Last week we discussed how to find your useful passions and get busy making other people’s lives better. Until you do, you’ll never see the results you want to see from adopting a personal ministry.
But that’s true in every arena of life. If you want results, you must take action. And isn’t that what we all really want? No matter where we are in life or what we’ve been through, at the end of the day we all want results.
How do we get results? Results come from one and only one thing: action. Too many of us are sitting on the sidelines waiting for God to act so we can receive results when in actuality God is waiting for us to act by using the agency and the talents He gave us to deliver our results to ourselves.
We must act. When we know what we want out of life, we need to get down on it and get busy going after it. Only then will we have our best life.
Most people do nothing to effect the change they want. When life throws them a curve — and life will always throw you a curve — most people complain. They complain about how unfair it is, how disadvantaged they are, or how luck doesn’t favor them. And the only thing they do in addition to complain is complain some more!
But where does that leave them? It leaves them at the station because they never got on the train; they never took action. And therefore, they didn’t get results. Results don’t come without action. So if you don’t take any action, you don’t get any results.
In addition, your focus determines your reality. That’s why people who constantly complain can never rid their lives of the misery and depression that prompts them to complain about how miserable and depressed they are. When you focus on the negative, your reality will be filled with negativity. The way to change your reality is to change your focus. To have a positive reality, take action to focus on the positive.
Change it up
Now, I can hear some of you saying, “Yeah, well, I took action and I didn’t get results.” Maybe you asked someone out and got rejected. Maybe you applied for a job you didn’t get. Maybe you tried to stick to a weight-loss diet and couldn’t resist eating that pizza. Whatever it was, you saw what you wanted, you took action to get it, and you fell flat on your face.
It’s true that if you don’t take action, you don’t get results. But perhaps it would be better to say if you don’t take any different action, you don’t get any different results. Your results are always consistent with the action you take. So when you want different results, you need to change it up and take different actions, ones consistent with the results you want.
Is your life the same as it was two years ago? If so, it’s because last year you didn’t do anything different than you did the year before. And next year will be just like last year unless you start doing something different. The next two, five, or even ten years of your life will be just like the last two, five, or ten years unless you start doing something different.
Look for the little things
And this is where most people get stuck. They know they need to do something different. They just don’t know what that something is.
Enter partnering with the Lord stage left. When you partner with the Lord, He’ll show you what you need to change. “And by the power of the Holy Ghost ye may know the truth of all things” (Moroni 10:5) — including the truth of the changes you need to make to move towards your best life.
In that effort, it’s best to look for the little things you need to change — the small habits you can practice every day that will move you in your desired direction. After all, the big wins we want in life are just collections of the little wins accumulated consistently over time.
When you know what little habits you need to adopt every day, get down on it and stick with it. Don’t wait for your blessings to appear magically. Know the results you want, determine the actions you need to take to get those results, and then get down on it. When you start to move in the direction of your goals and dreams, feeling that progress will invigorate you to do and be more. And that will bring you more joy in your journey.
Most people settle for mediocre lives. They become comfortable inside a status quo. That’s human nature — establish a habit and then stay inside that “safe zone.”
Yet that safety lies well beneath the potential we all have to accomplish extraordinary achievements. Greatness abounds in all of us because we’re all children of the greatest measure of greatness in the universe — our Heavenly Father.
Nevertheless, so many of us live every day beneath our potential it’s insane. Instead of contributing goodness to others, we wander within ourselves. Instead of spending time in service to others, we spend time in service to ourselves voraciously consuming content via the Internet, video games, movies, and other forms of entertainment. Instead of taking control of our lives, we simply react as the waves of life toss us to and fro.
Too many of us are just standing on the sidelines of life waiting for extraordinary blessings. That’s not the way life works. To have your best life, you must skip the sidelines and get in the game of making other people’s lives better.
Find your useful passions
We all have talents we can leverage to improve others’ lives, and very often using these talents elicits passion within us — a passion for excellence, a passion to contribute, a passion to serve, and a passion to be the best we can be.
That passion becomes useful when it drives you to use your talents to fulfill a personal ministry bringing goodness to others. Your useful passions can carry you beyond your troubles into a life of joy if you let them. By adopting a personal ministry, you can transcend the challenges of LDS singles life and live your best life.
How do you find your useful passions? Start by separating yourself from daily distractions to gain clarity of vision. The temple is great here, but you should also have somewhere in your home where you can reflect without distraction. Then look inside yourself and ask what you do the best with the least amount of effort. Those are your talents.
How can you use those talents to bring goodness into the lives of others? Which of those ways would you do even if it brought you no personal gain or benefit? Those are your useful passions. They will fuel you to carry out your personal ministry despite the obstacles in your way. And when life overwhelms, postponing your efforts, your useful passions will always bring you back to sit at the table of contribution.
Turn it on
Surely the Lord wants you to make your contribution — one only you can make. Only by following His example of making that unique contribution will you live your best life. When you partner with Him, the Lord will help you discover your useful passions. And once you know what you need to do, get busy. Don’t let others wait for the blessings they’ll receive because of your contribution of goodness.
Throughout his career, my father has supervised others. Often when inquiring after an undone task, he’s heard,“I haven’t got around to it yet.” In response, my father would obtain small wooden discs and write the letters T-O-I-T on them. Then whenever someone would tell him, “I haven’t got around to it yet,” my father would give that person one of his special wooden discs and say, “There’s your round ‘to-it.’ Now get to work!”
Once you’ve identified your personal ministry, turn it on and get to work. “We all have work,” the hymn teaches. “Let no one shirk. Put your shoulder to the wheel” (Hymns, #252). When you allow your useful passions to drive your personal ministry, you can more easily find your life by losing it (see Matthew 10:39).
Stay in the game
Of course, life has a way of distracting or sometimes outright knocking us off course, thereby obstructing our personal ministry and restricting our contribution. When that happens, we’ve got to get back in the game.
Life will always present challenges. That’s by design; it’s partly why we’re here. But if you know who you are, if you’ve identified your useful passions, and if you have a personal ministry, then keep on keeping on that road of service. Your contribution may not change the world, but it will mean the world to those whose lives you change for the better.
Don’t just sit on the sidelines of life waiting for your best life to come to you. Make your best life happen! Skip the sidelines and find your useful passions that can fuel your own personal ministry. When you lose yourself in that effort, you’ll find your best life, because you’ll become the best version of you that you can be. And that will bring you more joy in your journey.
If you’re like most people, whatever New Years resolution you made hasn’t stuck with you. Or more accurately, you haven’t stuck with it. By now, most will have given up on the changes they resolved to make just two weeks prior. They’re just too comfortable with the same old same old.
When our sincere efforts to change fail, what can we say to ourselves that will encourage us to keep trying and at the same time allow us to maintain a level of integrity with ourselves? We can tell ourselves we haven’t succeeded yet. This statement recognizes we still have more to do — more we can do — while at the same time being truthful.
Of course, the most important word in that statement is yet. There’s magic in that word yet. It speaks of possibility and opportunity. It invites us to keep doing what we need to do for success to come to us. When we allow that word yet to motivate us to keep on keeping on, we unleash the power of yet in our lives.
Believe in possibility
I’ve said it before, and I’ll say it again. Your focus becomes your reality. When you focus on what you haven’t done, you embrace a reality of inability, one in which you become frustrated at your lack of progress. But when you focus on what you can do, then you embrace a reality of possibility, one in which action enables you to feel a sense of movement towards success.
That’s the magic behind the word yet. Yet invites us to focus on what we can do by reminding us of possibility and the opportunity we have each moment to try again. Only when we believe in possibility will we take the action needed to produce results that lead to success.
Conversely, when we disbelieve in possibility, when we believe the changes we want to make are impossible, then we give up on our dreams. We quit trying to go after them. We effectively give up on ourselves.
Be reasonable with yourself
We should never give up on ourselves. Nor should we demand too much too soon. Some things take time to realize. That’s why we asked in life just to make measurable progress in reasonable time.
That’s the key word: reasonable. We all have different talents and different backgrounds, so we all progress at different rates. What’s reasonable for one may not be reasonable for another. And yet (pun intended) too many of us spend too much time looking at others assuming that, because we haven’t made the progress in our lives others have made in theirs, we’re somehow deficient or defective.
Again, the word yet can work magic here. By reminding ourselves that we haven’t progressed as far as someone else yet, we give ourselves permission to believe in what can be. And that can provide hope that tomorrow can be different than today or yesterday.
We’re all different enough that no one-size-fits-all life plan will truly work for everyone. Why then do we cling to any one-size-fits-all life plan? Why can’t we embrace our own personalized life plan, one we create after partnering with the Lord? As long as we keep trying, the Lord will recognize our efforts, even though we haven’t progressed as far as we would like yet.
I’m still working on all the goals I established for myself two weeks ago. I’m making terrible progress. In fact, my effort is so pathetic I’m not even sure I cam claim to have made anything that could reasonably be labeled as progress.
But I’m not discouraged — not in the least. I know the power of yet. When I tell myself I haven’t achieved my goals yet, I remember that as long as I get back up every time I get knocked down or fall flat on my face or my butt, eventually I will succeed. As long as I keep trying, I know it’s OK I’m not yet where I want to be because I’m on my way there.
And that’s the power that yet can have in each of our lives. When we seize the opportunity we have every moment to begin again and continue towards our goals and dreams, we accept the invitation in the word yet to believe in possibility and do what we can. That movement will inspire us with hope and encouragement to keep on keeping on. And that will bring us more joy in our journey.
In the most recent General Conference, Elder Jack Gerard of the Seventy spoke of the importance of priorities in life. His remarks, entitled “Now Is The Time,” encourage all of us to place our priorities upon what matters most in life — our relationship with our Heavenly Father and His Son Jesus Christ. Whether or not you have goals for the new year, now is the time to consider whether the priorities you really do have are the ones you really should have.
Set the right priorities
Elder Gerard begins with an account of chest pains he experienced while traveling. After arriving at the airport, he sought help at a local hospital, wondering if he would reach his final destination. A doctor ran multiple tests and then declared him safe to continue his travels.
Elder Gerard returned to the airport and resumed his journey. As the plane approached his final destination, Elder Gerard learned an ambulance would be waiting to take him to the hospital. The doctor had misdiagnosed his condition, which was much more serious than previously supposed.
After he learned the new diagnosis and that not many patients survive that condition, Elder Gerard’s perspective suddenly shifted. He described his experience with these words:
Indeed, now is the time to consider our direction. Stephen Covey often used the analogy of a ladder when speaking about priorities. He described a man who exerted much effort to climb a ladder leaning against a wall. When he got to the top, what he saw behind the wall made one truth painfully obvious; his ladder was leaning against the wrong wall.
It should sound silly to talk about priorities after many of us have made our goals, because priorities rightfully come before goals. We need to establish our direction before we establish what we want to accomplish. Otherwise, we’ll likely find the ladder we climb has been leaning against the wrong wall.
Daily life in our modern world contains so many distractions we can spend our lives wandering aimlessly without any sense of direction or purpose. We need to take time to reflect upon our direction. Unless we do, we’ll easily become “like a wave of the sea, driven with the wind and tossed” (James 1:6).
Do the things of greatest eternal importance have the highest priority in your life? If not, it’s never too late to start again. Now is the time to consider your direction.
Elder Gerard reminds us that
It’s so easy to coast and let the waves of day-to-day living just wash over us! But that complacency will never deliver your best life. You get your best life by living intentionally, and living with intention requires awareness of what you’re doing and more importantly why. That means having priorities and a plan of action that supports those priorities.
How else do we ensure our ladder is not leaning against the wrong wall? Priorities determine direction, and direction determines destination.
Rise above distraction
During his remarks, Elder Gerard asked this very practical question: “How do we rise above the distractions of this world and stay fixed on the vision of eternity before us?” He then extolled Christ as the standard by which to judge what’s best and declared “understanding our divine origins is essential to our eternal progress and can free us from the distractions of this life.”
Ultimately, the best way to know what our real priorities should be is to evaluate ourselves and our lives without distraction. That’s where temple attendance can be so refreshing. In the house of the Lord, we can separate ourselves from the distractions of the world. Remembering our divine origins and why we’re here can bring clarity to an otherwise muddled view.
If you wonder whether your ladder is leaning against the wrong wall, now is the time to consider what changes you need to make. If you didn’t make any goals for the new year, then by default you decided to let the waves of life carry you where they may. Now is the time for you to own your life and establish the priorities that will determine your direction and ultimately your destination. When you do, you’ll find yourself moving forward more confidently. And that will bring you more joy in your journey.
You must believe
People make resolutions with the best of intentions. In fact, those good intentions drive us to create the resolution. We see something we want in our lives, or maybe something we want out of our lives, and we resolve to change.
But the road to hell is paved with good intentions, so good intentions alone are insufficient to achieve greatness. Good intentions reflect good desires, and as such they make a good start. But you must also believe in the change you want for yourself.
If you don't believe, you won't receive. Without believing that what you want for yourself is possible, you won't even try. You’ll quit before you start. And you’re guaranteed not to achieve anything if you don’t try.
But you must believe in more than possibility. You must believe what you want for yourself is probable. And you must believe in yourself and your ability to make what you want more probable. That’s of course easier to do when you partner with the Lord. “I can do all things through Christ which strengtheneth me” (Philippians 4:13).
You must plan
Once you believe the attainment of your desires is not only possible but also probable, you must take action, starting with a plan. What steps will you take to achieve your desires?
How we achieve our goals may not happen exactly the way we envision. In fact, they very often don't. But a good plan provides concrete action you can take. It gives permission and direction to be busy doing. And that's essential, because results come from one thing and one thing only — action.
The best plans provide specific actions you can take. Clearly defined, simple tasks conform well to how the brain is hardwired. Our brains are hardwired not to think but to execute clear, simple instructions. When you break your plans down to that level, you align yourself with how you’re built. And that significantly improves your probability of success.
The best plans also consider environment. Your brain is hardwired to determine normal by assessing your surroundings. Let’s say you want to lose weight. If the people usually around you have some pounds to shed themselves, then your brain will think being at that weight is normal, and it will be harder for you to lose weight because most of us don't want to be abnormal; we want to fit in and belong to the group. You must also consider potential distractions in your environment. Again, if you want to lose weight, make sure your food stores don't contain anything that will work against you.
Finally, the best plans consider psychology. Many who are overweight use emotional eating to compensate for something they lack. They use the pleasures of eating to feed their emotional needs (pun intended). If you try to lose weight without addressing deeply seated psychological influences, it's more probable you won't succeed. Your plan must include healthy ways to address your emotional needs that can support you in achieving your goals.
You must act
With a good plan in place, the only thing left is to do. Results come from one thing and only one thing — action. Action plus attitude equals achievement.
Your past attempts ending in failure can provide lessons for success. A failed attempt doesn't mean you’re a failure; it just means your approach is a failure. Direction determines destination, so make a slight change in your approach — in the direction you take — and you can arrive at an entirely new destination. Anything you can imagine you can have. Anything you can dream you can live.
A new year is now upon us, and with it comes new opportunity to improve upon ourselves and to live our best life. When we believe, plan, and act, we can achieve anything. Now is the time for you to rise up and claim your best life. When you do, you give others permission to rise up and claim their best life. That makes life better for everyone. And that will bring you more joy in your 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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