Living a full life means attending to each of the four areas of life, what I call the spirit, the heart, the mind, and the body. Today I want to talk about the body, which includes not just our physical bodies but also the elements that make up our physical world, like career, finances, and home.
I love running. It’s good for my spirit as well as my body. Running can teach many life lessons.
I get extra life lessons because I have exercise-induced asthma. This condition makes running very challenging for me.
I don’t have full-blown asthma. I don’t need medication or have any sort of respiratory attacks. But I often find myself short on breath after climbing just a few flights of stairs. That means that I have to work much harder than the average person to achieve the same level of performance.
This wouldn’t be much of a problem if I weren’t competitive.
When I first started running races, it was very hard for me to see so many people pass me. For a long time I just couldn’t run the entire 3.1 miles of a 5K race. And it frustrated me that even giving my all wasn’t enough.
As a part of training to run the entire distance, I encountered what became for me a mantra: Slow and steady wins your race.
To forgo my frustration, I needed to quiet my competitive side. To do that, I convinced myself that I wasn’t competing against anyone but myself. And the only measurement that meant anything was whether or not I achieved my goal.
Then, like Rocky Balboa preparing for his first fight with Apollo Creed, I made sure that my goal was simply going the distance and nothing else. Running from start to finish was all that mattered. Period.
The first half of the race was not that challenging for me. I had been training for this moment for several months on hills, and downtown Charleston, South Carolina, is as flat as it gets. By the time we hit the halfway point at Battery Park, I knew I was doing good. And I got a great view of the bay as a sort of celebration.
But my victory would not be won easily. As I completed the second mile, I was still running. But my exercise-induced asthma was catching up to me. With each tenth of a mile my body was screaming at me louder and louder to stop.
But my mind refused to relent.
My heart rate monitor said I was still good, though how long that would last I couldn’t predict. I couldn’t even understand why this was happening to me. I had done everything right. I had trained for months on tougher terrain. I watched my diet the night before. I had consumed plenty of water before the race as well as a small snack to fuel me. This was the moment.
Yet with each step I ran my body was screaming, “STOP!”
Very quickly my only option for continuing was to appeal to heaven. I prayed within my heart, “Please help me to finish this race. I simply cannot do it without Thy help. I need Thee. Please help me.”
In that moment I felt a small surge come into me. I could still feel my body wanting me to stop, but I could also see the finish line. I dug deep and pulled out my last reservoirs of energy.
As I crossed the finish line, I literally cried. I could hardly believe that after years of trying I had finally run the entire distance. In between tears, I thanked God for His mercy in providing strength to finish.
My time wasn’t what anyone would call great, but to this day I have yet to run a 5K any faster. I know that one day I will, but I marvel that in the last 4 years I still haven't been able to beat it.
Slow and steady won my race, and it can win yours, too. Hmm, I wonder if there are any life lessons here . . . . :)
Part of overcoming our challenges as LDS singles and enjoying life more fully comes from engaging the five-step process I outline in my book. By gaining an awareness of the habits that have held us back, we can make conscious choices to move closer to our righteous desires.
People generally seem interested when I talk about that general concept. But they have differing responses when I get into the specifics.
A conversation remembered
Some don’t want to figure out anything on their own. They want the answer handed to them. Some even want a cherry on top.
I recall one conversation in which a young lady asked me, “What is the one habit holding me back from getting married?” I tried to explain to her that there isn't just one thing but rather a list of things that require attention, and without knowing her better I really couldn’t get more specific.
Hey, the whole of our interactions was a few emails and one phone call. I could get very specific about the process, but her question was about the application of that process to her specific situation. That required me to know her better than I did.
We’re all unique enough that my list of changes to make will be different from your list of changes to make, because my truth about why I’m single is probably different than your truth about why you’re single. We both need to face our own truth, but the actual steps we take to apply that common element to our lives may be quite different.
I can give you the tools and teach you how to use them, but you have you build your life. You must own your life.
Memories make teaching moments
The memory of that conversation has stuck with me and from time to time slowly extends itself out like a turtle coming out of its shell. The question asked is a common one. "OK, so what's the one thing that I need to do in order to . . . . ?" It seems like an intelligent question to ask, but I've got a serious problem with it.
You see, it's really not that intelligent at all.
Run with me for a moment. The assumption behind that question is that there is only one thing that you need to change in order to transport your world into a new and higher dimension of existence. What sense does that make?
I've got more imperfections than Swiss cheese has holes and certainly more than most people. But I can't believe that the vast majority of people have one and only one thing they need to change to overcome their obstacles.
Here’s what makes more sense to me. We all have a huge list of things we can do to improve. Somehow, my experience taking notes in Conference comes to mind.
A better question to ask would be to know everything you need to do. With that answer, you could then step back and take a more holistic approach towards making the changes in yourself you need to make. I outline that process in my book.
Engaging a process that helps you understand yourself better, understand better why you do what you do, understand better the terrain of LDS singles life, and provide you with tools to mark a better path is truly liberating. You may have a lot to do, but having the confidence that comes from knowing you are on your way makes the journey so much more joyful.
Don't get overwhelmed
If you find yourself overwhelmed like I was when I took notes during Conference, then scale back. Instead of asking for everything, inquire after the one or two things that you need to be working on right now. When you apply the five-step process correctly, you will not feel overwhelmed. You will feel a great sense of freedom. And you will feel much better about yourself and your life, irrespective of your circumstances.
No matter how much improvement you need to make, we all need to practice what Elder Oakes described as “the tranquil and steady dedication of a lifetime” as we each journey on to eternal glory.
Never assume that your list of improvement items has only one element. Understand what you need to do right now and live in the moment. Then you can walk by faith and your journey will be much more enjoyable.
I can't believe that I spaced this. I was supposed to post yesterday, but that didn't happen. I could tell you about all the things that occupied my attention yesterday, but I won't. I got busy and therein got distracted.
I recall hearing a sister speak in sacrament meeting one Sunday. She confessed that she had been busy with so many things that she had allowed her temple attendance to slide. I then reflected on how temple attendance is like anything else in life. If you want to ensure what is most important to you fills your life, you need to make time for it.
I also recall attending the temple once when life was more hectic than it is now. I had just moved after losing my job, and my neighbors decided to throw a party that kept me up well past Pumpkin Hour. And then the next day my energetic nephew decided to be consternatingly contrary.
I needed the peace found only within the House of the Lord. And I didn't want to wait for it. And I also had some questions about where I was in my life at the time. So I showered off all the grime and sweat from cleaning up my old place, put on my nicest suit, grabbed my hat, and away I went.
And I had a rather interesting and unexpected experience.
My time in the temple
First, in my haste to hie me to the House of the Lord, I forgot some very important articles of clothing. I realized my lapse while in the dressing room. I put my suit back on and went back to the front area, thinking I could rent what I needed.
Instead I found myself like one of the five unwise virgins. The temple had been recently renovated; there was now no more laundry and hence no more clothing rental.
I was quite befuddled with what to do next when my eye caught sight of the entrance to the initiatory area. I then realized that I could still have a temple experience. I entered the area and asked if help was needed, and of course it was. The attendant gave me a robe and advised me to return when I had changed my clothes.
This is the part where it gets really interesting. When I returned, the brother directing the initiatory work that evening asked whether I could stay for a half hour or an hour. I selected an hour, to which he replied, "You are certainly an answer to our prayers this evening." He then signaled a place for me to wait while others prepared for the work to be done.
While I waited, I thought about this brother’s comment and the context in which I received it. I had made time for something important to me --- temple attendance --- and in pursuing that I encountered an unexpected experience that answered someone else's prayers. I then realized something that had never before entered my mind.
What I had just experienced was an analogy to the singles life unlike any I had ever encountered.
A new question
I reflected on how my life is nothing like what I expected it to be. I never expected to be as single as the day I came home from my mission for so long. That part is old hat.
But what if that unexpected experience is the answer to someone's prayers? I wasn't sure how to answer that question in part because I had never before considered it. Still single today, I find myself entranced by its ramifications.
What if I am single because me being single is the answer to someone's prayers?
Well, it's certainly not the answer to my prayers. I’ve been praying for the exact opposite for many years now. I like to think that somewhere a spiritual and intelligent single LDS woman is praying that I’ll enter her life, but I don't really know if that is true.
Maybe the one whose prayers are answered is not my future companion. Maybe it’s a couple worried about their child growing older without a spouse. Or maybe a caring leader or even a really good friend with the same concern. Or maybe it’s not connected at all with my companion. Maybe it has to do with me doing something that is easier done while single.
I know the Lord has wanted me to be married for many years now. But given that none of my past opportunities have worked out for me, perhaps the Lord is saving me for some other purpose. Perhaps He is saying, “OK, Plans A through X didn’t work out, so while I am assembling the pieces for Plan Y, why don’t you make yourself useful doing this?”
That's a comforting thought.
When you make time for the important, you arrive where you need to be. I still don’t have all the answers, but I know I am on my way. And walking by faith is not bad at all.
The world teaches that only one thing matters in dating — physical attraction. We LDS singles like to think of ourselves as being impervious to worldly influences, but the truth is a far cry from that fantasy.
What are we really trying to accomplish by engaging (pun intended) the dating process? If you know a higher purpose in dating than to create righteous families, I’m all ears. But seeing that the family is central to God’s plan, I don’t know how you can seek to live all the gospel of Jesus Christ without seeking to create your own righteous family.
Words just say but actions shout
It’s great to say “I believe” with words. It’s better to say “I believe” with actions. Many of our dating actions say we value fulfilling selfish desires or placating our own personal egos more than creating righteous families.
Some of you may not want to hear that, but I warned you when I published my philosophy that I would call it like I see it.
If we’re truly honest, we must admit that many of our dating choices aren’t really about creating righteous families. When we decide that other people are not worth befriending or even talking to because they don’t turn our hormonal engines on, our focus is clearly centered elsewhere. Same goes when we decide that the size of someone’s wallet should determine whether or not we get to know that person better.
Happiness in family life is most likely to be achieved when founded upon the teachings of the Lord Jesus Christ. Successful marriages and families are established and maintained on principles of faith, prayer, repentance, forgiveness, respect, love, compassion, work, and wholesome recreational activities.
As far as a list of qualities to seek in a companion, I think that says it all. Note that physical attraction is not on that list. Nor is a fat wallet. I’m not saying don’t consider those things. I’m saying give more weight to what matters more. Modern-day prophets have helped us know what matters more.
We should be looking for role models rather than supermodels.
That means two things: First, you should be a role model yourself. And second, you need to give others more of a chance.
Be a role model yourself
We all tend to attract to us the type of people we are deep inside. For example, drug addicts tend to have other drug addicts for friends. The list goes on and on. So if you want to have a role model in your life, you need to strive to be one yourself. That way your chances of attracting a role model will increase.
Give others more of a chance
CAUTION: As you strive to become more of a role model yourself, you will inevitably trip and fall flat on your face over and over again. Welcome to the human condition.
Guess what? Your companion is probably having a similar experience. You won’t likely see that just by observing outside appearances. The qualities referenced earlier in the Proclamation on the Family aren’t very discernible on the outside.
That means we all need to give others more of a chance.
Direction is more important than position. So our actions should give it greater weight. Yet too often our actions give greater weight to position. They say, “If you aren’t perfect enough right now, then you never will be.”
By filtering too soon in the process we discount many candidates who would make an excellent companion. We really are our own worst obstacle when we turn away others before we really know what we’re refusing.
Your focus determines your reality
Your focus determines your reality, so if you focus on feeding your own fantasies and unrealistic expectations of a marriage companion, your reality will lack significance and be filled with endless frustration, whether or not you attain your desires for marriage.
However, if you focus on being the best role model you can be, then your reality will be filled with other role models. And while like the Savior they may not appear to be desirable, one of those role models may be just what you're really looking for.
It’s high time we say with our actions and not just with words that we value role models over supermodels.
One year I decided to take a different approach. I decided to open myself to a different way of thinking and experience for myself what everyone around me seemed to be in on. I decided to take notes.
So my preparation for Conference that year was to find a suitable notepad and pen.
I felt uneasy, though, because I still believed in the futility of writing down what speakers were saying. So I decided to take a slightly different approach. Instead of noting what they said, I would note what actions the speakers’ words inspired me to take. I would note the improvements that I needed to make in myself.
This would leave me with a list of things to work on over the next six months. I couldn’t wait for Conference to start so that I could begin.
How my experiment played out
Eventually that time came, and I began my experiment. I’ve been a walking construction zone for many years, so generating a list of imperfections came rather easily. And I actually felt good about what I was doing.
That is, I felt good until I examined my list.
The list was six full pages long! These were standard 8-1/2"x11" sheets with very little white space on each page. I felt completely overwhelmed. How was I even to begin working on the list let alone complete it in the next six months? I didn’t even want to start.
And I determined I would never do that again.
A new approach
Of course, a few months later as Conference approached again, the question I'd been avoiding confronted me. What would I do now?
I knew repeating the past would be insane. But I still felt like my previous idea was not without some merit. Why shouldn’t I be looking to prophets and apostles to learn time-pertinent action I need to take?
In time, I determined I'd simply look for the one or two items that most need my attention. That list is a lot less intimidating. And I would be focusing on those actions I most need to take given my current position in life.
That approach has worked extremely well for me. It's now my standard practice. When Conference time rolls around, I begin to think about that question: What are the one or two areas that I most need to work on during the next six months?
President Uchtdorf chimes in
President Uchtdorf had some similar thoughts on preparing for Conference that he offered back in 2011. In addition, he advocates thinking about present questions you have in preparation for receiving answers on how to proceed. But he also suggests not discounting anything you may think you've heard before and instead acting on the prompting you receive. If you have a few minutes to read his remarks, I highly recommend it.
How do you prepare for Conference? What have you done that has worked particularly well for you? Please leave a comment and share that goodness with everyone else!
Howdy! I'm Lance, host of Joy in the Journey Radio. I've been blogging about LDS singles life since 2012, and now I produce a weekly 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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