You’ll be hard pressed to achieve that result without adopting a new way of thinking that matches your new landscape. In pre-pandemic times, one might hear of souls going the extra mile of the extra mile, literally working themselves to the bone in the name of service to others. Now with the pandemic in place, some have continued that way of thinking, going that extra mile of the extra mile while sheltering in place and social distancing.
But that old way of thinking that giving all of yourself was somehow a virtue was unhealthy before the pandemic. And it’s still unhealthy now. You can’t help others to climb unless you yourself are standing on higher ground. You can’t nourish others when you yourself need nourishing. Yes, other people and meeting their needs matter. But you matter too.
Strive for balance
That idea falls right in line with following after your bliss. Your best life is the one with the best boundaries for you, boundaries that demarcate a balance between what you should do for others and what you should do for yourself.
And balance is not necessarily about equalizing the proportions those areas occupy in your life. It’s about making sure each area is appropriately sized so that they can sufficiently support the other.
Giving service to others satisfies basic needs we all have for sociality. Supporting others in their times of stress can give us strength in dealing with our own stress. But caring for ourselves requires us to meet all our basic needs. You can hardly say your approach is balanced when you neglect other needs to care exclusively for just one need.
That’s where following after your bliss can help you achieve the balance you need between caring for others and caring for yourself. Many out of balance in the service arena feel guilty if they aren’t continually giving of themselves to others all the time. Their life is unbalanced because their thinking is unbalanced. By following after your dreams and helping others you encounter along that path as you can, you establish a healthy balance between doing for others and doing for you.
Avoid both extremes
Of course, not everyone unbalanced is unbalanced in that way. Some go to the other extreme, focusing so much on themselves that they give little if any thought to others. And they structure their lives accordingly. Just chronicle the activities they regularly embrace in their day, and their excessive focus on themselves becomes obviously apparent.
It’s really easy for singles to fall into this practice, especially if they don’t have any children. And avoiding that practice certainly isn’t helped by living in a pandemic requiring social distancing and sequestering. The healthy focus on caring for self can be mutated into an unhealthy consumption of self.
The solution here is the same. Follow after your bliss and help others you encounter along that path. This approach will help you establish a healthy balance between doing for others and doing for you.
In all our efforts to achieve that healthy balance, we should remember that what constitutes a healthy balance for one person may not be that healthy for another. While we all have the same basic needs, the amounts we need to satisfy those needs can differ greatly.
Pandemic may have changed the landscape, but it has not changed our ability to thrive. When we change our thinking to match the landscape in our lives, we allow ourselves to meet better our current challenges, whatever they might be.
So take a step back and evaluate how you’ve structured your life. How much do you give to others? And how much do you give to yourself? Others matter, yes. But you matter too. Those who know their proper balance between caring for others and caring for themselves set themselves up for success. Pandemic or no, they will thrive on the road to their best life. And that will bring them more joy in their journey.
The meeting promptly ended. With that connection suddenly cut, I felt the loneliness of spiritual vacuum. “What a great ending to my Sabbath,” I sarcastically remarked to myself.
That episode got me pondering, as my life events frequently do. The answer for spiritual emptiness is to keep reaching after the light, even when confronted with the blackest of darkness. That’s also the answer for emptiness in every other part of life, which is too short for you not to follow your bliss.
In reaching after light to combat the Zoom bomb darkness, I opened The Book of Mormon. There I found this great verse: “And it came to pass that the high priest said unto him: Why do ye go about perverting the ways of the Lord? Why do ye teach this people that there shall be no Christ, to interrupt their rejoicings?” (Alma 30:22, emphasis added).
This is an interrogation of anti-Christ Korihor, who later appeared before Alma, the high priest of the Church. Note the repeated use of that word rejoicing in Alma’s rebuke: “And now, if we do not receive anything for our labors in the church, what doth it profit us to labor in the church save it were to declare the truth, that we may have rejoicings in the joy of our brethren?” (Alma 30:34, emphasis added).
Alma knew what brought rejoicing to his spirit. He rejoiced in maintaining himself within and helping others along the covenant path. And he refused to alter his course. He was determined in his spirit to follow his bliss.
Always do something
We too can follow our bliss, and not just for our spirits but also for our hearts, minds, and bodies. For example, depending on who you’re hearing, 60-80% of all Americans are dissatisfied with their jobs. Clearly many are not following their bliss.
It’s no wonder when you consider the role of habit. We’re biologically hardwired to have a habit. And for many, that habit is to list wherever the waves of life carry them, often away from their bliss. So many are mindlessly marching in a routine routing them to and through a life of mediocrity.
If that describes you, you can break free. You can live your best life, a life of contribution, fulfillment, and meaning. Life is short. Don’t waste it working some job just to pay the bills. Make your move towards making your mark in a job you love! Start moving towards your best life!
“But with massive unemployment from the pandemic,” some of you complain, “it’s harder than ever to find new work.” I’m not advocating stupidity. Keep your job paying the bills until you can upgrade. Just don’t stagnate. Do something every day to move closer to your dreams and goals. Life is short. Follow your bliss.
Keep the faith
That goes for every area of life. If you don’t like your lack of education or a certain skill, change it. If you don’t like your romantic situation, change it. If you don’t like your friends, change that. Quit running through life on autopilot. Life is short. Start using your agency and make the changes you need to follow your bliss.
Of course, when you correctly understand them, your covenants will never obstruct you from following your bliss. If you think they do, then what you think is your bliss really isn’t. The sacred covenants we make at baptism and in the temple will never keep you from your bliss but instead sharpen your focus in following your true bliss.
So keep on keeping your covenants, and within that framework, make the changes you need to follow your bliss. Life is short. Don’t let anything, whether it be little lies excusing you from moving closer to your dreams and goals or big life events like COVID-19, stop you from living your best life. Follow your bliss. When you do, you’ll exercise the power of agency you’ve always had within you. And that will bring you more joy in your journey.
That said, many of us are still taxing ourselves. We are by nature social creatures, so it’s natural to respond to a crisis by nearing ourselves to others. Yet the current crisis keeps many of us physically apart. And without some plan to provide for needs, that separation is taxing many beyond their capacity.
Focus on ability
We’ve discussed before the basic areas of life, what I call the spirit, the heart, the mind, and the body. Regardless of the names you employ, these areas each have their own needs, which will tax anyone’s reserves when left unmet. And the faith that optimistically inspires us to see beyond the current crisis can guide us to solutions amidst the current crisis.
We achieve that result in large measure by answering this question: “What can I do?” Too many of us, yearning for a return to normal, seek after what we’d like to do had the pandemic not turned the world upside down. But that thinking won’t help us thrive in our new world. We must adapt or die. To thrive in a new reality, we must change our thinking to match the landscape.
For example, before the pandemic hit, I was investigating exercise options. Then the pandemic eliminated the gym as an option. But instead of wallowing in my inability, which would just lead me to inaction and its attendant reality lacking results, I focused on answering “What can I do?” That question led me to using my own body weight for strength training and walking in my neighborhood for cardio. That combined with changes in diet have led to my first real weight loss success in a long time.
Get your plan
In like manner, we can ask “What can I do?” to address any need in life. By focusing our attention on what we can do, we empower ourselves not only to conquer the challenges before us but to do so with a smile-laden gusto. We really can have joy in life regardless of our circumstances.
That power to transcend our troubles resides in agency, God’s gift made meaningful by Jesus Christ. His Atonement makes it possible to triumph over sin and death, obstacles that separate us from God. Without that Atonement, our overcoming any obstacle in this world would have no meaning. We would all unavoidably perish (Alma 34:9).
Of course, such a key component in our eternity did not come about by chance. It was part of a plan provided before this world was. What we see now created temporally God first created spiritually (Moses 3:5). Following that example as we answer the question “What can I do?” will lead us to the plans we need to meet our needs during the coming months.
Rise above the challenge
With so much unknown at present about coronavirus, we can expect the current situation of sequestering and social distancing to last at least through summer. Do you have the plans and the means in place to meet your own needs during that time?
When you fail to plan, you plan to fail. But you don’t have to fail. You have a choice. You have power within that choice to change your attitude and how you think. And when you change how you think, you change your life. You can feel real joy regardless of what negative or pessimistic circumstances surround you.
Don’t tax yourself by failing to plan appropriately for your changed landscape. Ask yourself, “What can I do?” and then partner with the Lord as you answer that question. Those answers can structure a plan for meeting your needs for as long as the crisis lasts. The storm of pandemic may rage on the outside, but you can live with faith, optimism, and confidence on the inside. And that will bring you more joy in your journey.
Part of what enabled him to do this is the Restoration’s fulfillment of the hopes of ancient prophets and saints. They looked forward to the Restoration as a time when all gospel blessings would be enjoined together. Indeed, we who live today have the glorious blessing of the fulness of the Lord’s gospel. And those fruits can enable us to have a perfect brightness of hope for ourselves, our world, and our future.
See the blessings
Elder Holland begins with a list of what he would be looking for in religion were he living in 1820. He and his wife imagined themselves transported back in time with the same spiritual longings that many of the world’s inhabitants have possessed throughout time.
Elder’s Holland’s list provides a wonderful review of the glorious truths restored to humanity — the true nature and character of God, a clearer understanding of God’s plan for His children and especially the role of the Savior in that plan, an additional scriptural witness that enhances one’s understanding of the Lord’s life and ministry, and true priesthood authority to dispense every ordinance required for salvation and exaltation.
Elder Holland saved the crowning blessing for last. In his own words, he would have searched
Indeed, the blessings which the temple extends to bind the living and the dead across eternity truly crown the joy which living the restored gospel offers. As Elder Holland declared,
Elder Holland then directs our attention towards the future. The fulfillment of the hope of ancient prophets and saints for their future can give us hope for the fulfillment of blessings in our future.
Conquering the COVID-19 crisis is perhaps the most immediate of those hopes for the world. But once we overcome that challenge — and Elder Holland assures we will — other challenges will remain, such as hunger, poverty, safer schools, and the eradication of prejudice. And of course, truly conquering those physical challenges will require the adoption of spiritual solutions, what Elder Holland called
Elder Holland then gets deeply personal, and here is where he packs his best punch.
Isn’t that what we all hope for? Many LDS singles hope for a more perfect life, yet marriage never made anyone’s life suddenly perfect. You simply exchange one set of challenges for another.
That said, the hope that marriage can improve one’s life is not unrealistic, especially if one (to borrow a phrase from President Oaks) “marries right.” We LDS singles, no matter our individual circumstances, can and should hope for the achievement of righteous blessings, not only even when that fulfillment seems impossible but especially when that fulfillment seems impossible.
Feel the hope
I suppose that’s why this Conference address touched me. I’m in my mid-40s having never been married. What hope do I have not just of finding the right type of person who would want to marry me but also of having a family of my own, not just one I inherit from a now severed relationship?
I think Elder Holland would say I have every reason to hope. And so do you. The God who has performed miracles in the past can and will perform miracles in our present and our future. I echo with Elder Holland the message of a returned sister missionary in Johannesburg: “[We] did not come this far only to come this far.” Great and glorious blessings await each of us as we stand firm in our faith and continually choose hope over despair.
Truly, the Restoration has blessed us all. The hope of past believers fulfilled gives us hope our present desires for righteous blessings will not be in vain. Choose that faith over fear. Choose that hope over despair. When we walk in the perfect brightness of that hope, we’ll progress towards our best life. And that will bring us more joy in our journey.
But you can still own your life. You can still take responsibility for yourself and the results you have in your life. And today is the perfect opportunity to do just that because today is April Fool’s Day. Now, I’ll admit social distancing and sequestering have radically changed the landscape. But a change in landscape should never signal us to surrender positive energy. Now more than ever we should be always up for fun.
Change your habits of thinking
Many people don’t associate staying at home with fun. They think about going out to restaurants, stores, malls, parks, concert venues, and the like. Many of us approach April Fool’s Day the same way, conjuring images of practical jokes played on people and often in front of other people.
But that was yesterday. Today the landscape is different. We need to practice social distancing and sequester ourselves in our homes as much as possible. And those who refuse to change their thinking to match this new landscape will experience untold and unnecessary hardship.
Long time listeners to this program are familiar with these principles in relation to helping LDS singles find joy regardless of their circumstances. For example, many singles who leave YSA land without getting married experience a difficult transition into SA world. Some don’t even transition; they go inactive or leave the Church altogether.
That’s because their YSA thinking doesn’t match the new SA landscape, and they simply respond to their biological hardwiring which encourages them to maintain the status quo. They keep thinking the same way, and that just leads them to leave. But if these singes would change their thinking to match their new landscape, they could experience a greater amount of joy despite their circumstances.
Look for opportunity
We can begin to capture much of the joy we’ve been missing by owning our lives and looking for the opportunity amidst the obstacle. I demonstrated that attitude this morning in my Daily Dose video. Is it cheesy and silly? Absolutely. And that’s OK, because I refused to let my current situation keep me from having a spot of fun.
You too can refuse to allow your current situation to keep you from experiencing joy amidst adversity. You can still celebrate April Fools Day. Will it be the same? Of course not. But joy is still joy, no matter how it comes.
Own your life
Presented with this knowledge, each of us now confronts this question: Will you own your life? Or put another way, will you take responsibility for the results you experience in your life? Will you refuse to allow your circumstances to dictate your attitude and perspective?
I choose to own my life. My circumstances will be what they will be, but they will never dictate my choices. I choose to live with intention, not on autopilot. I choose to produce more than I consume, not just consume. I choose phenomenal, not mediocre. I choose life, not death. I choose faith, not fear. I choose hope, not despair. I choose love, not hate. I choose joy, not sorrow.
And so can you. Decide today you will own your life. Decide that no matter your circumstances you will be always up for fun. Then follow through with that decision by taking advantage however you can of the moments for fun that come your way. 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 and podcast 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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