Photo of a journal, a laptop, and pencils sitting on a desk

Why We Fail to Master Basic Principles of Success

An Analogy

I use Microsoft Word a lot. I use it to take notes during scripture study, type papers for school, edit documents at work, and write fantasy novels in my free time. I have used Word almost daily for more than a decade.

Yet I continue to learn new things about Word. Last year, for example, I learned that shift+enter creates a line break. Not a paragraph break—a line break. (And it’s surprising how often that distinction is useful, especially in bulleted lists.) I’ve also learned how to use paragraph styles, wildcard searches, macros, and more.

Each of these tools saves me time, reduces my stress, and improves the quality of my documents. So why did it take me a decade to learn them? And what other valuable tools have I yet to learn?

The Application

My experience with Microsoft Word echoes the experience we all have with life in general and the gospel of Jesus Christ in particular. We are living far beneath our privileges. There are tools—in the form of principles, truths, and laws—that can simplify and improve every facet of our lives, from our finances to our spiritual well-being. (See D&C 130:20–21 and D&C 88:34–39.) And all we need to do to be effective is apply those laws. But for whatever reason, we don’t.

[Pro tip: If you hover over a scripture reference, you can see the associated text.]

Ask yourself the following questions. Be honest.

  • Are you as healthy as you’d like?
  • Are your close relationships as strong as you’d like?
  • Are your daily conversations as effective as you’d like?
  • Do you meet you personal goals as quickly as you’d like?
  • Do you receive personal revelation as readily as you’d like?
  • Are you as happy, joyful, and stress-free as you’d like?
  • Is your relationship with God where you want it to be?

Isn’t it strange that we go through anywhere between 12 and 30 years of formal education, yet we fail to master the principles of success in the most basic areas of life? Perhaps—but just as strange as me going a decade without knowing what shift+enter does.

The Problem

Why do we fail to master the basic principles that govern success? Let me suggest a few explanations:

  • We don’t know that a principle exists. It’s never been taught or presented to us, and we don’t seek it out because we don’t know what we’re missing. (See D&C 123:12.)
  • We’ve heard about a principle, but we don’t realize how it can help us. Maybe we underestimate its potential, or we think it doesn’t apply to our situation.
  • We’re scared to learn a principle because it seems complex. We figure it probably could help us out, but mastering it seems too hard to make the effort worthwhile.
  • We’re content with where we are. This is the main reason we don’t learn new things: we don’t have to. If we’ve been coasting along life at 60% capacity, and that’s what we’re used to, then we won’t have any motivation to get out of our comfort zone and grow. Only when a new project or calling forces us to operate at 80% capacity, or when a setback pulls us down to 40% capacity, are we motivated to find ways to be better.
  • We doubt our capacity. We don’t think we’re smart enough or spiritual enough or special enough.
  • We’re too busy. We want to, we know it will help us, but we never make time.
  • We forget. We learn a new principle, but we fail to apply it.

Learning Precepts to Find Power

In this blog, I hope to provide solutions to these problems.

In each post, I will present a precept: a principle, truth, technique, or law. These precepts will be taken from the scriptures, the words of modern prophets, the writings of great thinkers, and my own experiences.

Then I will expound that precept. I will seek to explain it and present it in a new way, to explore new possibilities and horizons. That way, even principles you’ve heard before can be seen in a new light.

Then I will suggest an application. I will challenge you to do something new or to change something specific about your life. Improving your behavior is an inductive process—only as you experiment will you learn which principles work best. (See John 7:17 and Alma 32:33.)

The intent of this process is to help you gain power in your life. Power to change. Power to improve. Power to harness your time, talents, and abilities to their fullest. Power to tap into the infinite potential of Jesus Christ and His gospel.

My Pledge

Life is busy. Your time and attention are a sacred trust. So as I write my blog, I will adhere to these standards:

  • I promise to be concise. My posts will never exceed 1500 words. Each one should take you 5–10 minutes to read. In case you have only 30 seconds, I will include a summary at the end.
  • I promise to be well researched. When I draw upon sources, they will be credible and cited accurately. I will not take scriptures out of context or “proof-text.” Quotes from general authorities will be linked back to their original source.
  • I promise to be kosher. I will be as true as possible to the doctrines and teachings of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. My posts will never criticize Church leaders, policies, or practices, nor advocate behavior contrary to Church teachings. (And if you find me doing any of that, please let me know!)
  • I promise to seek the Spirit as I write.

My goal is to publish a post every two weeks, usually on Sundays. My topics will be diverse. But I hope that some of the ideas I share can help improve your life. I hope that as you learn to apply principles and truths, you can say, as the author of Psalm 119:44–45 writes:

“So shall I keep thy law continually
for ever and ever.
And I will walk at liberty:
for I seek thy precepts.”


Each of us lives a quality of life—physical, social, mental, and spiritual—well below our potential. There are principles and truths that, if applied, can bring us much better results. But too often, we fail to apply these principles. This is because either we don’t know about them, we don’t understand how they will help us, we’re scared of their seeming complexity, we’re stuck in our comfort zone, we doubt our capacity, we’re too busy, or we forget.

The purpose of this blog is to identify, analyze, and expound principles that can improve our quality of life, and then suggest specific ways we can apply those principles to get results. By conscious application of new principles, we can improve every area of our lives.

Pondering Points

  • Think about a recent breakthrough you had—in work, in school, or in your personal or religious life. What led to the breakthrough?
  • What is an area of your life that you want to improve? Where can you go to find precepts to help you in that area?
  • What is a precept that you’ve learned before, and even applied successfully, but that you’ve forgotten to apply recently? What can you do to remind yourself to apply it?

Further Reading

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Banner credit: Journal and computer photo by Colton Sturgeon on Unsplash.

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