Abraham Lincoln was a man who thought deeper and wider than many do. He once said, “All my life I have tried to pluck a thistle and plant a flower wherever the flower would grow in thought and mind.” I love these words, because they impress upon us that we can do so many lovely things and improve our situation by using our mind.
How many of us have worked through the experience of turning a bad day around, and making it a good one — all by way of changing our attitude? The mind is a powerful tool. By choosing to exercise good inside of us, we can come to see things manifest better outside of us.
Consider the words of President Howard W. Hunter:
There is magic in the way one thinks. If we expect the worst, we will get the worst. If we expect the best, we will receive the best. If we train our minds to have faith in God and ourselves, we are using one of the great laws of life. If we think and live righteously, happiness will find its place in our lives. It is amazing when we expect the best how forces are set in motion which cause the best to materialize. (The Teachings of Howard W. Hunter)
The stuff of life, and the state of our minds, combines for what we are willing to make of it:
- Although having money sufficient for our needs is a blessing, it does not solve all our problems, nor does it make for a rosy life. Being content with what we have forges the way for a happy life.
- Perfect health is a blessing, but few possess health in perfectness. And poor health does not bar a person from enjoying a beautiful life. Think of the myriad examples of those who are disabled physically, yet they seem much more “abled” than many around them. The difference? Their mindset.
- Although having good friends, or a good and loving family, add to the beauty of this life journey, many of us have spent time feeling very much alone. Those feelings, if translated into a desire to “go and do” for someone else, or to become engaged in life and activities outside ourselves, allow for a positive experience.
There are so many examples our minds capture. You may be thinking of a very real and personal situation right now, as you read through this column. The question we may ask ourselves is, “How do I react?” “What is my mind set?” “Am I trying to pluck the thistle and plant a flower?”
Regardless of the soil, temperature, or other conditions out in the world, the inner world — the mind and heart — can grow positive and beautiful things, as it sifts away the “dross and refuse.”
This is a simple concept. It is pretty tough to put into regular practice. But, just as pulling up thistles and planting flowers takes a bit of work, the mental exercise of shifting our way of thinking and doing takes work. The art of pulling weeds and planting a garden comes easier over the years, as we do the exercise. So it is with the planting of good and righteous things.
Training our minds is a great lifelong pursuit. The quicker we get the hang of looking for the best, quickly digging up a negative thought, and expecting better things, the quicker we will experience a life more in harmony with our God.
2 Timothy 1:7 tells us that, “God hath not given us the spirit of fear, but … of a sound mind.” Studying over Alma 28, with a focus on how we can most fully align our minds with God’s, offers a whole new appreciation for planting seeds and growing goodness in our minds.
Even under the seemingly worst of circumstances, we can grow good things within. The magic? The way we think!