When I was a little girl I was very ticklish, and my uncles used to torment me by tickling me until I either wet my pants or started to cry. I hated it! I was not more than 4 when I became determined to not be ticklish any more. I didn’t want my uncles to have that power over me and so I announced that I was no longer ticklish, I had moments where I caved in to the laughter, but I continued to tell myself I wasn’t ticklish until one day I no longer was. My husband who is terribly ticklish denies that it is possible, but I firmly believe we can achieve anything set our mind to, even something as silly as not being ticklish.
It was not until years later as a young teen that I gained an appreciation for what I had accomplished as a young girl. I was attending girls camp — a retreat for teenage girls — where we learned about survival, made crafts and had motivational speakers. One of those speakers addressed the power of positive thinking and how we could accomplish anything we set our minds to. I still have in my possession a small card the speaker gave us that says: “If I am to be happy it is up to me; I will not let moods or circumstances rule me.” I sometimes hear myself saying these words when I feel over powered with a bad mood, or life starts feeling like it is too much to bear.
William Ernest Henley portrayed it perfectly in his poem “Invictus.”
Out of the night that covers me,
Black as the Pit from pole to pole,
I thank whatever gods may be
For my unconquerable soul.
In the fell clutch of circumstance
I have not winced nor cried aloud.
Under the bludgeonings of chance
My head is bloody, but unbowed.
Beyond this place of wrath and tears
Looms but the Horror of the shade,
And yet the menace of the years
Finds, and shall find, me unafraid.
It matters not how strait the gate,
How charged with punishments the scroll,
I am the master of my fate:
I am the captain of my soul.
The last two lines have been quoted many times, and I feel a truth in these words that echoes deep within. I believe that God sent us to earth with divine attributes to guide us while on our journey. We enter life with the ability to think, reason, and to achieve — with minds that have greater power then we allow ourselves to believe. I do not mean to discount the spiritual power of communing with our Heavenly Father though prayer and scripture study, these are invaluable tools we have been blessed with to make it through life. The Atonement of Jesus Christ offers peace to a troubled heart, forgiveness to the sinner, and strength to endure the trials of life well. The Book of Mormon specifically speaks of not only the saving grace of the Atonement, but our responsibility in working through the difficulties of life. In 2 Nephi 25:23 it says: “…for we know that it is by grace that we are saved, after all we can do.”2 We have to try to do all we can, and then the Atonement of Jesus Christ will make up the difference. It is a matter of not only faith but works as well.
Work is what we can do. Using our mind to positively influence our mood can have a very profound power on our abilities. I know I’ve been told many times in my life that I can do anything I set my mind to. But can we really? Even if it means just getting out of bed in the morning — we can be determined to try. I don’t want to be insensitive to those that struggle with any of the various forms of depression. I know that it is real. While my personal experience has been with the mildest of cases, I have also watched how debilitating depression can be. But I know that even if we feel that we are drowning in despair, we can try to keep doing all that we can do. We can be determined to not give up. It sometimes means asking for help, but our efforts to keep putting one foot in front of the other can go a long way.
I recently went to a health seminar where they discussed the power of self-talk and the small good things we can be telling ourselves every day. I spent the next day listening to my inner voice tear me apart. (I shouldn’t eat that I’m fat… I am such a bad daughter because I didn’t call my parents… If I was a better mother this wouldn’t have happened… and the list goes on and on.) The negative things I tell myself each day have a much greater impact than the positive ones, and I’m here to say, I don’t say the positive ones very often.
We can decide to either allow the negative to overpower our minds or choose the positive. The inspiring words of William Ernest Henley were written just after he had his leg amputated from complications to tuberculosis. He chose to not let the despair take control of his life. His words “I am the master of my fate / I am the captain of my soul” shows his determined mind in conquering the circumstances of his life.
Vincent Peal said: “Anybody can do just about anything with himself that he really wants to and makes up his mind to do. We are all capable of greater things than we realize.” The power of positive thinking is within each of us. Be determined to do “all that you can do,” and start today. Just like my decision to not be ticklish anymore — when we make up our mind to do something we are choosing to be the captain of our soul. Moods and circumstances will come and go, but we can choose to be firm in the process of becoming the person we were created to be.
Originally published at choosingwisdom.org on September 2, 2016.