You are listening to the Self-Mastery Podcast, where we break through barriers holding you back from becoming who you wanna be, whether you're struggling with pornography, overeating, social media addiction, or just wanna get better at succeeding at life. This podcast is for you. Now, your host, Zach Spafford.
Hi everybody. Welcome to another Mastery Monday. I'm your host, z Spafford. Let's get started with today's episode. Episode number eight. I actually started by recording one podcast and then ended by recording a completely different one. So the episode that I had begun recording was going to be called Pornography and Missionary Service.
However, instead today, this episode is going to be called Choices, and you'll find out obviously through the rest of the podcast why, but I chose to change this podcast from pornography and missionary service to Choices because the conversation that I had actually just this morning with a young man and I'll go and I'll talk about that in a little bit, but, I wanna start by saying, finding your way in this world is a matter of choices and making the ones that you believe will bring you the most happiness and really not even the most happiness, but that will bring you joy.
So I often work with young men who are just about to graduate high school, or they've just graduated from high school, and for members of the church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints, that means they're getting ready to choose whether they will serve. What we call a full-time mission. That means they'll spend two years away from family, away from girlfriends, away from college studies and sports.
And th they'll go out to a place they're assigned and they'll share the gospel of Jesus Christ with complete strangers. And sometimes they'll do it in a language that they will learn as they go and they. and they have no experience with that language. When I was young, boys went, young men went at age 19 and girls went, I think it was at 21.
Now those ages are younger. Boys can go at 18. I think girls can go at 19. Don't quote me on the girls part, but if you know, I'm sure you can put it in the comments and we'll all know. A lot of the boys, a lot of these boys that I work with, and I don't work with young women as much, but the boys that I work with, they're struggling with anxiety.
They're struggling with other things. They're struggling with pornography. They're struggling with addictions to their phones. They're struggling with knowing if they will be the missionary they need to be or want to be, or they think their family thinks they ought to be. And this struggle is holding them back from making decisions that will help them move forward in their lives.
I had a conversation with someone this morning I was just telling you about, and it was about the choices that he's making and why he's holding back from moving forward with his life because of the overwhelming feelings that he has. He said to me, and this was his thought, this was, this is a quote from him.
It's hard to find motivation to go to school when you don't know why you are going. This thought led him to feel overwhelmed and then led to various types of buffering and avoiding now just. To take a side step here for a moment, what I was not saying is just go on a mission because you should or just go to school because someone says you should or because you think you're supposed to, or some other external reason.
That's not what I'm saying at all. So just put that outta your mind and we'll keep going here. As I was talking with this young man, the question I asked him was, why are you choosing to stay home? Why are you choosing to stay home from college? that took him back a pace because it wasn't, in his mind, it wasn't that he was actively choosing it, it was that he was not choosing anything.
Now, this wasn't about him serving a mission, but in a way it's the same conversation. Inaction is a choice, but often we don't think of it that way. We think of it in terms of not yet choosing, but in reality we are choosing, we're choosing the status quo. , what's happening with this young man is that he feels stuck, and this is a lot of young men and a lot of young women, and he feels overwhelmed and he's generally unhappy.
Some of you're thinking, yeah he's unhappy because he isn't choosing the right thing. He isn't doing what is right, and so he's not happy or he isn't doing what he's supposed to, and so he's not happy. But think about what you're saying there. You're essentially saying that we don't choose the thing.
you're essentially saying that if we don't choose the thing that we're told we should do, like go on a mission or go to college, or live exactly according to the gospel principles, then our happiness will be in jeopardy. And maybe that argument makes sense at some level, but you're essentially saying people who choose the wrong are unhappy.
And I think that that is not true. I think. by that logic, most of the world is simply unhappy and can't have joy because if you don't go on your mission, then you can't have joy. You can't, be happy. And that's, I think that's false logic. And now this is my opinion and you can take it or leave it, but I believe that the reason for his sense of overwhelm are three things.
It's his thoughts, it's what he's making, his choice of inaction mean, and his lack of ownership. So we already talked about his thought and we talked about his feelings. So we already noted that his thoughts are creating a feeling of overwhelm in that conversation. He also told me that if he doesn't go to school, that will mean that he can't get a job, a good job, and he can't, he won't be able to provide for his future family and all that stuff.
That was what he was making it mean that he doesn't have the motivation. But I think the real flex point here, the place where the rubber meets the road is his lack of ownership. The truth is regardless of whether he goes on a mission or goes to college or whatever, unless he decides the path he wants to take, he will stay unsatisfied and he'll continue to choose thoughts that overwhelm him and hold him stuck.
He didn't go on a mission, not because he chose to do something else or stay at home. He didn't go because he outlasted everyone else in the game of when are you putting in your papers, right? He didn't declare his choice. He didn't make a choice and then say, this is what I'm gonna do and this is why I've chosen that.
He simply chosen in action and the world passed him. By now, he's in the same place with his schooling. Somewhere in him. He believes that. Going to college will benefit him, but he hasn't made the choice to do it or not do it. He is simply waiting for the people around him to stop telling him what he should do.
I think that's a pretty terrible strategy for life. If you want to be satisfied with what you're doing, and by the way, satisfied with what you're doing and the path that your life is taking is part of my definition of joy. And essentially what this young man is doing is he's acting in the only way that he knows how in order to control the situation.
Simultaneously. What he's also doing is he's expecting life to come to him and put him on the path that he wants and is not putting any personal buy-in into it. Now, if this is you or if you know somebody who's living in this situation, let me give you four. Easy, simple things that you can do to move forward.
And then I'm gonna tell you the story of my own struggle of whether or not to go on a mission first, choose to decide knowing that it will be the right thing. So what do I mean by that? . What I'm saying here is and this is a really important distinction, right? I think a lot of us get held up in this space of I've got to make the right choice and I've got to do it right and it's gotta be as best as I can make.
It's gotta be the best decision I can make given the circumstances I have to be, and this is essentially perfection thinking. This is that thinking that says, if I don't the perfect right choice, I shouldn't make any choice at all. That's a logical fallacy. The reality is, is that B plus work gets people most of the way there almost all the time, and C minus work is the work that makes a lot of geniuses rich.
And what I mean by that is you look at Steve Jobs and you look at Bill Gates and you look at, a lot of the, Biggest names, billionaire industry type tycoons. They weren't perfect students. Some of 'em were geniuses, but they weren't perfect students. And so you take the idea that, I can do decent work and still get to where I want to be, or at least start in the direction of where I want to go.
That means that I can make decisions that aren't perfect. But that serve me well enough to put me in the position that I, in a position to make a good decision later or a better decision later, or even that put me into a position to choose to do something completely different altogether. But no matter what you do, if you choose to decide, On whatever thing it is that you're making a decision on, and know that it will be the right thing one way or the other.
You will not only be happier with that decision, but you'll also be able to move forward in your life going in the direction that you want to go. Second, make the decision and stick with it for a set period of time. So if this is something like going to college, do it for a year. If this is something like.
Choosing a new sport. Do it for a month, do it for a season. Make the decision and stick with it in a way that you can fully commit to it for a set period of time. That way you know that if this isn't really your thing, you can leave at the end of that period. If you're saying, okay, well what about a mission?
If I go on a mission, I have to stick with it for the full two years are 18 months for young women. That's not true. The moment you say, you know what, mission president, I'd like to go home. I'm ready to go home. I've made my decision. I stuck this out as long as I want to. Your mission president will send you home.
And there's no shame in that. There was a sister that was serving in my singles ward in Chicago when I was the ward mission leader. Sh I met her later at Rick's College and I was like, Hey, I'm so excited to see you. I thought you were still on your mission. And she said, no, I had come home because I was done.
and I said, that's awesome. It's so good to see you here. People might judge you, but that's their problem, not yours. And if you've done your level best during that period, it will have been an experience that will provide you with value throughout the rest of your life. So if you go and you stay for a month or six months or a year, whatever it is, and you do your level best, that will have been the best decision that you could have made.
And if you simply let life pass you by, That will be the worst decision you could have possibly made. By the way, if you choose to stay home because you have something else that's very important that you feel like you need to do, rather than go and you make that decision and you tell people, this is why I'm doing it, and this is what I'm doing, that will also be just as valid and just as much of the best decision you could have made.
So make your decision, whatever it is, own it and be willing to defend it and be willing to say, this is why I chose this. And this is why I believe it's the right thing for me right now. And then stick with it for a period of time, whatever period you set, and don't worry about changing your mind later.
Third, tell five people that you love the most, your decision, and ask them to help you follow through with it and just support your decision for that set period of time. . So if you're saying, okay, I'm gonna not pick up my phone for six weeks, can you guys help me? This is what I've chosen. Can you help me?
If you're saying, mom, I know you, this young man, his mom wanted him to go to a local college and he wanted to go to one that was an hour away and . And so the, they were essentially at loggerheads to do it. And so he was like I'm just not gonna do anything to a certain extent. . So I asked him, and we discussed the thought, what's gonna happen if you lay out a plan and you just choose to follow through with it?
He said, well, I can do that, can't I? And so at that point, he began to own his decision and at that point, he began to be the person who was making the decision rather than someone who was just simply. Doing what his family wanted him to do, doing what his mom wanted him to do, right? So tell the people around you.
Let them know what you've decided and be willing to defend that decision. Own it. Be the owner and force. And this is the last thing. Be willing to be wrong. I kind of went into depth about this in a, in my podcast. Failure is a good thing and here's why. Strangely. We humans, we would rather be right than be happy.
And what that sometimes means is that we make decisions or we say things that work in the direction of trying to prove us right. while impeding our happiness, while impeding joy and while impeding our forward progress. What comes to mind is a very interesting conversation that my wife and my father were having where my father had showed up, and my parents were visiting us where we lived, and my dad was insistent that there was a Wendy's on the corner about two blocks away.
And my wife said, well, no, I don't think that's a Wendy's. I'm pretty sure that's a McDonald's. And since we lived here, we kind of thought that it was clear that we would know what's, in our backyard. But he, he was so unwilling to be wrong that he just kept sticking to his guns regardless of whether it made any sense.
And I love my dad, don't get me wrong. My dad's a great guy. But it was just one of those moments where you're like, why are we arguing about this? Just so you can be right. That makes no sense. And we do this about our decisions too. We say, this is my decision and I'm unwilling to look like I was wrong about it.
And the reality is, so what if you make the wrong decision? At least you tried. At least you did your level best, and at least you made the decision to be the person that you wanted to be. . So if that means you don't go to college and you choose instead to get a trade, or you choose instead to keep working at the local diner, you made that decision and you own that decision and that's yours, and you get to learn all the things that come along with that.
And when you're willing to be wrong, you can much more easily change course I was wrong. Let me take a different path. in that example that I gave you of my dad, a couple of hours later, he was like, I'm sorry, I don't know why I was being such a pig head about this. Of course, you know, you know what stores are on the corner in the neighborhood you live in, and he apologized to my wife and how many times have I had to apologize to my wife for the things that I've done?
Because I saw that the course needed to be corrected. And then of course we decided let's take a different path. And I have been much happier because of it. partly because my wife is often very right about things and she doesn't gloat and she doesn't get in my face about it, but she's often very, very right and I love her for it.
But being willing to be wrong means that you're not so vested in the decision that you'll let it take you down, but can more easily recognize that you know there might be a better way here. Those four things choose to decide, knowing that it will be the right thing, make the decision and stick with it for a set period of time.
Tell five people that you love the most in the world that this is your decision, and ask them to help you follow through and to support your decision for just that. Short period of time, whatever that period of time is, and being willing to be wrong. Those are the four things that anyone can do to move forward in their life and be good at making choices.
So now for my own decision at age 18, I walked into the local church building not knowing if I wanted to be a missionary for my church. I had grown up a member of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints, and I was the fourth child in my family. My oldest brother served as a missionary in Portugal.
He had a distinguished career as the elder who fixed all the bicycles in the mission, and he served faithfully and came home a better person. My brother, who's just older than me, served in the Boise Idaho mission and is a keen scriptorian. You know, discussing the gospel topic with him brings out the best in you and it will sharpen your understanding of God and the love that he has for all those around you, my older sister, Who is the number two child in the family?
Went on a mission after both my brothers to Chile and was and served in the Santiago South Mission where she learned to love Chileans more than she loved any other people before, but me. I had not known that I would serve a mission. In fact, I felt like my bad habits, including pornography, use, and masturbation were things that would mean that I couldn't go and serve.
I also didn't know that I wanted to teach the gospel to complete strangers, partly because I didn't know if I thought it was the truth. I had done seminary early morning Bible study for high schoolers. We call it seminary in the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints, and it was held in our basement, and the seminary teacher was my good friend, David Stewart, whom I still love to this day.
In fact, I'm gonna have tacos with him next Friday. . I would roll out of bed at 5 59 and 59 seconds and I would go down in my pajamas so that I could have the chocolate milk and donuts that he would bring. Brother Stewart was a good teacher, but I was not a very good student. But I went down because I respected Brother Stewart and I knew that he loved me just like I was his own son.
I also went to church with my family my entire life. My dad is a staunch believer in doing the right thing and being right about it. So we never did anything halfway at our house. We were members of the Church of Jesus Christ, of Latter Day Saints and members of the Church of Jesus Christ, of Latter Day Saints.
Go to church every Sunday for three hours, and then we come home, we eat, and we take naps. I'm not sure that last part is really what everybody does, but that's what we did. My dad is also a very staunch believer in naps. Each week when we had youth night, we call it mutual or young men's, and sometimes we did combined activities with the young women.
I would go mostly because I wanted to, but sometimes because I was told I had to, I didn't always get along with my youth leaders. One of my youth leaders in particular, whose name I've forgotten. But some of my friends from that era will probably remind me after listening to this podcast. He was a particularly difficult person for me to get along with.
I didn't like him and he didn't like me. At least I didn't think so. But he was, I think in reality, a decent guy who was just doing his best to deal with a kid who was difficult to manage because I loved mischief. I also had leaders like my dear friend Sean Stevenson, one of the greatest men I know, a good man with a good heart who could see past all the nonsense of a teen boy and just love me for who I was.
But none of that meant that I really wanted to serve as a missionary for my church because I didn't know how. I wasn't sure of the message and I didn't think I could tow the line. As a good missionary, there are all the rules and all the people telling you what to do and really...