Mar 10, 2014

Becoming Relationship Oriented instead of Task Oriented (Roswell Stake Women's Conference Notes)

This last Saturday was the Roswell Stake's Women's Conference.  The theme was "Live, Laugh, Love:  Words of Wisdom for Latter-day Saint Women coping with Latter-day Challenges."  The guest speaker was Brother Ken Thevenin who works with LDS Family Services.  The overarching message for this conference was how we can shift ourselves from being task-focused to relationship-focused.

Simplifying our Lives and Relationships 
by Ken Thevenin MS, LMFT

We believe in miracles and that they do happen.  We often believe we know how things should turn out, but sometimes that's not the Lord's will.  Ofttimes, we have unrealistic expectations, and these can lead to disappointment and discouragement.  Faith cannot and should not trump the agency of others.  Not every outcome is a matter of faith.

We all have shortcomings.  Instead of having a "pity party" we should focus on how to improve.  We can easily become discouraged by our mistakes or even by unexpected outcomes, but we can use these as learning opportunities for growth.  The Atonement applies to us all equally.  No one uses "more" or "less" of the Atonement.  The Atonement has already happened, so we cannot "add" or "take away from" the Savior's suffering.  The Atonement can relieve us of the pain of sin if we repent; there is no need for us to suffer further torment as this price has already been paid.  The first thing we should do when we are going through a rough time, whether it's self-inflicted or a situation of circumstance, is to pray.  We are never unworthy to pray.  We can never sin to the point where prayer cannot help us.  It always is there, and it always will help.

Our sense of who we are is not dependent on what we do or do not do.  We shouldn't define ourselves by these terms.   Our daily checklists or tasks, whether completed or not, are just an action and are not personality traits.  Our standards and the commandments, whether we keep them or not, are guidelines on living a more Christlike life, and do not make us "bad" or "good" people.

Patriarchal Blessings are to be a comfort and a tool to help us in our lives.  They are not to be a measuring stick or our inadequacy or a checklist.  Look to them for the guidance and peace they offer.

If we are not careful or clear in our expectations and goals, there are side effects which lead to dangerous outcomes.  We have a tendency to unnecessarily complicate our own lives.  Any virtue, when taken to the extreme, can become a vice.  We need to make sure that our essential needs are being met first.  These include:  sincere prayer, scripture study, quality quantity family time, and time to take care of yourself.  Too often, we place too much importance on actually unimportant tasks to the point where we are neglecting our physical and spiritual health.  This leads us to becoming burnt-out, stressed out, depressed, feelings of inadequacy, and even physical illness.  Don't multiply your work, simplify it!  Our busyness does not define our worth!

For example, do you or your children really need to participate in the activities that they do?  Are these activities causing you to neglect the essential activities (prayer, scriptures, etc)?  Take care of the essential tasks first with yourself and your family.  There will be room for other activities afterwards and you'll find increased energy and focus as you do this.  Ask yourself regularly, "Are we neglecting anything essential for unnecessary tasks?"

We need a healthy relationship with technology (phones, tablets, internet, media, etc).  If technology is so entwined with your life that you literally could not function without it, this is unhealthy.  It's more like an eating disorder.  As we need a healthy relationship with food because it fuels and sustains us, so we need a healthy relationship with technology as it is an incredibly useful tool of communication.

What is the source of our challenges?  Answer, unhealthy expectations.  Our expectations are the "what" and define what we believe, or our goals.  Perception is the "how".  This defines how we believe what we believe and the method we use to accomplish this.  Expectation and perception must be aligned in a healthy manner.  We cannot have healthy expectations with an unhealthy perception, or vice versa.  It doesn't work; both must be healthy.  So what are the sources of our expectations?  There are three:  1) Heavenly Father, Jesus Christ, and the Holy Ghost; 2) Ourselves; 3) Others (parents, spouses, children, teachers, coworkers, bosses, friends, etc.)

How can we clarify and identify healthy expectations and perceptions?  There are five ways:
1) Accept realities:  intentions do not justify effort or means.  Our feelings don't always make something factual.
2) Seek inspiration in all that we do.
3) Find joy in our imperfections.
4) Allow our weaknesses to become our strengths.
5) Broaden our perspective.  The eternal perspective is a very useful tool.

The church is not a place for perfect people!  The church is not a business.  The church is for building the kingdom of God and it is meant to involve everyone.  We must look at our callings, not as roles in a business, but as their true purpose in carrying out the Lord's work.  Not all tribulation or trials are because we've done something wrong. Remember, Heavenly Father, a perfect being, has wayward children.

We have to be careful not to interpret the quality and care of an individual by the outcome of their involvement.  W need to ask ourselves, "Do we serve others in the way that they need or the way the Lord would have us?"

Why are tasks perceived as easier than relationships?  Tasks require less time and effort, involve lower expectations with perceived lower responsibility, require no long-term commitment or investment, the results can readily be seen, easily measured and checked-off the list, deliver less guilt as they are easily defendable with "evidence", can involve less disappointment or sadness, avoid further obligation, and are often habits as task-oriented becomes the default.

How do we, then, become more relationship-oriented?  First, we must focus on people and principles, not on programs.  By doing this, we can keep things in a proper balance.  Secondly, we need to take proper care of ourselves and our families.  By doing these two things, we can start to follow a proper sequencing of relationships and priorities:
#1) Faith = our relationship with our Heavenly Father, Jesus Christ, and the Holy Ghost.
#2) Hope = our relationship with our self!
#3) Charity = our relationship with others.

"Our relationship with God is most sacred and vital."  President Dieter Uchtdorf

Faith, hope, and charity work like a ladder.  Each one builds on the next one.
"Learn to see yourself as Heavenly Father sees you:  a precious son or daughter with divine potential."  President Dieter Uchtdorf

Process is the principle!  Focus on the process of how you do things, not on just getting it done.  The means and methods by which we do things may be more important than the end result.  The ends don't justify the means.  We cannot achieve godly outcomes through satanic means.

Foundational truth:  Nothing trumps agency!  In your interaction with others, exert influence, not control.  We do this by instructing, inspiring, inviting, and investing (our time, talents, and sometimes resources). 

We are only responsible for our own agency.  We shouldn't be forcing or controlling someone else's beliefs or actions.  We shouldn't be taking someone else's results upon ourselves.  This also includes our own children. We must let our children  experience agency and the consequences of using that agency, for the good or the bad.  This is how we learn and this is how they learn.  They can only learn how to exercise agency righteously if they exercise their own agency and reap the consequences, good or bad.  We can practice this personal application of relational perspective in our own families, within our church callings (find out what others can contribute and let them use their agency to do so!), through home or visiting teaching (influence, instruct, inspire, and invest in your sisters and families), and additionally through attending the temple (this is a relational process too!).

Fulfilling one's stewardship = 
accepting and understanding our role +
 establishing healthy boundaries +
 inspired service and following the spirit

Communicate with love!  Support, invest, accept, and understand each other recognizing that they are a child of God.

Regarding communication, here are key factors to keep in mind:
- Be honest and accurate
- Be sincere and meaningful
- Be tactful (in how you say things)
- Timing (when you say things)
- Be clear and concise, the aim is to seek clarity and understanding
- Communicate and the person's level both mentally and emotionally

Finally, be cautious of your desire to attempt to fix the other person of their problem.  Ofttimes, this isn't what they need and this might not be what the Lord would have you do.  Remember, you want to build a relationship, not check off an item from your to-do list.

Roswell Stake Women's Conference was a wonderful opportunity to be uplifted, learn, and experience the joys of sisterhood.  I'm so thankful I was able to attend with the wonderful women from Clovis.

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