Original article appeared HERE.
Most of us know the scenario all too well. January rolls around and we talk a big game about how this year will be different. We write down goals. We sign up for Pilates classes. We browse magazines in grocery store checkouts that promise us “17 Secrets to a Happier, Healthier You in 2017.”
Then comes the February fizzle. More often than we care to admit, our good intentions stay just that—intentions, nothing more—and we quit the race having barely crossed the starting line.
The Not-So-Secret Secret
The truth, though, is that we can change. And not just our waistlines or our exercise habits. We can make deep, lasting changes that lead to happier, more fulfilling lives.
The secret? It’s not some life hack, self-help book, or motivational podcast. In fact it’s no secret at all—it’s the gospel of Jesus Christ, the ultimate self-improvement plan. As you strive to make positive changes in your life this year, keep these gospel principles in mind as a reminder that, yes, lives can change—yours included.
Part of the Plan
“You’re perfect just the way you are” is a common refrain. But the gospel urges us to become something more.
Change for the better is what the plan of happiness is all about. It was lovingly designed so we can become “better today than we were yesterday, and better tomorrow than we are today.”
“Our task is to become our best selves,” President Thomas S. Monson says. We weren’t given that task because God doesn’t love us as we are, flaws and all, or because He wants to control us. He asks us to change precisely because He does love us—and He knows that if we make certain changes in our lives, we can be much happier in the long run.
You Can Change, Really
Sometimes the biggest barrier to change is that we simply don’t believe we can really do it. Maybe we’ve tried many times before and failed. Maybe we’ve convinced ourselves, “This is just the way I am.”
But in the words of Elder Jeffrey R. Holland, “You can change! You can be anything you want to be in righteousness.”
That’s the good news of the gospel. Thanks to the Atonement of Jesus Christ, “[w]e need not feel that we must forever be what we presently are.” Our weak things can become strong things, and we need not forever be defined by our past mistakes. Instead, we can “let the sunshine in by doing the right things—now.”
Think Small and Simple
We forget sometimes the power of small and simple things—and that lasting change happens little by little, day by day, try after try. We wish we could reach perfection in an instant, but we don’t need to be perfect today. We simply need to “[t]ry a little harder to be a little better.”
As Elder David A. Bednar puts it, “Ordinary people who consistently do small and simple things that are right before God will bring forth extraordinary results.”
It’s the small steps, one after another, that bring us closer to God and closer to our potential.
You’re Not Alone
No matter how much willpower we have or how good our intentions are, we’ll never reach our full potential alone. But if we humbly ask, God can give us direction and strength beyond our own.
“God will help you become something greater than you ever thought possible,” President Dieter F. Uchtdorf teaches.
In our efforts to improve, we could hope for no better ally and friend than the Lord. Remember: “He gave His life so that you can change your life.”
Don’t Give Up
It may take you more than one try. It may take you more than one hundred tries. But if at first you don’t succeed, don’t fret, don’t give up.
President Monson reminds us that ”[s]ometimes courage is the quiet voice at the end of the day saying, ‘I will try again tomorrow.’” Realize that lasting change takes time, and that your first shot isn’t your only shot.
“Keep trying. Keep trusting. Keep believing. Keep growing. Heaven is cheering you on today, tomorrow, and forever.”
We celebrate the new year as our big chance to make resolutions and become better people. But self-improvement shouldn’t be limited to just one page on the calendar. Each year brings us 365 opportunities to change. Each day is a new chance to grow.
As you work hard to reach your goals, not just in January but all year long, remember that the gospel is the ultimate self-improvement plan and a sure path to your best you.