President's Pen 2-5-18 (Positivity for Performance)

As missionaries in the Texas Houston South Mission, we know our purpose is to invite others to come unto Christ, by helping them receive the restored gospel through faith in Jesus Christ and His Atonement, repentance, baptism, receiving the Gift of the Holy Ghost and enduring to the end. We do this through our constant efforts to find, teach, invite, retain, and activate God’s children; we love it, we live it, and we do it! “We begin with the End in Mind”, and see God’s children as he does. We are Disciples of Jesus Christ that teach repentance and baptize converts and the best missionaries in the world!

Dear Elders & Sisters,

I love ya! Thanks for increasing your urgency and desire to help all come unto Christ.  We have the greatest message to share the world will ever know.  Keep your wonderful desires to find those the Lord has prepared and your purposeful efforts to teach repentance and baptize converts!

Although it is out of sight and out of mind for us as full-time missionaries, the world’s nations will soon gather in South Korea for the PyeongChang 2018 Olympic Winter Games.  The best from around the word will compete in their individual disciplines and aim to reach their goal of winning a gold medal.  These athletes have put years into their craft, spent hours and hours in training, sacrificed leisure time, avoided distraction, and will put it all on the starting line.

Athletes of this caliber, however, don’t get to this point on their own.  There is tremendous family support, government backing, and coaches who help them hone their skills and abilities.  The beauty of the Olympics is watching how mankind can push themselves higher, faster, and stronger through discipline, continuous improvement, technology, and an absolute desire to become the best.  I am inspired as I watch them compete, learn about their sacrifices, and see the human spirit soar to new heights.    

With all the amazing talent on display, I am fascinated by what separates the good athletes from the great athletes.  When you get to this level of competition, physical prowess and training are similar for most athletes.  They have similar builds and body types, the best coaches, diet, resources, and all the necessary tools to be successful.  What makes the difference for those who will win?

In a recent study on human performance, there is a new body of evidence that suggests we are all capable of pushing beyond our perceived physical and psychological limitations.  Physiologists combined all the reliable predictors, such as muscle strength and movement, lung capacity, oxygen in the blood, strength of the heart, and any other measurable factors, but they couldn’t predict who would win.  Athletes who hold the same characteristics, that train and measure as equals, could be seconds or minutes apart when it comes to crossing the finish line.  Why?

Since the early 60’s, psychologists have proclaimed how key the human mind is in our performance.  Very early on in their studies, they observed how an athlete’s mind could overcome the fatigue, pain, and discomfort to push harder, further, and endure beyond what the body was willing to give.  Now 60 years later, the research on how the brain figures into performance, clearly suggests that what makes the difference between equally qualified athletes, is what they believe they can do, versus when their bodies tell them to stop.  All the athletes they studied suffered, their bodies are tired and want to give in, but some have just enough mind over body to make the difference.  The research has found, that athletes who are able to provide themselves with positive motivational statements like, “Keep pushing, you’re doing well” or “You have more to give, keep going” have the ability to push through finish line while others may falter. 

In 2016, a study was performed with world-class cyclists to prove the hypothesis that the mind could overcome heat, fatigue, and other negative environmental conditions.  They were given two weeks of positive self-talk training before a grueling all-out ride in 95 degree weather.  The evidence of positive self-talk on the physiological impact was impressive.  Athletes boosted their time to exhaustion from eight to eleven minutes, controlled their core temperatures, and pushed harder and further than ever before.  The mind pushed beyond any limits the athletes had previously imposed on themselves.

Another example of going beyond perceived limits is quoted in the Wall Street Journal… “Former Boston Marathon champion Amby Burfoot once described the “absolute, no-doubt-in-the-world best running workout you can do” as a series of all-out mile repeats where, after you think you’re finished, your coach tells you to do one more at the same pace. The surprise? You can. Most of us don’t have sadistic coaches, or indeed any coach at all, but this general approach—setting a tough but achievable finish line for yourself, and then raising your sights once you reach it—is a powerful way of pushing beyond what seems initially feasible.”  I love this! If you believe you can, you’re right!

It comes with no surprise, that if we believe, we can achieve!  The examples of the Olympic spirit are not limited to the super athletes.  We see people from all walks of life accomplish remarkable results as they put in the hard work, and then positively push towards their desired outcomes.  Is missionary work any different?

I have seen missionaries that are like the great athletes described above…  Some go into a so called “dead area”, and with hard work and belief that the Lord will help them succeed, achieve amazing results.  They push through the hard days, the factors outside of their control, they keep pressing forward and stay positive.  Their faith in the Savior and His work inspires me.  I see it in their weekly emails, interviews, their work with the members, local leadership, and with their companions.  I also see missionaries who give all they have, stay positive despite limited outward results, and stay tenacious and purpose focused wherever they’re assigned.  They don’t become discouraged, lose their faith, drop their expectations, or slow their pace.  They also have the ability to harness the power of positive self-talk and keep the faith and belief that the Lord is in the vineyard. 

Elders & Sisters, we bring the ultimate message of positivity and hope.  The gospel of Jesus Christ brings strength to all with feeble knees and for all who carry burdens on their backs.  It is the differentiating factor for all who aspire to become better than they are today, and especially when they need to go beyond their own physical and mental limits.  It is our faith in Christ that allows us to be steadfast and press forward with a perfect brightness of hope, feasting, pressing forwarding, and enduring.  The goal is eternal life and the good Shepherd whispers to our hearts and minds, “my yoke is easy and my burden is light, you can do this, keep pushing, keep fighting, I’ll give you rest”. 

I invite you to develop a mindset that accentuates the positive!  I invite you to push a little harder, run a little faster, and dig a little deeper when you begin to tire or feel like you can’t go any further.  I invite you to rid yourself of negative self-talk and listen the voice that builds, strengthens, and edifies.  I invite you to recognize that you have prayers coming from the prophet, the apostles, the temples, members of the Church, your family, and I believe the Savior Himself still prays to the Father on your behalf.  You have the best tools, technology, and resources to help you be successful.  Choose to eliminate excuses, choose the harder right over the easier wrong, choose to believe you can achieve.  I know the Savior’s grace is indeed the divine help and strength that allows ordinary men and women to do extraordinary things.  That is what my mind needs to know and believe.  You are the Lord’s representative, your divine potential is real, and there are no limits to who you will become. Love ya!

President Hall