Lately I’ve been discussing the idea of living one’s best life. That’s because I truly believe we’ll have the most joy in our journey when, regardless of our circumstances, we keep reaching for that best life.
Like me, you may have a life far from your ideal. That’s OK; few people do. We can nonetheless thrive and not just survive in life when we partner with the Lord. He can show us the next best steps we need to take in reaching after our best life. That’s a life He makes so much more out of than we could without Him. And that’s a life filled with joy in our journey to our heavenly home.
But that path requires change on our part. After all, we wouldn’t need to reach after our best life if we were already living it. Some of those changes will be welcome, but others may cause us to hesitate along the path to our best life. We have concern or even dread about the direction that change will lead us.
In moments like these, we need the courage to change.
Learn from experience
The only constant in life is change — after death and taxes, of course. But even those do not escape the throes of change. As society evolves, we keep finding new ways to die, and governments can’t ever seem to leave tax law alone.
But change is what we want in life. Without change, how would we ever grow? How would we ever learn? How would we ever become something more than we were before? It’s in the midst of change that opportunity presents itself. When you take advantage of that opportunity, you move towards living your best life.
While serving my mission in Guatemala, I struggled with constant bouts of sickness. After about a year of clinic visits and other medical interventions, my mission president decided to send me home.
I remember well the day he asked to speak with me. After announcing his intentions, he declared there was no dishonor in returning home early to recover from illness and then complete my mission in my own country. He asked me what I thought of the idea.
I didn’t think about it very long. I looked him in the eye and said, “President, I have been called by a prophet of God to serve here. And here is where I will serve.”
Not expecting that response, my mission president admitted an admiration for my faith and pledged he would do everything in his power to keep me in the mission. Not long thereafter, I was transferred to Belize.
Historically, Belize has been part of one of the Honduras missions. But for a brief time, the country became part of my mission. Many of the experiences I had there changed me in profound ways that continue to influence me today. I can’t imagine having my best mission experience without having served in Belize.
Meet the change with faith
When presented with change (for example, my mission may end in a way I didn’t imagine), I took advantage of an opportunity to exercise faith. That choice wasn’t easy, but it brought wondrous change into my life.
When we talk about the courage to change towards our best life, we’re not talking here about change for the sake of change. We’re talking about change the Lord indicates after we partner with Him. And in that regard, the courage to change is linked very much with faith and trust in the Lord.
I exercised trust in the Lord when I told my mission president I had no intention of leaving the mission early, despite the pain and depletion of energy my illness proffered. For all I knew, another year of difficulty lay before me.
Yet meeting the change with faith led to an opportunity that neither I nor my mission president saw initially. Again, my mission experience would have been something less for me without that opportunity.
When you partner with the Lord, He will show you the next steps you need to take — the change you need to embrace — to live your best life. And when you exercise the courage to take those next steps, you’ll find your best life is one that you can’t imagine not having.
Partner with the Lord and trust in Him. He will help you know how to confront whatever change comes into your life. He will provide you with opportunities to blossom into your best life. And years from now, when you look back on these moments, you’ll see the Lord really did lead you into your best life. And that will bring you more joy in your journey.
It appears Sno-mageddon is alive and well. Normally when it snows here, it’s gone within a couple of days. Not this winter. Cold and colder temps attend every dumping of snow over previous layers of snow-turned-ice.
For a while I thought we might be getting a break. I’ve been taking advantage of it while preparing to start a new semester. But today, Sno-mageddon struck again, furiously dumping inches of snow within minutes. The college soon cancelled classes.
I’m somewhat disappointed. I certainly want my students safe. But with Monday being a holiday and now today being cancelled, we’ve just passed our first week of the semester without ever having class!
Yet when I learned of the school closure, I didn’t shift into panic mode or even survival mode. I shifted into thrive mode by preparing to take what I’ve been given and shine gloriously with it.
Not here to fail
My experience today resembles LDS singles life. Just as I didn’t anticipate a freak blizzard eliminating class, many LDS singles have met unintended circumstances. We were preparing for a different experience when events beyond our control forced us in a new direction.
Lost opportunities can yield heartache, disappointment, and concern about the future. Yet we can always choose our response.
Many of us struggle to choose optimism. We yearn after hope but feel overwhelmed by despair. I’ve felt that many times in my life. How do you go on when everything around you seems to say you’ll never do anything but fail?
You must awake to this realization: Not everything around you indicates you’ll fail. God certainly doesn’t believe that about you. He loves you. He believes in you. He sent you here to succeed and that gloriously. And He’s constantly pleading with you to believe in those truths. When you do, “the truth will set you free” (John 8:32).
More than surviving
We can get so busy keeping up with life’s demands that we wonder if we’ll ever succeed in having a good life, let alone our best life. Mere survival appears increasingly like a noble virtue.
But do you think God sent you here so you could merely survive? Or did He send you here to thrive?
Thriving is more than surviving. Thriving is living life with zest and optimism. It’s living in the moment, extracting every ounce of joy that moment offers. It’s exuding confidence in the future that faith will not go unrewarded.
I honestly don’t see how any Latter-day Saint — single or married — can experience that without partnering with the Lord for his or her life. That’s best done by seeking Him first.
Yet many of us are seeking first the wrong life partner. We naturally want to belong, so when our culture pairs belonging with marriage, we look for someone who’ll help us belong. Plus we yearn for someone who can take away the loneliness, discouragement, and pain of being single.
That someone is Christ. He taught, “Seek ye first the kingdom of God, and all these things shall be added unto you” (Matthew 5:40). Instead of looking first for an eternal companion to alleviate our troubles, we should look first for the Lord Who can do that and more. Instead of seeking first that special someone to take to the temple, we should seek first to walk with the Lord in the temple.
Weather any storm
The Lord’s love provides the strength to weather any storm. Nephi understood this. Bound to his ship’s mast in a violent sea, his wrists and ankles became severely swollen. Yet he didn’t complain nor cease to look to the Lord. Nephi always had trouble, yet he partnered with the Lord. Can anyone honestly think his life was not his best life?
The Lord can lift you to heights you could never imagine alone. Why settle for the companion you might have now when He can lead you to the companion you most need to have, the one you need for your best life?
With the Lord at your side, you can trust all will eventually resolve for your good. That faith allows you to release everything preventing you from living life joyfully in this and every moment. Hope, optimism, and positive energy naturally result from living with the Lord as your first life partner.
Don’t just survive. Thrive! Partner first with the Lord Who will help you to hear the whisperings of His Spirit more fully, see His tender mercies around you every day, and feel His love for you in powerful and undeniable ways. He can make more out of your life than you can without Him. He will bring you to your best life. And that will certainly provide you with more joy in your journey.
Last week I shared my only goal for 2017 — live my best life. Living your best life is more about the journey than the destination. That’s because, when we depart mortality, we reach the next stage of our progression rather than a finality.
Along the way, our changes mark our progress. Living your best life includes some changes. But you’ll find yourself stagnant with the passage of time without permanent change.
I recently lamented the lack of change in my life, especially over the past year. This experience led me to seek after my best life. I don’t want to find myself no better off at this same time next year. How do we change so that we don’t repeat making the same goals for ourselves each year?
Recently I’ve been investigating that question and discovered some amazing ideas supported by social science research. Many think of change as simply a matter of willpower. You don’t exercise or you eat junk food or you have a less meaningful career or floundering relationships because that’s what you choose. If only you were more determined, you could make whatever change you need.
But social science research offers a different story. You fail to make change permanent not for lack of will but rather for insufficient understanding and preparation. When you’re outnumbered by influences you don’t understand and for which you make no provision, the math simply works against you.
The first step towards making change permanent is to change the way you think. You need to discard false assumptions and adopt valid ones. No matter your resolve, it’s hard to win the day when you bring a knife to gun fight.
Fight fire with fire
Here a wonderful book entitled Change Anything by Kerry Patterson et. al. provides much assistance. Based in modern social science research, this book describes how leveraging six major influences promotes any positive change. Those who account for these six influences in their change efforts are ten times more likely to succeed.
Of course they would be. Instead of bringing a knife to a gun fight, they brought a gun — and not just a one-shot Derringer but something like an AR-15. Good preparation always promotes good performance.
Here’s a very brief synopsis of the six change influences:
The book details how you do all that and provides examples of application.
Get your Magnificent Seven
I highly recommend the methodology in this book, but I’m adding a seventh item. You need to partner with the Lord.
Social science has revealed influences underlying more permanent positive change. The restored gospel has also revealed change influences, most importantly the Atonement.
President Ezra Taft Benson once said the world would change men from the outside in, but Christ takes men and changes them from the inside out. When you partner with the Lord, He can reveal to you the specific guidance you need to change more effectively and efficiently.
I recently experienced this for myself. I brought the Lord a problem that concerned me greatly. As I discussed my concern with Him, an idea came to mind. Pursuing that idea replaced my concerns with faith and optimism in living my best life with confidence.
Do you want to be right where you are today in January 2018? Or do you want to make positive changes and live your best life? Understand the influences involved, partner with the Lord to leverage them to your advantage, and you can live your best life and more. You can change forever. And that will certainly bring you more joy in your journey.
Many make new goals at the start of each year. Not everyone does, but many who do tend to make the same ones year after year. I’ve certainly ridden my own yo-yo in that regard. But not this year.
I typically make all sorts of goals for the year, and then my effort slowly but surely diminishes as the year progresses. I might make a valiant try at a comeback, but that’s never really worked for me.
But 2017 will be different. This year I am making only one goal: To live my best life.
I know. That leaves a lot undefined, so it’s not exactly a SMART goal. But I’m focusing more on process than product. That’s all part of what it means to live your best life.
Living your best life doesn’t mean your life conforms to some plan. Many LDS singles can say their lives have deviated significantly from plan. I’m certainly one of them. But so are many marrieds. How many couples find they can’t have children as they planned? How many parents find their children turn out differently than they hoped? Life isn’t perfect for anyone.
Yet you can live your best life regardless of your circumstances. That’s because living your best life means finding joy from living life as best you can within the framework of your circumstances.
It’s about the journey
We make New Year’s resolutions ultimately because we want to live our best life. Resolutions simply express what you find lacking, what separates you from your best life.
But your best life is not a perfect life. Church leaders have long defined the perfect marriage not as the union of two perfect people but rather the union of two imperfect people striving together towards perfection. In like manner, your best life is not a compilation of perfect elements but rather your balanced approach to strive towards perfection.
This definition doesn’t depend on marital status. Of course, many LDS singles consider an acceptable marriage part of their perfection. But from a happiness perspective, striving for your best life can count just as much as having the perfect one. It all comes back to your approach, and you don’t need to be married to have the right one.
Your best life is not so much about a destination as it is about the journey there. It’s that focus on the journey that allows you to release the joy in each moment along the way. Not all experiences are joyful at first, but even the most heartrending moments can in time be turned into joy (see Jeremiah 31:13).
It’s about balance
The journey of your best life involves you striving after the elements you feel are missing. We all have different elements missing from our lives. That means the concept of best life is highly personal.
For instance, we all need sociality, but some need it only occasionally, while others need it constantly. The extent of our needs differs, but we all have the same standard set patterned in a model I presented previously regarding the four aspects of life.
Each individual will embrace these aspects differently, but you live your best life when you find your balance in each aspect. That balance is a key element to the best life, but again, that’s highly personal. My balance probably looks very different from yours, and that probably looks very different from someone else’s.
It’s about approach
That’s why it’s about process. All my past (failing) efforts were focused on product — I needed to weigh only so much, or I needed to master a new skill, or I needed a specific relationship. When those “products” didn’t materialize, I easily felt discouraged with myself and my life.
But that’s like saying I should be equally discouraged if I’m not translated into the Celestial Kingdom by next year. We all know that’s silly. Now, let’s apply the same logic to other goals. This life is about the journey to eternity and not arriving there. We’ll have much more to do after this life before we arrive at that glorious end.
I’m taking a balanced approach with my life in 2017. I have one and only one goal: Live my best life. That’s something all of us can have if we balance our approach towards the elements missing from each of our four aspects. As we do so, we’ll not only live our best life but also have more joy in our journey.
Howdy! I'm Lance, host of Joy in the Journey Radio. I've been blogging about LDS singles life since 2012, and since 2018 I've been producing a weekly Internet radio show to help LDS singles have more joy in their journey and bring all Latter-day Saints together. Let's engage a conversation that will increase the faith of LDS singles and bring singles and marrieds together in a true unity of the faith.
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