But I chose to refrain from any action, and that gave me the space needed to take a second perspective and reflect. Like many widows and widowers who’ve married in the temple, this older brother didn’t think of himself as single. Yet that’s exactly what he was. And that means he’s part of the audience for Joy in the Journey Radio!
Reflection brought me to another conclusion. Why was this individual derailing the meeting? Because he was taking the first opportunity presented to him to fill an unmet need. He’s not the first to do so, but he could be the last if LDS singles everywhere get an outlet to fill that need.
Secure your release valve
We all have pressure building within us from the stresses of life. Add in the pressures from the challenges of LDS singles life, and you have a real pressure cooker. Without a release valve to vent the steam building inside us, we could easily crack or even explode.
And so taking care of ourselves means getting and regularly using an outlet. This could be a blog, a journal, or talking with a family member or friend. Whether it occurs in an analog space or a digital one, an outlet provides a healthy way of dealing with the pressures mounting from the challenges of LDS singles life.
Unfortunately, many singles don’t think ahead to prepare in this regard. The result has played itself out time and time again. They take whatever first opportunity comes their way as their release valve. Everything comes gushing out, overwhelming most who hear the onslaught. They in turn respond by avoiding that subject with the single adult, thereby closing off a potential means of supporting that single adult.
Attend to your habits
You don’t have to be that way. With some awareness of the mechanisms operating within you, you can prepare for your needs and live a healthier, happier life. This is beyond getting an outlet to vent. This is understanding why you need to vent at all.
That means understanding habit, because habit governs most of what we do, including how we address our need to vent. Our widower friend in the gospel study class had difficulty because his habit matched a different reality. He still had the habit of conversing with his wife to vent, even though his wife is no longer here.
That’s the thing about habits. They continue to operate even when they don’t match the local landscape, even if the circumstances under which they were created no longer apply, and even if performing the actions encoded in those habits cause discomfort or even pain. We are biologically hardwired to operate out of habit.
And so we see many widowed and divorced singles facing difficulty because they continue to operate out of habits matching a married reality that no longer exists. They all need to replace the habits they made when they were married with habits that better match their new landscape.
Minister to the need
I wanted to talk with our widower friend after the meeting, but I had to rush to other commitments. I did look for him at church but didn’t see him. I’ll keep looking until I find him. After all, he needs to get an outlet. And he needs the new perspectives Joy in the Journey Radio can bring.
That’s something more of us LDS singles could do to support each other. We can recognize our shared need to get an outlet and then be that outlet for the singles around us. This is one way we can build our singles groups into the communities of support they should be.
Ultimately, though, you’re responsible for yourself and your care. So get an outlet. Provide yourself with the release valve you need and use it regularly. Take care of yourself, and then you’ll be better able to take care of others. And that will bring you more joy in your journey.
They’ll also need an experience to move them in that direction. Think Ebenezer Scrooge here. He was all business and no fun. But it wasn’t just Christmas Day that turned him around, because he constantly turned his heart away from the joy that day could bring with his oft repeated “Humbug!” It was the experiences with the spirit of his former business partner followed by the Ghosts of Christmas Past, Present, and Future that turned him around.
And one of the first things he did after resolving to keep Christmas always in his heart was to laugh.
There’s a lesson there for all of us. Laughter isn’t just an option in life but essential to true enjoyment in life. You need to laugh to live — really live and relish life. You need to laugh because your life really does depend on it.
Built to laugh
That may seem extreme to some, almost as extreme as being all business and no fun. Yet some thought upon the subject will lead to the inescapable conclusion your life really does depend on laughter.
After all, what is your life? If you define life in terms of a mediocre existence, then you might make the case that your life doesn’t depend on laughter.
But is that the life you really want? Do you really want to live on autopilot, just going through the same motions over and over, day after day? Don’t you want a life you can savor and truly relish?
Of course you do. You keep feeling the tug of that dream because you’re biologically hardwired to live it. We are built to be social creatures, and laughter connects us with other people. It’s also a natural stress reliever. Certainly your best life will enable you to manage the stress everyone encounters in life.
Taken in moderation
Of course, anything taken to excess is usually detrimental. Laughter is no exception. Taken too far, we can forget ourselves. I’ve seen social environments get so jovial people say and do things they otherwise wouldn’t.
Moderation is the key. Taken in moderation, laughter can spread joy, hope, and positive energy. It says we don’t have to choose between business and fun; we can have both. We can attend to our responsibilities, make serious progress towards our dreams and goals, and enjoy ourselves along the way.
Part of that result comes from incorporating that enjoyment into what we do. Appropriately placed, laughter can both promote and manifest that enjoyment. But I believe another part lies in setting aside time with the purpose of experiencing laughter in our lives.
Devoted with a day
That’s what’s really great about Belly Laugh Day. It’s a day devoted to laughter. And it’s perfectly placed in the middle of winter when skies overhead in many areas are typically gray and gloomy. That is, in fact, what inspired the creation of the holiday to begin with.
Whether or not you know about it, and regardless of how you choose to celebrate (or not celebrate) it, Belly Laugh Day provides an excursion into laughter. You may be an Ebenezer Scrooge who is all business and no fun, or you maybe you’re stressed under so many demands at present you feel more like crying than laughing. Either way, celebrating Belly Laugh Day can teach and remind us we need to laugh to live. Your life really does depend on it.
How will you incorporate more laughter into your life? Will you read a funny book? Or watch a funny movie? Maybe you’ll join the audience for a stand-up comic. However you take your elixir, a little laughter can lighten your load. And that will bring you more joy in your journey.
Likewise, we lived with our Heavenly Parents in a comfortable home. Then we were presented with an opportunity to embark on a great adventure that offered challenges and struggles but also the promise of great reward — to become something more than we ever could becoming staying in our place of comfort. Although a third of our brothers and sisters rejected the plan, the rest of us thought the reward worth the risk. And so here we are.
In this great analogy, I see yet another parallel, one that applies to LDS singles. When you embrace your own personal ministry, you can embark on your great adventure through your single years.
See the parallels
God presented a plan for our great adventure through mortality. But that plan required us to leave the comforts of our heavenly home. In exchange, we received the opportunity to grow through making choices.
Here in mortality we find challenges and struggles as well as the chance for failure. But we judged the potential opportunity for growth worth the risk, and so we embraced the plan.
Likewise, Joy in the Journey Radio has long presented LDS singles with the plan to experience more joy in singles life by embracing a great adventure called a personal ministry. This choice requires singles to leave a comfortable, mediocre existence on autopilot in exchange for growth by making a unique contribution of goodness to the world.
Just like mortality, performing your personal ministry has many challenges and struggles as well as the chance for failure. But those who embrace their personal ministry judge the potential for growth and joy well worth the risk.
Begin your adventure
How do you begin your great adventure? Elder Uchtdorf taught you begin the great adventure of God’s plan by embracing the path of discipleship. In like manner, LDS singles can begin their great adventure of LDS singles life by embracing the path of their personal ministry.
Walking that path means partnering with the Lord and counseling with Him regarding what your personal ministry should be and what steps you should take. You’ll have more success if you simultaneously embrace the path of discipleship Elder Uchtdorf recommended in his remarks.
Keep striving, keep trying, keep reaching for the light and the best life that can be yours. When you choose not give up — whether in the path of discipleship or the path of your personal ministry, God extends a helping hand.
Set out today
Often that helping hand will come from other people. That’s because we need others to progress in our great adventure through mortality. Elder Uchtdorf taught, “The only way for you to progress in your gospel adventure is to help others progress as well. To help others is the path of discipleship.”
You’ll need the help of others in your personal ministry as well. If nothing else, sharing your light with others means having others to share with. But those others don’t necessarily need to accept your offerings. Your success in a personal ministry lies in your choices and actions, not in the choices and actions of others. It’s the same with sharing the gospel, as Elder Uchtdorf explains.
It’s normal to feel compelled to wait until everything is perfect before proceeding. This is your biological hard-wiring defending the status quo, and the status quo will never deliver your best life, not in terms of the gospel, and not in terms of a personal ministry.
Start your great adventure through life by embracing more fully the restored gospel of Jesus Christ. And start your great adventure through LDS singles life by embracing more fully your own personal ministry. When you do, you’ll feel more satisfaction and growth than you’ve ever known. And that will bring you more joy in your journey.
I see the same scenario playing out in the realm of friendships. That’s why I say we need to seek unusual friends.
Question your assumptions
We all have needs for friendship the same as for a romantic partner. The needs aren’t all the same, but the process of finding someone to meet them is. Provide more possibilities in meeting those needs, and you increase the probability of meeting those needs.
People often think about probability as some ethereal mathematical magic outside their control. The reality is very different. You can influence your probability of success by taking action favoring more desirable outcomes. With more desirable outcomes possible, the probability of your success must increase. That’s the way the math works.
To increase your probability of having the friends you need, increase the number of candidates you’d consider in that role. That means questioning assumptions and focusing on what really matters.
Most of us don’t question our assumptions about anything. But when your reality is less than what you want, you need to examine your assumptions. They drive your focus, your self-talk, and your thinking, all of which combine to produce the actions generating your results. If you need different results, consider different assumptions.
Embrace new thinking
Most of us assume the friends we need will possess a certain list of characteristics. Often but not always, that list means we’re looking for someone like ourselves. Anyone who doesn’t conform to that list doesn’t get considered.
And what’s the effect? We’ve made it harder to meet our own needs. Go back to the math. The fewer candidates you consider, the lower the probability that person you need is in your pool. To increase your probability of success, you must increase the number of candidates you consider. That means questioning the assumptions that prevent you from considering more candidates.
At this juncture, many will experience a knee-jerk reaction to reject all this. That’s normal. Our brains are hardwired to bias preserving the status quo. Questioning assumptions threatens the status quo because it represents change. And so outright rejection is the normal response.
But only when you open your mind and consider new and different ways of thinking can you get the new and different actions you need to produce the new and different results you want in your life. When you question your assumptions about the kind of person would make the good friend you need, you open yourself to those new and different ways of thinking, acting, and living. And you’ll find that some of the resulting friendships are both quite unusual and quite fulfilling.
Enjoy treasured friendships
I’ve previously shared a good example when I spoke about a friend of mine named Dick. He’s an older gentlemen of another faith, old enough to be my grandfather. You wouldn’t think the two of us could be good friends. But thinking you need to be similar in age or have similar beliefs are faulty assumptions. Adopting that thinking keeps many back from fulfilling their own needs.
I’m glad I didn’t. What started out as a professional work relation developed into a valued mentor and friend. And Dick felt great benefit in having someone to whom he could bequeath the legacy of his career.
I can share other experiences with roommates, classmates, workmates, and social situations where questioning my assumptions and opening myself to possibility increased the probability of finding valued friends. Success came easier with increased probability.
Success in meeting your needs for friendship will come when you increase your probability of success. Question your assumptions and open yourself to new possibilities. Seek unusual friends. The Lord can bless you and them with the sweet fruits of true friendship when you do. And that will bring you more joy in your journey.
But automation isn’t all roses. It keeps us inside a “safe” zone where we can roam freely without fear of pain or other potential pesky problems like death. As great as that sounds, growth is never pain- or problem-free. If we don’t step outside our comfort zone, we’ll never approach our potential, let alone achieve it.
Fortunately, you have choice. Yours need not be a mediocre life on autopilot. You can be phenomenal, and it starts when you step outside your comfort zone to embrace the new you.
Pay the price
Admittedly, the prospect of stepping outside one’s comfort zone literally terrifies many of us. The mind quickly presents memories of past pains that linger on into the present. It’s like our brain is saying, “Hey, remember this? You don’t want to go there; you might get hurt again!”
And that’s true. You might. But here’s another piece of truth: Nothing ventured, nothing gained. You can stay inside your little hobble with its practically guaranteed pain-free life. And you’ll live that life first with the repressed yearning of wanting more and then with the regurgitating regrets of never responding to that call.
Again, the good news is you have choice. If you want to have or be something more, you can have or be it. You just need to be willing to pay the price in full and in advance to get it.
That’s how everything is. If you want to see the show, you need a ticket. But you’ll never get the ticket until you pay the price in full and in advance. Only then do you get admitted to the show.
Push through the pain
And that’s where most people get off the train. That’s why most New Year’s resolutions don’t even last a week, let alone the whole year or even the first month. The vast majority of us collide with that eternal truth and decide we’d rather be comfortable. And so we revert back to our old habits and spend the rest of the year wishing we had a better life only to repeat the whole cycle again at the start of the next year.
Seriously, is that the life you want? Do you want to go through the same motions over and over, always wondering why you can’t ever seem to escape that rut of failure? Are you sick and tired of always getting less than what you want? If you want a different life, you can have it. You just need to be willing to pay the price to get it.
For many, that point doesn’t come until they get sick and tired of being sick and tired. Only after that moment do they have resolve to push through the pain of growth, achieve their dreams, and become the embodiment of their potential.
Take the risk
And yeah, it’s scary. You very well could get hurt again. But you’ll never see the new you emerge unless you’re willing to risk.
Take love, for example. Many burned in a romantic relationship retreat back to their hobble where they play the turtle in a shell. These people will never know the love they dream about because they’re acting contrary to the nature of what they want.
You can’t have the amazing love we all dream about having without trust. And trust wouldn’t need to exist unless there was something to lose. Without opening yourself to be vulnerable, there’s no need for trust. And without trust, there’s no way to have the deep love we all want in life.
Everything else worthwhile in life — the elements comprising your best life — operate on the same principle. To achieve success, you must be willing to risk failure and all its attendant heartache, pain, and other assorted problems. You must pay the price to get your ticket to the show.
And what a difference it makes when you do. You can embrace a new you. When you step outside your comfort zone and risk failure, you can experience the growth that will set you on the path to your best life. 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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