Flip it around
LDS singles are rife with boxes. We have your YSA and your SA, your midsingles, your senior singles, and your in-between singles. Whatever happened to coming together and being one?
It went the way of the dinosaur because singles groups are perceived to be about finding an eternal companion. The larger LDS culture centered on being married with kids drives that perception of singles groups. No wonder so many LDS singles who want to fit into the larger culture view singles life as something to escape.
And no wonder so many LDS singles find LDS singles life so challenging. People respond not to reality but to their perception of reality. If we see singles life as something undesirable, then we won’t want it. We’ll run away from it. Additionally, our focus determines our reality. So if we’re focused on how undesirable our situation is, then our reality will be undesirable.
But we can flip that around. If we can perceive the good and indeed the pure joy to be found in singles life, then we respond differently. We see something desirable, something we run towards and not away from. And when we make that our focus, then our reality becomes something desirable in itself.
Start inside you
Of course, all of this becomes much easier to do when the people around us are acting in ways that encourage us to focus on the right perceptions. That’s why we all need to say enough with the boxes. It’s much easier to be united when everyone around us has the mentality of truly coming together and being united.
And it all starts inside each one of us. We need to exemplify to others how they should be. Otherwise, they’ll just keep on keeping on with their habits of thinking that make life harder for everyone.
I’ve discussed previously the three main perspectives that LDS singles take with singles groups:
How does that happen? First, you must get leadership on board. They must perceive your singles group as a support community and not a dating forum or activity club. Once they have that vision, singles leadership must communicate that vision to the other singles. They do that by overtly talking about it and practicing it. And it’s truly beautiful to behold when you can get this going.
Throw your boxes away
Again, the biggest obstacle will be the propensity to put people and even programs into boxes. “Singles groups are just about giving singles a place to congregate,” say some. “They’re on their own for anything more.” Such persons relegate singles groups into a box in which a true support community doesn’t fit.
If we truly believe in singles groups as support communities, we’ll throw our boxes away. So what if the midsingles and senior singles have different interests? Do we really have to have the same interests to support each other?
Adopting the support community perspective means changing ourselves fundamentally within. It means laying aside our own agendas so we can serve and truly give of ourselves to others. It means forgoing the pursuit of our own needs as we surrender ourselves to love and the pursuit of meeting the needs of others. The miracle is that doing this actually ends up meeting our needs in the end.
Enough with the boxes! When we all have that same perspective, we can transform our singles groups into true communities of support because we will have discarded the perspectives that blind us to the needs of others. We can come together and truly love one another. And that will bring us more joy in our journey.
Get on the learning train
We’ve discussed before the need to quit life on autopilot and live life intentionally. Refusing to break out of the same old routines will keep your life in that same old routine. To have something you never had, you have to do something you never did.
That’s where learning a new skill can help you live your best life. Doing something new intentionally breaks you out of the same old routine. You’re reaching for a new experience you can use to help make a new life — your best life!
As we’ve already mentioned, to have your best life, you need other people. When you learn something new, you have something you can use to involve those other people in your life and influence them to decide in your favor.
Imagine two people, one who’s content with staying the same and another who’s busy learning a new skill. Who do you want to get to know more about? Certainly not the one content with staying the same. That person will just influence you to stay the same, and that means not living your best life. However, the one busy learning a new skill offers hope that life can be better than what it has been, that the changes you want to have your best life are possible.
Including learning something new in your conversations with other people will not only give you something interesting to talk about but also makes you more interesting to others, enabling you to forge more effective connections with them that will influence them to decide in your favor. Learning something new in a class environment can also be the means for meeting the new people you need to have your best life.
Select your skill
What new skill should you learn? With no limit on what you could choose, the options are endless. But the best skill you can learn is always the one you need to learn right now.
This is where partnering with the Lord comes in. He can help you understand what you should do. We’ve discussed before how the Lord is anxious to assist us as we journey towards our best life.
That said, He may see wisdom in letting you decide for yourself. In that event, just follow your heart. What have you always wanted to do? Perhaps it’s to play a musical instrument. Or maybe you want to speak a foreign language. Maybe you want to have more confidence in conversations. Perhaps you’d like to learn how to cook something new. Or maybe it’s to draw or swim or sew. Select something you want to try and go for it!
Get after it now
Once you’ve made your choice, don’t delay! Start today! Start right now to do something that will move you in that direction of learning your new skill.
Starting now, even if your action is minuscule, sets you up for success. Results come from one thing and one thing only — action. So when you delay taking action, you delay receiving results. The more you do that, the easier it gets to delay more and more.
But when you take action, no matter how small, you set yourself on the path of action. That makes it easier for you to take more action. The more you do that, the easier it gets to take more and more action, until at last you have your results.
So don’t wait. Try something new today. You’ll get out of life on autopilot and embrace the enthusiasm and vigor from living with intention. You’ll be better able to influence for good other people in your life as well as to bring into your life those others who you need for your best life. And that will bring you more joy in your journey.
Of the 15 times he used the words repent or repentance, President Nelson also used the word daily with five of those references. Go back and look if you don’t believe me. One out of every three occurrences is not insignificant. This use of the word daily caught my attention. And in my subsequent pondering, I’ve gained a new understanding and appreciation of repentance. I’ve come to see we really do need to do it daily.
Set the stage
I confess a part of my pondering includes a book from my Sunday afternoon reading — The Infinite Atonement by Tad Callister. As I started reading the book, it became very clear to me Elder Callister didn’t write this book quickly. His final product obviously evidences extensive research, consultation with others, and much revision.
Combining this text with President Nelson’s remarks has proved powerful for me. Elder Callister presents repentance as God’s plan for our self-improvement. The Atonement is not just about making us clean from impurity but also about improving us into something more than we were before, and repentance is how we access that power.
If repentance is how we walk God’s road to self-improvement, how we become more than what we are now, then why would we not want that every day? In that regard, President Nelson’s use of the word daily in connection with repentance seems very natural. Said he,
Let’s all follow the Prophet by doing and being a little better every day.
President Nelson spoke of specific areas in which priesthood holders can seek to improve. These included how we dress and groom our bodies and “how we honor the women in our lives.”
But President Nelson said in that regard, “Take an inventory of how you spend your time and where you devote your energy. That will tell you where your heart is.” Although the Prophet applied this idea to a specific application, I think we could apply it equally to any area of improvement we need in our lives.
Do you remember what we discussed a month ago directly following Conference? We focused on Sister Craven’s remarks about being careful as opposed to being casual. Sister Craven spoke principally of our covenants and the spiritual aspect of our lives. I expanded that focus to include every part of our lives. We get from anything what we give to it. We can’t expect quality results when we give casual attention. To get quality, we must give careful attention.
That’s where President Nelson’s remarks take center stage. We don’t need to be perfect all at once. We just need to do a little better today than we did yesterday. And it’s imperative that we do so, because President Nelson declared,
The good news is that we can all start today to turn our lives around. We each can identify one thing we will do today to be a little better than we were yesterday. It’s in doing the small but appropriate things consistently every day that we achieve tremendous results in anything.
Then at the end of the day, we can ask ourselves, “Did I do a little better today than I did yesterday? Am I a little better today than I was yesterday?” If we can answer “Yes” to those questions, we are on the road of repentance. And that road leads to the covenant path that will take us to our heavenly home.
Let us all follow the Prophet. Let each one of us repent and do it daily. As we do better the little things we need to improve, we will be better in whatever role we have in our lives. We’ll be happier people, and our influence for good in the lives of others will be more effective. And that will bring us more joy in our journey.
We need a new culture
Like it or not, many Latter-day Saints consider being married with kids as the definition of acceptance within their culture. And since we all want to belong, many LDS singles strive to obtain that mark of belonging. So if you define motherhood to require the bearing of children, then you’re limiting your window within which you will feel accepted.
Clearly, the results observed respecting this issue go back to how people think. If only we could all adopt a new culture that grants acceptance from doing one’s best to make and keep every sacred covenant that one can, we wouldn’t be hearing from the single ladies who are really complaining about how they don’t fit in under the guise of complaining about whatever presentation they saw in church.
That’s easier said than done, but no single woman need wait for the culture to change in order to change the way she thinks about what it means to be a mother. In fact, we should all change how we think about that because we are biologically hardwired to get our sense of normal from the people around us. Single women can more easily adopt a more effective definition of mother when everyone around them does the same.
We need a new definition
And what is this new definition of motherhood everyone should adopt? Being a mother simply means consistently recognizing and then meeting needs in others. That’s something every woman can do, whether single or married.
Think about it in terms of your own mother. If you’re like me and were blessed to have a mother who loved you and always worked every day to show she cared, isn’t that what we best remember about our mothers? Isn’t that what we most treasure about the memories of our mothers, that this woman consistently recognized our needs and worked to satisfy them?
Now if you didn’t have a mother like I had, I’m sorry, but you should still be able to see the point. You don’t need to give birth to children to recognize a need within them and then work to satisfy it. And women are uniquely endowed with a natural ability to do just that, whether or not they’ve given birth to children or not.
We need a new approach
It’s high time we all embraced a broader approach to motherhood. I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again. Your focus determines your reality. When you focus on what you lack, your reality becomes filled with lack. That breeds discouragement and despair. But when you focus on what you have and on what you can do, your reality becomes filled with possibility and opportunity. That breeds optimism and hope.
Let’s help single women everywhere by defining motherhood in terms of what all women can do and not just those who have given birth to children or even those who are legally responsible for raising children. Let’s define motherhood as consistently recognizing and meeting needs in others. This is a definition that fits all women based on what they can control (their actions) and not what they can’t (their life circumstances).
When we adopt a broader view of motherhood, we make every woman a mother who strives to serve others in ways that meet their needs. We show greater sensitivity towards those whose life circumstances aren’t what they desire. And we better support them in feeling loved and supported themselves. And that will bring us all more joy in our journey.
Take a lesson from a farmer
Many don’t believe that. They assume life is the collection of circumstances outside their control. But that’s why many people aren’t all that happy.
Your focus determines your reality. Because you can choose what you focus on, you can choose your reality. True, most don’t choose their circumstances, but that never stopped anyone who lived joyfully from living joyfully. These people lived their best life because they made different choices with the same circumstances.
Some of us should take a lesson from a farmer. Farmers don’t choose their circumstances. They have the soil and the water that’s available. Their seeds for planting are whatever they are. The weather will be whatever it will be. So much of what’s needful for the harvest is outside their control. Yet with hard work in what they can control, they produce bountiful harvests year after year.
In like manner, we haven’t chosen many of the circumstances of our lives. What we have is what we have, and it’s often all we have. But if we work hard in what we can control, we can produce harvests of truly joyful living year after year. This is what I call your best life.
Embrace what you control
I can hear many of you now. What exactly can we control? Here’s my answer: Standards, attitude, approach.
It starts with standards. You’ll never design your best life without knowing what’s acceptable and what’s not. The best delineations between what you’ll tolerate and what you won’t are made after partnering with the Lord to get good with you. Once you know and accept who you really are and what your personal ministry should be, you can best draw that line between what you’ll accept in your life and what you won’t. The more clear you make that definition, the more able you’ll be to live the life you intend.
Once you know exactly what you want, you need resolve to do whatever it takes to get it (within the realm of covenant living, of course). You need the attitude of the victor and not the victim. That attitude will fire your imagination to design a life you’ll truly enjoy and pull you through to that fulfilling end when the road there gets tough.
Of course, attitude without action will never bring you achievement. To live a life you design, you must take action. Working smart as well as working hard requires attention to one’s approach. Too often we think what we seek must come in one specific way. But much of life is not path-dependent; there’s often more than one road leading to the top of the mountain. And sometimes the road that’s best for us to travel is not the one we expect.
Get clear and get going
With these three elements in place — standards, attitude, and approach — you can decide what you want your life to be and feel the joy that comes from working to make it happen. Usually that means taking small steps every single day to inch yourself closer to the life you dream.
That’s where many of us fall short. We don’t do the little things everyday that can near us to our best life. Then, after a larger block of time has passed, we can’t help but notice we’re left standing on the pier because our ship has long since sailed.
That’s where being clear about your standards, attitude, and approach holds its best value. Once you’re crystal clear on those elements, what you need to do everyday will be obvious. Performing those seemingly small and insignificant actions everyday will collect to create the very significant life you design for yourself.
So what are you waiting for? Get clear, and then get going. None of this happens overnight. But as you move closer to the life you design for yourself, you’ll feel the joy that comes from making progress. 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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