My husband has a theory about this life. He believes when each of us come to earth we are given our own specially designed “learning packets”. These are the experiences, the weaknesses, and challenges—even what our mission in life is— given to us by a loving Father in Heaven. Sometimes it takes years to even recognize that we are stopping our own growth when a frustration keeps reappearing in our lives. It would be easier if the challenges in our lives showed up in an 8 x 11 manila envelope with our name written crisply on the flap, maybe once a month on our doorstep. No, it shows up in hard relationships, financial struggles, people we can’t forgive or feeling trapped. The good news is that we can master them as quickly as we are able. The bad news is that we are doomed to repeat our Learning Packets over and over again if we don’t master them, or figure them out, like a hamster on a wheel. Think of all the learning packets Joseph Smith was given. He mastered many, quickly and magnificently, and would move on to the next obstacle/challenge/packet to learn. He also had to do many packets over until he learned what he was supposed to. Joseph’s willingness to work on obstacles, challenges and his own weaknesses has aways inspired me. In fact it’s profound for me, when in 2 Nephi 3:13, Joseph of Egypt prophesied of Joseph Smith in verse 13: “And out of weakness he shall be made strong.” What a hopeful scripture that is for us!
As Elder Neal A. Maxwell (1926–2004) said: “It is not an easy thing … to be shown one’s weaknesses. … Nevertheless, this is part of coming unto Christ, and it is a vital, if painful, part of God’s plan of happiness.” 1
So are we doomed by our genetics, our environments, our families of origin or other things out of our control? No! Carol Dweck talks about our brains in her book “Mindset”. Carol S. Dweck, Ph.D., is one of the world’s leading researchers in the field of motivation and is the Lewis and Virginia Eaton Professor of Psychology at Stanford University. Her research has focused on why people succeed and how to foster success through changing your mindset.2
Carol Dweck talks about having a “growth”mindset or a “fixed” mindset. The secret she gives in her book is that a “growth mindset” is open and elastic. With a growth mindset, you know that you are willing to be bad at something until you can become good. You know that any mistakes you make will help you as long as you stay on the right path.
She said, “When you enter a mindset, you enter a new world. In one world—the world of fixed traits—success is about proving you’re smart or talented. Validating yourself. In the other—the world of changing qualities—it’s about stretching yourself to learn something new. Developing yourself.’
“In one world, failure is about having a setback. Getting bad grade. Losing a tournament.Getting fired. Getting rejected.It means you’re not smart or talented. In the other world, failure is about not growing. Not reaching for the things you value. It means you’re not fulfilling your potential.’
“Believing that these qualities are carved in stone—the fixed mindset—creates an urgency to prove yourself over and over. If you only a certain amount of intelligence, a certain personality, and a certain moral character—well, then you’d better prove that you have a healthy dose of them. It simply wouldn’t do to look or feel deficient in these most basic characteristics.’
“In this (the growth) mindset, the hand you are dealt with is just the starting point for development. The growth mindset is based on the belief that your basic qualities are things you can cultivate through your efforts. Although people may differ in every which way—in their initial talents and aptitudes, interests, or temperaments—everyone can change and grow through application and experience.’
“You have a choice. Mindsets are just beliefs.They’re powerful beliefs, but they’re just something in your mind, and you can change your mind.’
Your learning packets are anything you want to do better in or any challenges in your life. They can be terrible things that happen to you, or a wonderful thing in your life such as great beauty or wealth. Usually a change comes when you are sick and tired of being sick and tired. How are you going to grow and progress from your learning packets? Mormons have a strong doctrinal belief on progression and why we are here on this earth. It’s to overcome this world, to learn in this laboratory of Life. We believe we are to progress and become like our Heavenly Parents and the Savior, so that we can live with them again.
Below is a woman named Sarah who wrote about a learning packet that she has experienced her whole life. She thought it was just the way she was, until she clicked on a link, and read a book. It changed her life.
“Cleaning and maintaining my house used to feel arduous and I often left tasks unfinished. Dishes would stay piled on counters for days. I would spread projects across the dining room table all week long. We lived like nomads in our own space. Sometimes, we would eat in the living room because of the messy table. Toys took over every room. I have moved my messes from room to room and from house to house since I can remember.’
“Now I can clearly see that mine was, in many ways, a life out of balance and I had no idea how to ever actually make a change. I didn’t believe that it was in my nature. I had resigned myself to a life of clutter and disarray.”
(This is a good example of a fixed mindset.)
“Then about a month later, in the glow of our new renovation and the new year, on a sunny Saturday morning in mid January, I clicked on the most serendipitous link of my life.’
“Little did I know, while lounging with coffee on the couch in my pajamas looking at my social media stuff that my life was about to change, forever. The link I clicked was a magazine article about Marie Kondo and her book‘The Life Changing Magic of Tidying Up’…’
“I felt compelled to start the process as soon as I understood the method and have continued to feel compelled all along, as though I am participating in a sacred rite of passage, being moved by unseen forces. There is a spirituality present during the konmari experience, if you want there to be.’
Sarah goes on to say,
“Our homes should feel like sacred places, not storage facilities.’
“I am finding balance and alignment for the first time in my thirty-five years and what it took was finally and permanently letting go of a whole lot of my own stuff. Another good friend, Amy, told me that I have saved myself thousands of dollars of talking therapy simply by konmaring my house. I think that may be true.’
The link to Sarah”s packet is below.3 It a long read but it was worth it to me to read all of it because it was such a transformation!
When you understand the difference between a fixed mindset and a growth mindset, you can start figuring out how to change your life and learn the lessons you personally need to learn. She was given a bolt of inspiration when she clicked on that link. She got reading and moving on something she thought would always be with her. I read this a while ago and it has stayed with me because she made such a change and chronicled how she did it, step by step.
We have the wonderful promise in Ether chapter 12:27 in the Book of Mormon.
27 And if men come unto me I will show unto them their weakness. I give unto men weakness that they may be humble; and my grace is sufficient for all men that humble themselves before me; for if they humble themselves before me, and have faith in me, then will I make weak things become strong unto them.
Let us “come unto” Him who knows us so well. He will show us our deficiencies and help us through our Learning Packets. He will “make weak things strong” unto us.