Look ahead and believe
Elder Dube spoke of hastening the work of the Church. But I think there is a lesson in there for many of us singles about being single.
Many of us singles have some discouraging life experiences. You were never considered “good enough” and so never married. Or maybe you were married but not anymore after a painful divorce. Or perhaps you endured the bitterness of a spouse’s death. I could go on, but I think you get the idea.
The adversary wants us to keep looking back. We may be reliving negative moments in our lives, or we might be congratulating ourselves on some former accomplishment. Either way, we’re not looking forward at we have yet to do.
But how do you do that? How do you keep looking forward when the past keeps tugging at you? People all handle the same challenges differently. But the most successful people have some common traits in their approach.
Faith is about the future
Of course, looking ahead to the future requires a good measure of belief. You must believe that your future — and note that I said your future and not just the future — can actually be better than your past.
It is one thing to believe that the future in general can be different than the past. It is quite another to personalize it and to believe that your future can be different than your past.
Elder Dube touched on this pointed when he quoted Elder Holland:
The past is to be learned from but not lived in. We look back to claim the embers from glowing experiences but not the ashes. And when we have learned what we need to learn and have brought with us the best that we have experienced, then we look ahead and remember that faith is always pointed toward the future.
Because God has given you agency, you can choose today differently than you did yesterday. Own your life, make conscious choices, and you can have a brighter tomorrow.
Watch the self-talk
One of the most important choices you can make today is to watch the messages that you receive, particularly the ones that you give yourself. Again, it’s natural for people to wallow in the mire. But that naturally results in people staying in the mire.
You will find it hard to imagine what a brighter tomorrow would look like if you have been reminding yourself of all your imperfections and all the other reasons why you cannot succeed. Belief becomes easier when you constantly receive messages that encourage belief.
So make conscious choices to immerse yourself in positivity. You are your best source of positive reinforcement. You can conscious choose to give yourself messages of encouragement and faith that keep your focus on the brighter tomorrow that God wants you to have.
What are the messages you give yourself? If more are negative rather than positive, then review some of my tips for improving your self-talk. Your focus determines your reality, and it’s hard not to focus on something when it constantly surrounds you. If what surrounds you is more negative than positive, guess what you reality will be?
This is what helps me, but if something else works for you, please don’t keep that to yourself. We all have a part to play in the overarching plan of God for the world. Help us keep our gaze forward on what we have yet to do. Leave a comment and share your suggestions with the rest of us.
You are hardwired NOT to think
Because our brains are designed to follow instructions, we store sets of instructions (a.k.a. habits) for our brains to follow. That allows us to do things without having to think about them.
Habits are so useful that we make them for practically everything in our lives. The way you get to and from work, the stores where you shop, where you sit in church on Sunday — we channel just about everything into habits because automating processes makes life easier.
Habits aren't all rosy
But habits have a not so great side. Because your brain is designed not to think but to follow instructions, you will continue to follow instructions regardless of the result. This is why people can get caught in a never-ending cycle of failure.
Many such persons will ask, “What’s wrong with me?” But often there’s nothing wrong with them. They’re just following a set of instructions — exactly what they’re designed to do. The problem often lies in their instructions. Thus, the real question is “What’s wrong with my habits?”
Our habits influence everything — how we think, how we perceive the world around us, and how we interact with others. Many singles remain single because their habits keep them single. We are often our own worst obstacles, and many of us don’t even know it!
You can say you want what you want all you want. Your brain is still hardwired to follow the instructions encoded in your habits. Absent a conscious choice, you will always follow instructions because that’s what you were designed to do. And as long as you think the same way and do the same things, you’ll get the same results.
Old habits die hard
It’s not easy, but you can change. How? You use your God-gifted agency. By making conscious choices, you harness a power that used repeatedly can break old habits and forge new ones.
The trick then is to learn what habits prevent you from having the life you want and then make the conscious choices necessary to replace those bad habits with better ones designed to
lead you to where you want to be. Then you can just let your brain do what it’s designed to do. Your new instructions will set you on your way.
Plus the journey will be way more enjoyable. That’s a pretty sweet bonus.
That’s precisely what my book offers. It details a process to increase awareness of your habits and replace them with better ones designed to lead you to the life you truly want.
Of course, there’s a catch. Actually, there’s two.
1. There’s no one-size-fits-all solution. We’re all unique. I can detail a process, but the answers you get from that process will differ from the answers I get.
2. A single application will not likely solve your problem. You’ll more likely need multiple iterations to bring you to your desired destination.
These stipulations turn a lot of people off. Living in the age of instant everything, they want THE ANSWER delivered on their doorstep overnight.
But nature takes time to go from planting to harvesting. If you want to get out of your rut and get on the path to the life you want while enjoying yourself along the way, and you are willing to take the time necessary to change, then my book is definitely for you.
Great things coming soon
Speaking of my book, my editor (a college professor) has provided some outstanding review comments. But because she agreed to edit my book for free, the busy school season soon adjusted her priorities. That’s completely understandable. Now with the school year closing, I hope to have a finished manuscript by the end of summer.
I’m also working on promotion and distribution. Long story short, I recanted my decade-plus refusal to join Facebook and Twitter. So expect some links with social media.
The Lord is opening the doors, and I’m excited for what the future offers. I hope you will all join me on this journey by commenting on my posts and sharing your ideas with everyone.
Another way to spell FHE
Many LDS singles have access to family home evening (FHE) groups, but many don’t. For them, Monday night can seem like a burdensome reminder of the family they don’t have.
As a single who has spent many years away from home and with no family of my own, I’ve encountered several options for dealing with this issue. But then I came to realize that, while I can't spend Monday night with my family who will come after me, I can spend Monday night with my family who came before me. That's when FHE began to spell Family History Evening.
So much more than names and the temple
When we hear the term family history, we Latter Day Saints tend to think of finding our ancestors and performing temple work in their behalf. This is very important, doctrinally vital work.
Yet family history is so much more.
Family history is ensuring the information we do have is complete and accurate.
Family history is indexing handwritten records to make them more accessible via digital search.
And family history is gathering the stories about our ancestors. Those stories help us to understand who we are and the heritage that those who came before us have left us.
And here’s the best part. You don't need to be married to do any of this.
It's all about the stories
If you take a moment to compare Malachi 4:5-6 with D&C 2:1-3, you see that both talk about turning our hearts (since we’re the children) to our ancestors (aka the fathers). Temple work helps us to do this, but so do gathering the stories about those who came before us.
I don’t feel particularly close to my great grandmother by knowing when she was born. I do feel interested upon knowing that she felt compelled to leave a lantern in the window one night, the same night two “lost” missionaries knocked on her door asking to spend the night in the barn. If you smell a conversion story here, congrats!
More than anything else, it’s the stories that turn the hearts. They help us know who came before us and how they faced their challenges. And knowing that helps us to know who we are and informs the choices that we make in the face of our challenges. It’s the stories that help me to see my ancestors as real people.
Get involved in getting the stories
While I was in college, my parents purchased and moved into a new house. Little did they know that just around the corner lived my great grandfather's brother, who my dad called Uncle Darrel. They soon learned about that when they attended church in their new ward. My father would often visit with Uncle Darrel, and in my visits home I would sometimes accompany him.
My relationship to Uncle Darrel changed when I wanted to know more about my great grandfather. Since my great grandfather was no longer living, I decided to interview Uncle Darrel. Talking about his brother led Uncle Darrel to talk about himself. I soon found that I was collecting the story of his life as well.
But I also found that my feelings for these men began to change. I began to see both of these men as real people. And my heart turned towards them in a way that simply knowing when they were born could never provide.
Uncle Darrel passed away a few years ago. Now my visits to his grave mean something to me.
Make family history a part of you now
By engaging family history while we are single, we prepare ourselves to engage it when (hopefully) we are married and raising families of our own. Education begins at home. That education must include history, and especially family history.
Many singles think that FHE is for people who have families or a singles group. I say you need to own your life. My attitude is to live as much of the restored gospel as I can. That means having FHE even if I am the only one attending.
How well will you prepare the next generation if you fail to pass on the story of where they came from? How else are they to know their legacy and heritage? How can they honor that legacy if they don't know what it is? How will you honor that legacy if you don’t know that story?
If you don't have that story, then seek after it.
Again, you don't need to be married to do any of this. And you don’t need an FHE group to have wonderfully spiritual, family-centered experiences every Monday night. Just use Family History Evening to spell FHE.
(If you don't know where to start, talk to your ward family history consultant, or go online to www.familysearch.org for more information. The online tutorials are especially worthwhile. I also noticed today a family history feature on the homepage for the Church website filled with lots of great info to get you started.)
Watch the self-talk
We all have times when we feel overwhelmed by life. That’s just a part of the ride. Yet some of us are quite frankly overwhelming ourselves. In short, we simply talk ourselves into being overwhelmed.
Singles are especially prone to this effect. How exactly are we overwhelming ourselves? We aren’t watching our self-talk, and so when we get down, we tend to stay down because we keep reminding ourselves how horrible our lives are and even how horrible we ourselves are.
We all tend to believe those messages that we receive repeatedly. That’s the way we are wired as human beings. In fact, we will tend to accept a false message as true if the lie is repeated often enough. Many of us singles wallow in the mire so much that we come to believe the lies we tell ourselves. For example,
“It’s all his/her fault.”
“If only I weren’t so imperfect, I’d be better off.”
“Who would want someone like me?”
Recognize any of these? Maybe you could add to the list. Regardless, I think you get the point. If you constantly tell yourself that you are in the mire, then you will think yourself there whether you are there in reality or not. And the reality is that most of us just aren’t there, no matter what hardship or setback we have experienced.
If you want to rise above your challenges, you need to surround yourself with positive reinforcement. That includes everything in your life, from media to friends and family and especially yourself. Granted some influences you will not be able to remove from your life, like a coworker that just cuts across your grain. But you can provide plenty more positive influences to drown out the negative.
Your best source of positive reinforcement
And guess what your best source of positive reinforcement is? You are. You can make conscious choices to give yourself messages of encouragement and faith that keep your gaze focused on the future and the brighter tomorrow that your Heavenly Father wants you to have.
And you can start today. Reciting scriptures or singing hymns are great options, but they are not your only ones. You can craft your own mantra that you repeat to yourself constantly throughout the day.
Make your own mantra
The best mantra to select is one that addresses your own unique challenge. Then when the challenge rears its ugly head, you can bash it back into place. Let’s use the examples of deprecating self-talk I offered earlier to illustrate how this works.
Instead of saying, “It’s all his/her fault,” you could instead own your life. Accept responsibility for the contribution you made to your failure and work on improving yourself so that you’ll do better next time. Then when reminders of your previous failure come knocking, just beat them back with confident rebuttals based on your actions for moving forward.
Instead of saying, “If only I weren’t so imperfect, I’d be better off,” remind yourself of your strengths and talents — the things that you do well. Remember, your focus determines your reality. So focus on what you have instead of on what you lack. Then your reality will be one of abundance rather than scarcity.
Instead of saying, “I’m worthless,” remind yourself of your divine heritage as a child of God and your commitment to follow the plan He has created for you.
Instead of saying, “Who would want someone like me?” ask yourself instead “Who wouldn’t want someone like me?” Then follow up by reciting to yourself the characteristics that make you a great choice.
Get out of your way
In many ways we are our own worst obstacle. If only we could get out of our own way.
The good news is that we can! It starts by making conscious choices to step outside ourselves so that we can recognize the messages we give ourselves, evaluate those messages, and then make changes where needed. You can be your own best champion. Just make sure that the cheer you give yourself is correct, consistent, and constant.
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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