To accomplish what we set out to do, we need to pay close attention to the path forward, no matter how slow that path may have us go.
5. Progress – Alma 32:26-28
As we set out to begin everything, we need to recognize that every little bit of progress that we make is a win.
For me, this is the hardest part of following through with everything. I feel like most of the time I’m either all in, or all out . . . there’s no middle ground. As you can imagine, this leads to a lot of disappointments. Though it has also led to a lot of successes.
The pattern the Lord established, however, is “line upon line, precept upon precept” (D&C 98:12). If He is ok with slow (yet consistent) progress, then shouldn’t we be ok with it as well?
When it comes to following through, an important step in staying motivated is celebrating the progress we do make. Sometimes we may stop or veer off course. That’s why we remember our purpose, set a plan, recognize promises and follow a specific path so that we can come back and begin to progress again.
Sometimes all it takes is a desire. That desire will grow into a flame of faith and hope, or a tree of knowledge as Alma describes it. This growth doesn’t come immediately, but it comes constantly, which actually proves to be much longer-lasting than instant results.
One Final Word
At the end of the day, there will be times that we just simply fail. Being mortal and imperfect is hard. It was never meant to be easy. When we firmly believe in a perfect God with a perfect plan, we sometimes just don’t allow ourselves to fit in because we are not perfect. Sometimes the things we even set out to do cannot be accomplished in this life.
That doesn’t mean we should stop trying.
Related: Goals: Try Again Tomorrow
When we follow God’s established pattern of beginning, the results aren’t necessarily what He is looking for. Yes, He wants us to be perfect, but He knows we never will be.
He is looking for who we have become through the process of beginning and enduring.