Practicing What I Preach: Learning to Do My Self-help Program
I Am Still a Happy Person
I want to share some personal stories about my own efforts in trying to apply the correct principles in the 13 Choices Happy Life Program. Although the overriding messages of many of my books and self-help programs are serious because of the great sorrow that addictions have brought into our family, I am still a happy person. My happiness comes through my perfect faith and hope in Jesus Christ, who is the master healer of all addictions and compulsive behaviors. I want my faith, hope, and happiness to shine through in everything I write.
I Keep Trying…
I am genetically programmed for self-improvement because of my parents. My dad made up his own charts and graphs to keep track of his personal improvement goals (following the example of Benjamin Franklin). I also remember my mom saying, “Every night when I go to bed, I think about all the things I did wrong and how I can do things better tomorrow.”
Yes, self-improvement was a family theme. Checking off “to-do” lists became a common practice for me when I became an adult, even though disorganization, which was also part of my genetic make-up, continued to plague me. I have always loved living a spontaneous, unplanned life, which has its benefits and also its detriments.
I was told by a psychologist, when I was in my early thirties and receiving counseling for the first time, that I needed a little “structure and routine” to my life. Fortunately, my 13 Choices Happy Life Program has been providing me with that little bit of structure and routine that I desperately needed for so many years. I now faithfully check off my chart each day, and then I’m free to be spontaneous, creative, and unstructured for the rest of the day. Too much structure makes me feel like I’m in a strait jacket. Too little structure makes me feel like I’m drowning in an ocean. My self-help program has assisted me in gradually eliminating many bad habits, compulsive behaviors, anxiety, and depression in my life most of the time. As I strive to know and do God’s will for me each day, I am grateful I have a program to help me. It has changed my life. It changed my husband’s life also when he started doing it. I believe it will change all people who need a little structure and routine in their lives and are seeking for true happiness and high self-esteem.
I am a chart maker. Throughout the years, I made dozens of different kinds of job charts for my children in hopes of teaching them to work and helping to keep our house clean. The final one was the “Daily, Weekly, Monthly Job Chart” that my children all hated—until they had homes of their own and asked me to send them a copy! The first ideas that came to me when I started writing the Wings of Glory: Recovery Program followed this same pattern of achieving daily and weekly goals. When I first showed it to Jonathan a few weeks after his deep depression had lifted, he laughed and said, “I think I’ve seen something like this before.” Indeed, he had. But these new goals weren’t intended to keep a house clean but to keep himself clean.
From the humble beginnings of our original Wings of Glory: Recovery Program of five daily goals and five weekly goals, which were all centered around the Five Elements of Recovery, Jonathan and I worked together for years trying to refine and perfect our programs. We knew these programs had to be something simple and easy to implement. We knew these programs had to be something that both he and I could follow. We knew these programs had to be something that even a child could understand.
I believe we did refine all three of our self-help programs, but we never did perfect them. I continued to get ideas about changing different things in these programs for years, which used to frustrate me. One day I realized that my programs didn’t have to be perfect. While the 13 Choices for Happiness and High Self-esteem are set in stone and will never change, the Daily Dozen and the Five Elements of Recovery, Five Elements of Prevention & Five Elements of Joy goals can be adapted for any individual’s needs and purposes. What I have developed in my program works for me, but other people are free to use my ideas and formats to make these programs work for them.
I read several books and a lot of articles about prayer throughout my life. I really wanted to understand this mysterious communication between God and myself, which is commonly called prayer. I have always wondered how prayer really works, and only on occasion would I feel a real spiritual connection with my Heavenly Father. I would always try to remember to pray morning and night, but often times, as soon as my feet hit the floor in the morning, I would forget to pray as I dashed off to take care of all the responsibilities that were demanding my attention. By nighttime, when I was stressed out and wondering why the day went so bad, I would remember that I had forgotten to pray.
One day, I decided that I needed to have my first prayer of the day before I got out of bed. This is now my prayer routine: When I first wake up, I kneel comfortably down on my bed with my blankets wrapped around me so I feel warm and cozy, and then I spend a few minutes meditating and praying. I like to begin my prayer by requesting a heart full of gratitude, and then all my early morning worries begin to fade away. I recognize all the blessings I have already been given and feel great faith that the Lord will bless me in the future as he has in the past. If I only have a minute to pray, I pray for a minute. If I have woken up early and nothing is demanding my attention, I spend a longer time meditating and praying. Then when my feet hit the floor as I get out of bed, I feel energized and confident that the Lord will be with me throughout the day. After I shower and dress later in the morning (and am finally fully awake), I kneel by my bed and have another prayer for help with my specific responsibilities that day and that I will radiate love and speak kindly to everyone, especially my family. I also offer short prayers throughout the day as the need arises, and kneel by my bed at night to pray again before I go to sleep. Often times, exhaustion limits the length of my nighttime prayers, but I am strengthened as express gratitude to the Lord for helping me through another long day. Every morning and night I pray for my husband and for each of my children, their spouses, and my grandchildren by name because it helps me feel spiritually connected to each of them. I know the Lord is watching over them for me.
Another thing that helped me gain a testimony of prayer is “Early Morning Journaling,” which I learned about from some of my family members and friends a few years ago. About once a month, when I wake up early and can’t go back to sleep, I go into my quiet living room to read a few scriptures, pray, and write in my special “prayer journal.” I write down a specific question to Heavenly Father about something that has been troubling me and then wait quietly until I feel His answer begin to flow into my mind, which I slowly write down as each word comes to me. Although I felt strange doing this at first, I read one day in the Doctrine and Covenants that this pattern of asking specific questions had already been established. In the introduction to many of the Sections in this modern-day book of revelation it states: “The Prophet inquired of the Lord and received this revelation.” I realized that I had the right and responsibility to “inquire of the Lord” and receive personal revelation and guidance for my own life. My prayer journal is now one of my most prized possessions. As I re-read it from time to time, I am reminded of the things Heavenly Father has counseled me to do. I sometimes laugh when I read where He says, “I’ve told you this before, but….” Yes, I am often a slow learner, but Heavenly Father is patient with me and reminds me of what I need to do.
My prayer journal has taught me to be humble and teachable. One early morning, I was very stressed out and demanded an answer from Heavenly Father immediately. No words came into my mind, so I finally gave up and went back to bed. The next morning, I woke up early again, but I was much more sincere and repentant for being so demanding. Heavenly Father forgave me for my weaknesses and His words flowed into my mind once again, which I wrote down. After writing in my prayer journal for several months, I knew for a surety that Heavenly Father really does know me, love me, and wants to communicate with me. This knowledge increased my confidence in my relationship with Him and in being able to kneel and receive answers to my prayers any time of the day or night.
Praying is no longer a mystery to me. It’s as real as calling my Heavenly Father on my cell phone, but better, because there are never any dropped calls. He is always there, along with my Savior, Jesus Christ, who is my advocate with the Father, and the Holy Ghost.
Internalizing the 13 Choices
When I’m in a hurry, I just read these 13 Choices quickly in my mind. When I have more time, I read them out loud and ponder them. I tell the story of how these choices came into my life in my booklet, Do You Have High Self-esteem? Can You Tell Me How to Get It? and are also in the 13 Choices Happy Life Program. What I know is that if I don’t read these choices every day, then I slowly revert back to my old behaviors. It took me years to learn to be consistent—until I added reading the 13 Choices to my Daily Dozen check-off list! I love to get my checkmarks!
Songs about Jesus
All my life I’ve had the desire to think about the Savior throughout the day, but it never happened for me. Even when I was firmly established in the habit of daily scripture reading, my mind wasn’t focused on the Savior all the time. When my youngest child went to college, I decided that as part of my exercise program I wanted to start dancing—in my living room. Not having much of a selection of dance music, I chose to listen to a song with a bouncy beat from a Christian music album, produced by James Miner, called The Chosen One. The song, “Lift Me Up,” was always one of my children’s favorites and they would dance to when we listened to this album each Easter. I started dancing to this song every morning for about a week when am amazing thing started happening. I found that I was thinking about the Savior all day long because this song kept playing in head throughout the day. I wondered if this same thing would happen if I listened to a different song about Jesus and didn’t dance. I tried it and it worked! I was so excited and knew that this was something I would have to add to my “Daily Dozen” list. Listening to a song about Jesus was the beginning of my “5 Minute Magical Morning Devotional”—the five essential things I do each morning to connect with my Heavenly Father and Savior so I can remember them all day long. It always makes me smile when I reminisce about how dancing in my living room taught me this great principle to listen to a song about Jesus first thing in the morning!
I love to read the scriptures—now. In my younger years, I only read them on occasion. While I tried to live my life in a good way, I had not yet gained a testimony of how consistent, daily scripture study could change my life. Looking back, I know many of the stresses and conflicts in our family could have been avoided if I had been reading my scriptures every day. I didn’t start reading my scriptures every day personally and made sure we also had family scripture study every day until my oldest children were starting into their teenage years. I didn’t know how to handle all the situations I was facing, and I knew without God’s help that I couldn’t survive, so I turned to the scriptures. I now know that there is a real, tangible spiritual power that enters your heart and home when the scriptures are being read and discussed in your home every day. It is the consistency that is important. One scripture is better than none. I like to search for scriptures about faith and write a short phrase in my journal to keep me focused on having perfect faith in Christ each day.
It took me years to develop the habit of writing in my journal every day. I was inspired by one woman who said, “I’ve written in my journal every day for twenty-five years. Yes, every day. But sometimes all I write is, ‘Blah!’” I laughed when she said that but it motivated me to follow her example! I now use my journal to not only jot down some memories about the day, but to write a short phrase from my scripture reading and an inspiring quote from the book I’m reading. My journal is my friend. Recording a positive wish in my journal is like making a wish before I blow out my birthday candles on my cake. I believe it, and because I believe it, my wish comes true. Faith precedes the miracle.
I used to feel guilty when I said I needed eight hours of sleep at night plus a nap in the afternoon because I knew so many people who seemed to get along on five or six hours of sleep. When I read Chapter 8 in the book, Essentialism by Greg McKeown, all my guilt was swept away. While I can get by on a few hours of sleep (with the Lord’s help) when I have an emergency or family responsibility that needs immediate attention, I now like to plan ahead so I can be in bed and try to sleep (or at least rest) for eight hours every night. I feel so much more productive the next day when I do this.
While I don’t reach my goal to exercise for 30 minutes every day, I keep trying. Some of my best ideas come to me when I’m exercising, and I always feel refreshed and invigorated even if I just take a quick, five-minute walk in my yard. I can power walk faster than I can jog, and my children have often laughed at me doing my different exercise routines, but I keep trying to work off that last bit of “baby fat” (since my baby is now twenty!) I am motivated to have the energy, strength, and stamina to keep up with all my grandchildren when I get to visit them! I have learned that taking care of my body is equally important as taking care of my spirit. The spirit and body work together and when I neglect one, I am also negatively affecting the other. I sometimes listen to my 30 minutes of gospel study on audio while I exercise for 30 minutes, which helps me conserve time by doing two things at once!
I grew up eating freshly ground wheat cereal, sweetened with honey, for breakfast almost every day, which my dad cheerfully made for our family to eat. White sugar was restricted in our home and had been given the nickname, “Rat Poison,” because my dad read a study about mice eating white sugar, and they all died! My mom cooked a big pot of beans every week, and all we ever ate basic, nutritious, inexpensive food. After leaving home, I learned through trial and error that my parents’ emphasis on good basic food was very wise. When I ate healthy food, I felt good. When I ate junk food, I felt bad. I soon adopted the healthy way of eating (most of the time) and know it is why I am still so energetic today! My dad gave me a book (which I didn’t read until after he passed away) called, Your Body’s Many Cries for Water: You Are Not Sick, You Are Thirsty by F. Batmanghelidj, M.D. and that is when I started following my dad’s advice to drink lots of water every day. On days when I start feeling a little discouraged or depressed in the morning and don’t feel like doing anything, I say to myself, “The least I can do today is drink my eight cups of water.” I then focus on making sure I drink at least 8 cups of water, and by the end of the day I feel healthier and emotionally stronger—and even a bit accomplished—for reaching one simple goal!
I like to shower and get dressed every day because I feel better when I do. As a stay-at-home mom, I would often stay in my pajamas all day and procrastinate getting ready, which did not contribute to feeling good about myself, being effective in my responsibilities as a mother, or showing affection and respect to my hard-working husband when he came home from work. I finally came up with my “minimum daily requirement” of a quick shower, a little make-up, brushing my teeth, and putting on clean clothes—which I can now do is less than fifteen minutes! (When I wash my hair twice a week, it takes a little longer.) One of my grandsons said it best with these words, “When I wake up in the morning, I touch my hair and my face, and I feel really gross all over. Then I take a shower and all my anger washes away, and I feel great!) Yes, anger and all negative feelings can be washed down the drain along with the soap and water. Brushing my teeth night and morning wasn’t difficult for me, but flossing was not an acquired childhood habit. However, I now floss my teeth every night before I go to bed because of a kind, persistent dental hygienist who had asked me on several visits to establish this habit. When I was starting to have serious problems with my teeth, she said to me with great earnestness, “I know you have lots of kids and you’re always busy and don’t have any time for yourself, but will you PLEASE, PLEASE, PLEASE start flossing your teeth every day? If you don’t, you’re going to lose them!” I was shocked by how concerned this professional, sweet lady was for me personally and thought to myself, “If she really cares about me that much, then I will start flossing my teeth every day! I added flossing my teeth to my “Daily Dozen” check-off list and started doing it!
Oh my! Oh my! Money has always been so difficult for me to manage. I still struggle, but I’m getting better in my old age! I know I added so much stress to our family life because I didn’t make it a priority to always know how much I was spending. I tried to just remember how much I was spending in my head, which was a very poor accounting method. I remember one time in the early years of our marriage, we were given $200 as a gift. For several weeks, whenever I wanted to buy something extra, I’d think to myself that I could take it out of that $200. When I finally stopped and added up everything I had bought, the total was close to $400! I also didn’t know how to plan ahead for upcoming or unexpected expenses, which would always throw the budget off. I finally realized that I wasn’t born with the knowledge of how to manage money, but I could read books and learn how to turn this weakness into a strength. I know now that money is really a spiritual matter, and the Lord will bless you both spiritually and financially as you ask for His help and be a wise steward over your money throughout your life.
I didn’t learn to make my bed and clean my bedroom until I was fifty years old. I remember when I made the change because my husband was so surprised. I was in what he calls my “Creative Mode” and working feverishly on my latest writing projects, one of which was this self-help program. I was trying to figure out the twelve most important things I needed to do every day so I wouldn’t be stressed out. This was the beginning of my “Daily Dozen,” and I had written down, “Make bed and clean bedroom” because I know how awful I feel when everything is a disaster. After David went to work, I quickly made the bed and straightened up the bedroom before I jumped back into working on my writing—so I could get my checkmark for the day! When David came home from work, he was shocked that the bedroom was clean—and that I’d also made progress on my creative writing that day. That was a great beginning for me because I accomplished much more that day than normal—just because my bed was made and my bedroom was clean. Somehow, I think there was a subconscious feeling of self-control and competency that helped my productivity and creativity throughout the day.
Learning How to Play
I originally wrote on one of my “Daily Dozen”to-do lists, “Be cheerful and optimistic!” So, I was always running around every day trying to be super positive about everything and working hard to keep a smile on my face at all times. One day it occurred to me that I was just pretending to be cheerful and optimistic, but I wasn’t really feeling it. Then it occurred to me that I needed to stop, relax, and do something fun every day so these happy, optimistic feelings would come to me naturally. Once again, in Chapter 7 of Essentialism, Greg McKeown talks about the importance of “play,” which reaffirmed my feelings years before that having a little fun every day is so important. Some of the simple things I like to do is turning on some music and dancing with my husband in the kitchen or chasing kids (or grandkids, now) through the house. A little play is better than no play!
Sometimes I like to go to church; sometimes I don’t—but I go anyway. The hardest time I had going to church was when we moved from Los Angeles, California to Middleton, Idaho after a business failure. We had six children, ranging in age from 1 to 9, and I was pregnant with baby number seven. My husband and I were both so confused why our business venture hadn’t worked out, and we both felt very disillusioned and forsaken by God. I was totally exhausted physically, mentally, emotionally, and spiritually, and for the first time in my life, I didn’t want to go to church. As I sat in my self-pity, I looked around at our six little children and said to myself, “My kids need to go to church today.” I dragged my pregnant body up off the couch, took my husband’s strong hand, and we went to church together as a family.
Truthfully, I was renewed by making this great effort to go to church that day when I was in the depths of despair. I learned that the consistency of church attendance will pull you through any trial. I also learned that no matter what my problems are, there are other people at church that have worse problems than I do. I need to be receptive to the promptings of the Spirit to somehow help these other suffering souls—if it is only with a smile and a hug or a handshake. Everyone needs love. That’s why I really go to church—to love people—and to be strengthened by the Lord’s love in return as I partake of the Sacrament and renew my covenants with Him.
In the book, The Pilgrim’s Progress, which was written by John Bunyan while he was imprisoned for twelve years for his religious beliefs and was published in 1678, it tells an intriguing story that has inspired men and women to remain true to Christ for over 300 years. I recently listened to this book on Audible during a road trip and was amazed by this story of commitment to truth no matter what afflictions you are called upon to endure in this life. I know that attending church every week is one of the most empowering means that strengthens me to endure my own personal trials.
Books can be life changing. One book that stands out in my mind that I read as a young mother was called, “Changing Children’s Behavior” written by John D. and Helen Brandhorst Krumboltz in 1972. I was so excited to find out some quick, easy ways to change my children’s behavior and get them to do what I wanted them to do! As I got to the end of the book, I was so disappointed because I realized the book was really not about changing children’s behavior, it was about changing parents’ behavior—and after the parents changed their behavior, their children would naturally change likewise. I knew that to change my behavior was not going to be quick nor was it going to be easy. I was pretty stubborn and inflexible in my younger years. I’ve now read (or listened to) dozens and dozens of books throughout my life. Each book changes me a little bit and helps me be a better person. I like to jot down my favorite quotes and ponder how I can make these new ideas a part of my life. I used to be afraid of change, but now I welcome it. I don’t expect be perfect in this life, but I do expect to enjoy the journey by learning from other people’s experiences and to keep on trying!
The last few years, I’ve read a lot of books about business. Many of these books talk about the need of having a “mentor” in your life. As I pondered on this business suggestion, I realized that everyone could benefit from the use of a mentor to accomplish their dreams. One business book that was a big wake-up call for me was, The 10X Rule by Grant Cardone. This is a hard-hitting book that made me see clearly that I was being a “baby” (as Mr. Cardone calls people who are always making excuses as to why they don’t get things done) and I needed to grow up and be accountable for all my actions. If I say I’m going to do something, I need to do it. No excuses. My husband and I now act as mentors for each other as we counsel, plan, and report back on our accomplishments. It feels good to not be making excuses for myself anymore.
Learning to Show Love to My Family
While I have always loved my family, I haven’t always been good at showing my love on a consistent basis. While intellectually I know the importance of having unconditional love, it’s not always easy to put it into practice. Over the years, I realized that just feeling love really isn’t enough; I had to be willing to forgive on a daily basis. I decided that every morning everybody would get a “clean slate.” Anything that bothered me the day before, I would either talk it out with that person, or quit thinking about it. I realized that although I was trying to be loving and forgiving to my family, the way I would sometimes speak to my children was sarcastic or emotionally demoralizing. I had to learn to stop saying negative things to them. I remember angrily praying after a confrontation with one of my teenagers when the Lord rebuked me with these words in my mind, “She’s doing better at her age than you are doing at your age.” I learned that kind words begin with kind thoughts. I now make a conscious effort to kick out any “automatic negative thought” that comes into my mind and replace it with an “automatic positive thought.” This means I have to plan and prepare positive thoughts ahead of time about each member of my family, so when I’m stressed it will become automatic to think a positive thought, speak kindly, forgive, and love all in a matter of seconds. Hard mental work? Yes, but it’s worth it.
I have many wonderful friends within my family and outside of my family. I believe this is how the Lord intended it - where the line between family and friends is blurred, and your family members become like your friends, and your friends become like your family. One of the nicest compliments our family ever received was this: “When you visit the Fales home once, you are friends. When you visit the Fales home twice, you are family.” My parents were always welcoming and accepting of everyone, and they showed me by their example the importance of genuine friendships and helping those in need. I’m grateful for the many fun activities I’ve shared with family and friends throughout my life—one of the best being my 60th birthday party where almost all my family and several friends joined together to celebrate with me. As we were making s'mores on the campfire, I looked around me and felt overwhelmed by the blessing of being surrounded by some many incredible individuals—all family and friends with integrity. The scripture, “I was a stranger, and ye took me in” (Matthew 25:35), expresses my feelings towards all the good people who have strengthened me throughout my life. As children of God, we really are one big, eternal family!
I Keep Trying…
Yes, I do keep trying. Some days are better than others. Some weeks are better than others. When I start feeling overly stressed or depressed, I look at my check-off sheets and I can immediately see what the problem is—too many zeros for not doing the basics! During times like this, my chart usually shows not enough sleep and not enough exercise, so I stop, get back on track, and start feeling great again! I like following my self-help program. It really does help me a lot!