Put your pieces together
As I reflect back on my life, I can’t accurately pinpoint any one trigger that brought me a phenomenal attitude. The change seems more a process than an event. That said, I can identify some key elements in my transformation.
Without question, developing a more solid relationship with God has been pivotal. You can’t have true joy in your life if you’re not good with you, which means you must know who you are. And that requires knowing who your Heavenly Father is.
When you come to understand who you really are as His child, you’ll realize your power to choose your reality. We do that when we select our thoughts, our self-talk, and our focus, because these produce our reality. When I realized how these elements worked in me, I felt empowered to take control. I could stop settling for mediocrity and start insisting on phenomenal.
Get some attitude
That’s when a new attitude emerged within me. I’ll no longer settle for anything less than a phenomenal life. I won’t settle for giving anything less than my absolute best. No longer will I accept failure or unhappiness or anything less than my best as my normal, and I’ll never give up on myself ever again.
I want phenomenal success. I want phenomenal fulfillment, phenomenal results, and phenomenal relationships. I want phenomenal for myself!
I can’t settle for anything less, because that’s giving up, and giving up is just plain flat out wrong. God gave me my gifts and talents not only to better myself but to better the world. When I refuse to let my light shine, others won’t have the improvement they might have had in their lives.
That’s why I insist on phenomenal in my life. It’s not about me. Giving up on myself and failing to achieve my potential means giving up on those who stand to benefit from that achievement. But when I strive to move closer towards my greatness, I automatically provide positive influence to everyone around me.
And so I can’t accept mediocrity. I’ll never be perfect, I’ll always fall flat on my face, but to quit trying to live my purpose, to fulfill my personal ministry, and to achieve greatness in my life is unacceptable. There are just too many people who would suffer, most of whom I’ve never met and likely never will. But it’s because of them I can’t accept anything less than my absolute best as my normal. I will never settle for anything other than phenomenal.
Make it happen
I have only one life to live. This is it for me. I’ll never get another opportunity to live this life. God gave my unique combination of gifts, opportunities, and personality to me and me only. So this is it. It’s do or die, greatness or bust, phenomenal or nothing. I must make it happen.
And that’s another key element in my transformation. The day I realized my life wouldn’t improve until I owned it was life changing. All the energy I’d wasted wishing my circumstances were better I should have spent wishing I were better. Instead of wishing for less problems, I should have wished for more skills. Instead of wishing the result I wanted would just come to me, I should have been working to make it happen.
Of course, I struggle where everyone else struggles — with the natural man. We’re all our own worst enemy. But working hard is the cost of entry to anything worthwhile. And so I put my shoulder to this wheel because I know people’s lives will suffer if I stop.
The best part is I’m not the only one. What’s possible for me is possible for you. If you want this transformation for you, you can have it. Embrace true foundational principles, do the work you need to do, and you’ll improve your life. And when you truly surrender yourself to that process, you too will have phenomenal. And that will bring you more joy in your journey.
Here we find foundational principles local leaders can leverage to help LDS singles find their way.
Walk beside singles
We all understand others better when we step outside ourselves and view the world through their eyes. That increased understanding can open your eyes to what many LDS singles need — true friendship.
My last ward was absolutely awful. Usually no one talked to me or even greeted me. They didn’t seem at all interested in having me there. So when the storms of life beat against my door, no one was there to support me. I felt not just alone and unloved but spiritually stinted, like I was trapped in a sort of prison. What a nightmare!
If nothing else, that experience makes me very thankful for my current ward. Ward members greet me, shake my hand, and sincerely ask after my well-being. They’ve responded when I needed help and support. I feel the warmth of their simple love and sincere friendship. What a blessing!
It doesn’t take much to help LDS singles feel loved and supported. When local leaders — whether married or single — walk beside singles in true friendship, those simple acts can readily meet many needs.
Shore up faith
True friends always increase faith in others. Our Heavenly Father wants LDS singles to marry in the temple and raise righteous families who will promote His work on the earth. That won’t happen if singles don’t believe it will. Local leaders can portray faith and confidence in singles’ ability to achieve a righteous marriage.
How are LDS singles supposed to believe those blessings can be theirs when leaders respond quickly with trite expressions like “Well, it’s OK because there’s always the next life.” That’s true, but have you stopped to consider what living that really means? You’re saying it’s OK the experience singles have already had being single continue for another 40 or 50 years, and then they die, and then sometime after that they get their blessing. That’s not a very enticing prospect, even if it is true.
It’s far more enticing to fix one’s sights on examples like Abraham. His promised covenant child came when Abraham and Sarah were both around a century old. Or how about Jacob’s wife Rachel, who for the longest time was barren? I love Genesis 30:22 — “And God remembered Rachel ....” Local leaders who shore up singles’ faith in themselves and their ability to achieve eternal blessings now and not just in the next life provide greatly needed support.
Promote the next essential ordinance
Of course, securing that next essential ordinance of temple marriage takes more than belief or a motivational pep talk. The lives of many LDS singles stagnant in a lack of accountability. Local leaders are well positioned to provide that accountability.
Life has a way of beating us all into routines. We are, after all, hardwired to have habits. That can be helpful but also dangerous, especially if we’re lulled away from progressing towards eternal goals. The longer singles remain single, the more comfortable they can become being single. And with that comes less likelihood they’ll progress towards their next essential ordinance.
Local leaders can stem that tide of indolence with some gentle accountability. If they’ve paid the price to be a true friend, local leaders — and in particular ministering brothers and sisters — can guide singles towards their next essential ordinance with effective questions. “What’s in your way?” is a good example. As they repeatedly ask questions, simply listen, and then stand ready to help as requested, local leaders extend accountability for progression as singles decide for themselves how they will progress.
When they support singles by being a true friend, local leaders can minister more effectively to LDS singles. That will increase the love we all have for one another. That will build bridges of understanding between marrieds and singles. That will develop a stronger unity of the faith. And that will bring us more joy in our journey.
Sister Craven begins by describing a sign she once saw advertising happiness for only $15. Of course, the sign was deceptive. The trinkets and souvenirs offered in exchange for that $15 could never bring the true happiness each of us yearns to have.
Sister Craven’s experience describes how many of us are similarly deceived. A casual approach to spirituality may seem inviting and even appropriate. But only by being careful with our covenants and obeying them with exactness can we hope to yield the true joy we seek.
Sister Craven explains,
What a magnificent insight! Sister Craven continues,
The amount of joy we receive from covenant living is in direct proportion to the care and attention we give in living those covenants with exactness. We can unleash true power in our spiritual lives when we reject a casual approach for a careful one.
I remember on my mission hearing my leaders advocate obedience with exactness. What fascinated me as I heard Sister Craven repeat that idea was the thought of expanding that attention to every aspect of our lives. If being careful with our spiritual lives can yield great power, how much more power would being that careful with every aspect of our lives bring?
What would happen if we were just as careful with those who matter most to us? Think for a minute about the people who mean the most to you. Of course, others will always have their own agency, but how much more enjoyable would those relationships be if we exercised great care in the details of those relationships?
And what would happen if we exercised great care with our mind? If we were more insistent on having certain standards for the books we read, the music we listen to, the movies we watch, and the other forms of media that we consume, how much more pure, powerful joy would sweep into our lives? What if we were more careful with improving ourselves — taking a class, learning a new skill, or improving some aspect of our character? What increase in joy would come from that?
How much more power could we procure if we were truly careful with our body? Too many of us are quite casual when it comes to diet and exercise. Too many of us aren’t very careful with personal finances. Too many of us take a casual approach to our careers by allowing the here and now demands of our job to overwhelm any notion of career direction. How much better would we feel about ourselves and our lives if we exercised greater care towards our body?
Act with order and diligence
If you stop to think about all this for a moment, you may conclude as I did. Exercising great care in any one area is work. When you extend that work to every area of your life, the task can quickly feel overwhelming.
The Apostle Paul counseled, “Let all things be done decently and in order” (1 Corinthians 14:40). King Benjamin taught his people similarly. “And see that all these things are done in wisdom and order; for it is not requisite that a man should run faster than he has strength. And again, it is expedient that he should be diligent, that thereby he might win the prize; therefore, all things must be done in order” (Mosiah 4:27).
In other words, we don’t need to be perfect today. But we do need to exercise care by doing something every day to move towards personal improvement. As we exchange our casual approaches to every aspect of life for more careful ones, we will reap a harvest of joy and power from the seeds we have sown daily. And that will bring us more joy in our journey.
Our LDS culture hands each of us a life plan describing how life is supposed to go. We go on a mission, do college, start the career, and somewhere in that mix get married. Then we live happily ever after with our eternal companion.
But the lives of many LDS singles differ greatly from that story. Some haven’t married, others divorce, and still others lose a spouse to death. Whatever the reason, those who find themselves single when they don’t want to be consider that happily-ever-after story nothing more than a fairy tale.
And LDS singles deal with the shock of that unexpected life chapter in multiple ways. Some enter paralysis, unable to move outside of their newly found rut. Some despair, thinking all hope is lost for them. Others question themselves, wondering what sin they committed to deserve losing the blessings they were promised. Other responses run the spectrum of possibilities.
Yet no matter the reason or the response, one truth continues to shine brightly. Just because your life hasn’t turned out the way you anticipated doesn’t mean all is lost. There is always hope because there is always Christ. And we take the first step to grasping that hope when we ditch the plan our culture has been feeding us.
Get a better map
Whatever your destination, you need an accurate map. A map that doesn’t match your current landscape will do nothing more than obstruct and frustrate you. It’ll never help you find your way. And that won’t change until you get a better map.
That’s why most LDS singles need to ditch the life plan our culture feeds us. It doesn’t represent their current landscape. Perhaps it was fine for where they were, but it’s not a good map for where they are right now. Want to move forward with your life? Get a better map!
That better map will one you create after you partner with the Lord. President Ezra Taft Benson taught that Christ can make more out of our lives than we can on our own. He has the better map we need. When we turn to Him, He’ll guide the next steps of our journey.
Let go of the past
Still, some among us insist on keeping that defunct life plan despite its mismatch with their current landscape. Accordingly, they feel stuck, unable to move, because they can never live that plan. Try as they might, they can’t travel back in time to make different choices. We all must play the hand we’re dealt.
While in college, I had the possibility of conforming to the life plan. But that ship has long since sailed. So any insistence on my part to hold on to this life plan is insanity. I’d be grasping at lost opportunities that’ll never be anywhere but in the past. And no one can move forward until they let go of the past.
Why would any of us fight against reason and keep ourselves immobile by holding on to the past? Reasons will vary with the individual, but many singles associate belonging with conforming to that cultural life plan. The need to belong is a basic human need, and so they don’t want to accept the possibility that need won’t ever be met.
Follow His plan
And that’s the lie from our culture that we shouldn’t believe. When the mark of belonging is being married with kids, you’ll never feel like you belong while you’re single. Singles by definition aren’t married, which means by definition they don’t belong.
But you don’t have to believe that. You don’t have to believe what’s handed to you. You can adopt your own mark of belonging, one centered on Christ and your desire to be true to the covenants you’ve made with Him. And adopting a personal ministry can help you do just that.
When you partner with the Lord and surrender yourself completely to the personal ministry He shows you, you’ll look forward to the goodness you can contribute into the lives of others. The better map you need for your journey involves a personal ministry. And the Lord can use your focus on others through the vehicle of a personal ministry to help you let go of the past, embrace the joy to be found in facing forward, and make more out of your life than you can alone.
So ditch the plan our LDS culture feeds us about life and partner with the Lord. He’ll heal you and help you to move forward. He’ll show you the next steps you need to take. And He’ll guide you in your personal ministry as you focus on contributing goodness into the lives of others. 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 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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