That’s because if you always get back up and keep pressing forward, sooner or later you’ll achieve your goals and live your dreams. You don’t get that staying down. So if you’ve been knocked down, get back up and let the journey begin again.
Always get back up
It is about the journey, after all. The destination is essential in that it determines the direction; it sets the course for your sails. But no destination ever changed anyone. It’s the journey that does that.
And it does that job well, but only if you embrace it, only if you choose to be changed by it. If you stay down when life knocks you down, you essentially choose to stay separated from the destination embodied in your goals and dreams. You essentially choose to stay unchanged.
But when you get back up after life knocks you down, when you refuse to stay defeated, you choose to be changed by your challenges into something that overcomes those challenges. Is it easy? Of course not. If it were, everyone would be doing it. Most don’t do it because they aren’t willing to pay the price for what they want. They prefer the easy choice of staying down. They prefer the fade out of failure to the surge of success.
Perhaps they console themselves in being normal. Everyone does fail, after all. So failure doesn’t make you defective or deficient. It just says you’re normal.
Even those who succeed start out as failures, and many of them failed over and over ad nauseam. Take Stephen King, for instance, one of the most prolific and popular American authors from the last century. Publishers rejected his first book Carrie 30 times. And when that 30th rejection came, King was so disheartened he promptly placed his draft in the circular file.
Life had knocked King down, and left to his own devices, he would’ve chosen to stay down. But he wasn’t alone. His wife removed the draft from the circular file, handed it back to him, and asked, “Why don’t you try just one more time?” That one more time was all King needed. He published his first novel, and the rest is history.
Every success story I’ve ever encountered goes the same way. Everyone fails initially, and often abysmally. But those who succeed choose not to stay down when life knocks them down. They pick themselves up, dust themselves off, and start all over again. They rise and declare, “Let the journey begin.” And off they go to begin again.
Just start over
All of us can do that, and yes, that includes you. And here’s the best part. You don’t need to wait for the first day of the week, month, or year to begin choosing better. Every day offers the opportunity to begin again. So if you’re normal and find yourself knocked to the ground before January is through, just pick yourself up, dust yourself off, and start over again.
Did you fall off that exercise train you committed to ride at the start of the year? Hop back on. If you messed up that diet, forgive yourself and get back on it. Trying to gain a new skill and missed a day or two or more? Pick up where you left off. Struggling with adopting some new positive habit? Keep struggling, keep fighting, and every time you fail keep starting over.
Whatever goal you set for yourself this year, don’t let failure settle you back into staying your old you. Let the journey begin again. Embracing the confrontation with challenge lets you grow into something that transcends your challenge. You’ll probably fail countless times, and that’s OK. Just keep punching. Keep getting back up every time you get knocked down, and eventually you will succeed. You’ll achieve your goals, you’ll live your dreams, and however many failures you had won’t matter at all. And that will bring you more joy in your journey.
Many of us see challenges as we look ahead both for society and ourselves individually. Elder Bednar’s remarks remind us of the essential nature of testing in our mortal experience. Just as tests in school help us compare what we know with what we should know and thereby provide opportunity to grow in knowledge, tests in mortality help us compare what we are now with what we can become and thereby provide opportunity to grow in light and truth. And the best way to pass those tests is to prepare and press forward.
Elder Bednar related how the pandemic revealed the state of his own family’s preparedness for difficult times. In some ways he was prepared, and in others he was wanting.
For those instances in which he and we are found wanting, Elder Bednar pointed to the Savior’s example of incremental increase “in wisdom and stature, and in favor with God and man” (Luke 2:52). I love Elder Bednar’s description of this approach: “a blended balance of intellectual, physical, spiritual, and social readiness.”
As I examine my own readiness in each of those four areas — the intellectual, physical, spiritual, and social — I find I’m not that different from Elder Bednar. In some ways I’m prepared, and in others I’m wanting.
We all are, in fact. That’s why we need to use the time we have now to prepare for what may come. I recall President Hinckley speaking in the April 2001 General Conference Priesthood session about setting our houses in order. Five months later, the aerospace industry took a nosedive from 9/11, and many Saints in that industry lost their jobs. Those who failed to heed a prophet’s warning to prepare suffered when the testing moment came.
I love what Elder Bednar had to say about such preparations.
The difficulties of the pandemic have revealed the state of our own individual preparedness. Now is the time to act on that knowledge and prepare for what may come in those areas where we’re wanting. Elder Bednar issued just such an invitation:
When it comes to action, it’s good to have a plan and better to act. Plans provide the framework for moving forward, but they don’t actually move you forward. Only action produces results. Only action moves you forward.
Elder Bednar told the story of a father who lost his missionary son to a tragic accident. The father shared his family’s feelings at the funeral service — feelings of heartbreak but also feelings of determination to remain faithful. When the moment of trial came, this family showed they were prepared to learn eternal lessons through their suffering. That preparation allowed them to press forward.
We likewise can press forward when our intellectual, physical, spiritual, and social trials come to us if we do the work now to prepare ourselves for those moments. And that means making choices. Elder Bednar shared the following words from Elder Jeffrey R Holland.
He then went on to say
Live the promise
Moments that test us will always come in mortality. As Elder Bednar explained, “the process of proving ourselves is a fundamental part of Heavenly Father’s great plan of happiness.” He then promised those who prepare and press forward will be able to pass “the ultimate examination of mortality.”
You can live that promise when you prepare for what will come and then press forward, walking in faith the Lord will support you as you act upon your plans. Preparation doesn’t always prevent or remove hard times. But preparation can make burdens easier to bear. Preparation can provide the eternal perspective needed to learn lessons of eternal import when those trials do come.
So prepare and press forward. You don’t know when all your trials will come, but you do know they’ll come. Assess yourself now, plan to supply what’s wanting, and then take action on those plans. The Lord will do His part as you do yours. You’ll then realize in your life the promised pronouncement: “Well done, thou good and faithful servant” (Matthew 25:21). And that will bring you more joy in your journey.
When life seems to go bat nut crazy, you can easily get caught up in the craziness, because it’s easy to accept the reality we’re presented. With that acceptance comes stress. You wonder how the future could ever possibly be bright.
But the truth remains: Your focus determines your reality. When you focus on crazy, you get crazy. But when you include more of what’s around you in your focus, the craziness occupies a lower proportion of the whole, thereby diminishing your stress from the craziness. And the best way to get that expanded focus is to step outside yourself.
Feel the wonder of nature
I’m reminded of an old Native American question: “Who can own the land?” In their world view, people don’t own land. Rather, the Creator provides the land for all.
That perspective draws me out of myself to see the world as a place God created so His purposes for me and all my spirit brothers and sisters could be fulfilled. That view helps me to experience more fully the wonder of the world around me. And having lived across the United States, I’ve seen many marvelous wonders of natural landscape.
I can’t help but be biased towards mountains. Mountains breathe strength and determination into me. They seem like a natural representation for closeness to God. That said, I’ve felt a certain calm watching the tide roll in the shore of a lake or the edge of the ocean. I’ve marveled at the way sunlight bends around the curves of rolling prairies. Even the desert has a beauty all its own.
Only when I step outside myself do I experience the full wonder the natural world offers. Only when I step outside myself do I feel full gratitude to God for creating such a beautiful world for me to live in.
See more as God sees
That perspective of God’s creation invites me to see more as He sees. When I see the world as His creation to fulfill His eternal purposes for me, I naturally recall God did likewise for all His children. God has a plan, and He is in control.
And that plan hasn’t changed. It’s the same plan He’s had all along, the one presented in the council in heaven, the one Satan rejected, the one our Savior supported, the one calling for all of us to experience mortality in this world and with it the opportunity to grow in the eternities into something more than we could ever become otherwise.
Likewise, God retains the same control today He’s always had. He was in control when the same plan He’s always had was presented in heaven. He was in control when He created this world and the rest of the universe. He’s been in control throughout human history. And He retains that same control today.
Live by faith with intention
None of this is to say the challenges the craziness around us presents aren’t real. I’m not advocating we fix rose-colored glasses on our faces. God’s continual control doesn’t mean life won’t ever get difficult. But His control does mean He’ll guide us through troubled times and strengthen us to persevere through difficult days. And we best hear His voice and receive His strength on the covenant path.
So the question then is this: What path will you choose? Will it be the covenant path? Or will you take a different path? The path to happiness is found in living by faith with intention to give your all to all the right things for you. Those right things include making and keeping sacred covenants with God. They also include embracing a personal ministry to share your light with the world around you.
When you step outside yourself, you can more clearly see beyond the challenges current circumstances present. You can feel the wonders in the world around you. You can see your current place in your life more as God sees it. You can live by faith He’ll guide you away from dangers. You can feel His strength as you pursue a life of contribution with intention. And that will bring you more joy in your journey.
That said, the smart tough get going long before the going gets tough. They don’t just wait for the waves of life to crash against them and hope for the best. They anticipate their challenges and prepare for them. They embrace a vision that drives them to do more and to be more. They don’t just perform; they super-perform. They understand that life is so short and so marvelous the only real decision is to go big or go home.
To start, let’s step back from the whole making-goals-for-the-new-year routine and adjust our approach. Quite frankly, too many of us have simply played out ineffective habits that don’t produce the results we really want in life. You need to step outside yourself and see everything anew.
And the first thing you need to see anew is yourself. Too many people refuse to go big because that vision doesn’t match how they see themselves. Motivational speaker Zig Ziglar often said, “You cannot consistently perform in a manner that is inconsistent with the way you see yourself.”
So are your dreams of your best life small or big? And how do they compare with how you see yourself? Do you see yourself as capable of accomplishing great things? Or do you see yourself as a nobody, a failure, or someone who’ll just never have success? If you find it hard to dream big, examine your self-image. If you see yourself as unworthy or incapable, you’ll struggle to believe — and I mean really believe — you can achieve anything great in your life. So before you start setting goals, you need to get good with you.
Once you’re good with you so the way you see yourself matches big dreams, only then can you truly dream big. That’s because a poor self-image fetters your dreams within self-imposed restrictions. When you free yourself from those self-imposed restrictions, you feel liberated to achieve the full measure of your potential. And it’s an empowering feeling.
However, most never get to that point. They keep listening to their biological hardwiring say, “Yeah, but ....” Truly, that voice is designed to keep you safe. But the longer you listen to that voice, the more your self-imposed restrictions that begin with “Yeah, but” will keep you living far beneath your potential. “Safe” isn’t really safe. Risky is the real safe.
Let go of your fears, your disappointments, your inadequacies, your failures, your excuses, and everything else keeping you from the life you want. No one achieves anything big by accident. Big results call for intentional choices, and big dreams can drive the choices that produce big results.
Notice I haven’t said anything yet about setting goals. That’s because it’s pointless to go after a target before you’re properly prepared. If you want to climb Mount Everest, for example, don’t wear shorts and sandals. Be smart and bundle up.
The same is true about goals. Before you announce any New Year resolutions — or really any goal at any time — make sure you have the right foundation of being good with you and unchaining yourself from the self-imposed limitations of small dreams. Only when you think big and dream big can you then live big.
Living big doesn’t mean what it appears on the surface. It doesn’t mean living outside your means or suddenly achieving greatness in a single bound. Living big means taking small steps every day and celebrating the daily wins you encounter along the way. Real success is the daily accumulation of those seemingly insignificant small wins.
So go big or go home. Life is too short and too marvelous to waste on small potatoes. Supersize your life by getting good with you, releasing the restrictions on your dreams, and then setting goals to achieve and celebrate the daily wins in your life. When you do, you’ll grow yourself into living big. 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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