These ideas represent important aspects in the journey toward your best life. In fact, we might even say they form a three-step sequential process for navigating the very heart of that journey. It's time to commit to excellence.
Decide what you want
First, you must decide what you want. This seems obvious, but so many simply don't execute here. They simply march ahead in ignorance.
The first of Stephen Covey's seven habits of highly effective people is to begin with the end in mind. Implicit in such a beginning is clearly delineating what your desired outcome is and is not. After all, it's hard to hit a target when you don't know what it is. And if you can't spell it out clearly, then you simply don't know what it is.
Start by writing what you think your best life is, and then step outside yourself and consider whether a stranger would know exactly what you want simply by reading what you wrote. Writing is a perfect tool for this exercise because writing is great for aiding self-reflection.
And the process of writing a clear definition of what you want — what your best life is — allows you to see what you really do and don't know. And it provides an opportunity to clarify when you see you don't know. What does your best life look like, sound like, smell like, taste like, and feel like? Clarity brings power, so get crystal clear on your destination.
Know why you want it
With that clarity, you're ready for the next step. You must understand why you want what you want. And that's perhaps more important than just knowing what you want.
Of course, you have to know what you want before you can address why you want it. But simply knowing what you want is insufficient. For most things worth having (such as your best life), you must pay a price by overcoming obstacles and conquering challenges. Your best life won't come easy, and simply knowing your what won't give you the motivation you need to push through. Knowing your why will.
Again, clarity is power. The more clear you can get on your why, the more power you can obtain to push through when the going gets tough. It also allows for self-reflection. Contemplating the real reason you want something, you might see an easier or more effective means of satisfying that desire or even see it's not worth desiring at all.
Commit yourself to excellence
Once you're clear on your what and your why, the road to your best life should also be clear, at least for the first few steps. All that remains is execution. You must take those next few steps.
But it's not enough simply to go through the motions of doing what needs getting done. To progress towards your best life, you must travel that road well. Otherwise, you'll become disoriented.
It's something like the Liahona. Lehi and his family knew their destination, but when they waned in their commitments, their compass wouldn't point the way, and they quickly became lost. Only when they repented and reoriented themselves to their commitments did their progress resume.
Once you know your what and your why, you too must orient yourself to a commitment to excellence in all you do as you journey to your best life. You can't do anything half baked, because it's your best life, not your half-baked life. It's that commitment to do everything — even the little, seemingly unimportant tasks — with excellence that helps to create your best life.
The road to your best life will never be easy, and it was never meant to be. But when you decide what you want, know clearly why you want it, and then commit yourself to excellence in literally everything you do, you'll not only put yourself on the road to your best life, but you'll make progress towards it as well. And that will bring you more joy in your journey.
But an OK life never rises above mediocrity and won't ever be great or phenomenal. Most settle for mediocrity, but you don't have to accept an OK life. You can be phenomenal. You can live your best life.
To realize the reality you want to have outside of you, you must do the work to change what's inside of you. So stop waiting and start working. Your best life awaits you.
Most people have a limited life because they have limited thinking based on limiting assumptions. And because of how we're all biologically hardwired to operate, those assumptions lead to habits producing the same results most mediocre lives have.
Do you believe you're the victim of choices others make? Do you believe you just aren't good enough to live your dreams? Do you believe your best days are behind you? Do you believe your happiness depends on what happens outside yourself? If so, you're likely not in control of life. Rather, life is in control of you.
But just as you can choose thinking that limits you, you can choose thinking that empowers you. You really can turn your life around because you are a child of the Creator of the universe endowed with His unlimited potential and the wondrous gift of agency. You can and do choose for yourself.
So you can choose to accept responsibility for the choices you've made that have brought you the life you have now. When you do, you begin to own your life. And that's when everything can begin to change for you. You can further that change by deciding what you want, knowing clearly why you want it, and then committing yourself to excellence in literally everything you do.
Get good with you
You need that foundation to effect the changes you want to see outside yourself. Too many people (who usually live limited mediocre lives) think their lives will improve when their external circumstances do. They work directly on external changes, but that's all backwards. To change your life on the outside, you must first change your life on the inside.
That means you must get good with you. You must dig deep enough inside of you to uncover the true root of your problem, the seeds of mediocre thinking sprouting into the mediocre habits producing your mediocre life. You must learn how you were biologically designed to function so you can leverage it instead of continually fighting against it.
We all broadcast an energy to others, and what you have inside determines the quality of that energy. To broadcast an attractive energy, what's inside of you must be attractive. Stop trying to escape singles life and start embracing it and making the most of it. Love yourself but also commit to doing whatever it takes to better yourself. Achieving that balance is the essence of obtaining your best life.
Keep after it
Pursuing that balance won't be easy, because challenges will always threaten your desired transformation. That's why you must continually refresh your thinking and your determination to keep after it.
Believe your best is yet to come, that the blessings you want are real and yours. Let go of trying to manage every detail and just enjoy the ride. Live in the moment, live with intention, and live in possibility while you work for probability. It's balancing the fantastic with the practical.
And the best way I've found to do that is practicing a ridiculous, sickening work ethic. The grind is amply named, and you need to do it every day. Use your agency to choose to keep after it. Never quit. Never surrender. Never stop until you win.
Most people live mediocre lives centered on satisfaction of self because that's what they choose. Those who live phenomenal lives centered on contribution to others have their best life because that's what they choose. Your best life awaits you. When you choose to take control of your life, get good with you, and keep after it, you too can live the phenomenal life that is your best life. And that will bring you more joy in your journey.
Of course, Nephi is a key clue indicating direct applicability to singles. After all, Nephi was a stud of a single adult. Many of the epic faith-promoting stories about him — "I will go and do," for instance, or retrieving the plates from Jerusalem, or the vision of the tree of life — were realized while Nephi was a faithful single adult.
What inspiration has lit the world from that valiant example! We LDS singles can foster a similar influence for good if we will do as Nephi did and look to the Savior.
Look to Him
That's exactly where Elder McCune's remarks went. Addressing the general Church membership and not just the singles, Elder McCune admonishes all of us to exercise faith despite our challenges. As we look to the Savior in those moments, we can feel the love and peace only He can offer.
Elder McCune shares a family experience after his son encountered a life-threatening accident to his brain. In an almost empty hospital, all Elder McCune and his family could do was kneel and pour out their hearts to God. "In the midst of this confusing and painful moment," Elder McCune recounts, "we were filled with our Heavenly Father’s love and peace."
Elder McCune continues,
Many LDS singles sometimes wonder whether the challenges of singles life will ever end. To those with such thoughts, I invite you to look to the Savior and walk in faith.
Follow His servants
Walking by faith isn't easy. Especially in these times when the pandemic has turned the world upside down, many seem intent on walking in fear. We who have the light of the gospel can inspire faith with a focus on the Savior. And we LDS singles can play that part in our day just as Nephi did in his.
Already in my new calling, I've participated in discussions regarding the return to weekly Sunday church services. Many of the Saints have concerns — and rightly so — about the risks of infection. Yet the Brethren have asked local leaders to accelerate the return to regular worship services.
Keep in mind the Church is greatly exceeding what local state and county officials recommend. Yet even with that, many members resist the idea of meeting together. Far be it from me to judge others in these trying times. I certainly don't blame anyone for wanting to stay away.
Yet I would invite these same people I hesitate to judge to look to the Savior and follow His servants in faith. Elder McCune spoke of the support we can find in focusing on and following the Savior.
Nephi was able to do difficult things because he focused on the Savior and walked in faith. As we focus on the Savior and walk in faith, so can we.
Walk in faith
Elder McCune concluded his remarks by addressing the enticements some may experience to leave the spiritual safety of the Church. He first mentions loved ones "who are questioning truth." We don't want to abandon the gospel but also don't want our families torn apart.
I can't really speak from personal experience here, but I do like how Elder McCune responded. He advocated looking to the Savior and remaining faithful to Him and His gospel. It's hard to lift someone to higher ground from below. As Elder McCune declared, "If our true desire is to rescue those we love, we ourselves must stay firmly with Christ by embracing His Church and the fulness of His gospel."
He then addressed those who think we don't really need the Church.
I too bear witness that we singles Latter-day Saints can do difficult things when we look to the Savior, focus on following Him, and walk in faith. It's not easy, but it was never meant to be, because it was meant to be worthwhile. When we look to Him, the Savior's peace and love can fill our souls. And that will bring us more joy in our journey.
A new calling
I actually had both of those events happen in the past few days. The new calling came on Sunday. When the stake president texted me to request a meeting, I knew it was about a calling. I just didn't know what calling.
I learned soon enough amidst a mixture of surprise and overwhelm. I expected a calling working with the singles. That just makes sense for a man in my position. But the calling extended to me was totally different. I was called to be the new stake executive secretary.
That the Lord would want me in such a position truly baffles me. Am I the one who should be joining meetings of the stake president with his counselors and meetings of the high council and such not as a participant, mind you, but as an equal contributor? I just never really thought of myself in that way, and so this new calling feels a little intimidating.
But I accepted the calling because I know the Lord governs His Church through revelation. I responded by walking in faith the Lord will support me. In so doing, I have committed to move ever forward.
A worsening condition
If news of a new calling is a blessing, this one wasn't meant to last very long. Later that night I began to feel stomach pain. At the time, it felt like I had just eaten something bad. I wasn't sure what that could have been, but I wasn't overly concerned as I laid myself down to sleep.
A couple of hours later I awoke to an even more intense pain. The pain wasn't so large it debilitated me, but it was large enough to keep me awake. Try as I might, I couldn't get back to sleep.
Tired from a night of almost no sleep, I went to see the doctor first thing in the morning. Considering my previous visit after a near miss of a heart attack, the doctor reaffirmed the earlier diagnosis and extended it to include the possibility of an ulcer.
Actually, it was more of a probability than a possibility; left untreated, my condition would certainly worsen. The pain I experienced was most likely created from bacteria that precedes most ulcers eating away at the wall of my stomach. We can't be sure until the test results come back in.
But we can be sure walking by faith is once more the best response. I have a contribution to make, and I'm not going to quit what the Lord gave me to fulfill because of any medical diagnosis. Certainly the one I received concerns me greatly. But I am determined to walk in faith the Lord will support me. In so doing, I have committed to move ever forward.
A determined response
Life will always bring its ups and downs, but we can live with confidence when we walk in faith. My decision to walk by faith hasn't lessened the overwhelm I feel in my new calling or the concern I feel in my unfolding medical condition. I still have those challenges.
But the point of walking by faith is not to remove our challenges. The point of walking by faith is to strengthen our dependency upon God to see us through whatever life may bring us — all of the ups and all of the downs. With Him, nothing is impossible.
Whatever challenge confronts you right now, I invite you to join me in the response I have given and will continue to give to my challenges. Commit to moving ever forward. Your progress may be slow or perhaps so small that it doesn't really look like progress at all. But by placing your trust in the Lord and walking in faith, you can, in the due time of the Lord, overcome any challenge placed before you. And that will bring you more joy in your journey.
Yet far too many of us LDS singles choose bondage. We choose to keep habits of thinking that hold us back. We choose habits of seeing the obstacles instead of the opportunities. We choose habits of living under the oppression of a victim mentality instead of the liberation of a victor mentality. We are in many ways our own worst obstacle. If only we could get out of our own way!
And that’s the irony of it all. We can get out of our own way. We can break free from the bondage of a lesser life because we are free to choose for ourselves. We simply need to make the right choices.
Don’t discount your gift
I know some of you are scoffing at that idea right now. You’re thinking your freedom isn’t like a light switch you just turn on and off at will. Real life, you’re thinking, isn’t like that. There’s so much affecting your life you don’t control.
I used to think that way, back when I didn’t enjoy my life. What I couldn’t see then that I clearly see now is how my choices in how to think brought me the reality I was living. The way of thinking I embraced in those days discounted my gift of agency.
I didn’t see how my habitual choice to focus on the negative created the negative energy I broadcast to others around me. I didn’t see how my habitual choice to look constantly at my obstacles prevented me from seeing my opportunities. I didn’t see how my habitual choice to embrace a victim mentality kept me from living a life of victory.
The truth is your focus determines your reality. When you focus on the negative, you have a negative reality. When you focus on the positive, you have a positive reality. Because you choose your focus, you also choose your reality.
Choose your habits
And here’s more truth: Most of your choices you don’t make consciously. Rather you choose out of habit.
About 97% of everything you do on a day-to-day basis is simply a habit playing itself out. Habits don’t require you to think about what you do when you do it. You can, but you don’t have to. That’s the beauty of habits. They automate sequences of action so you can actually live life.
But your best life is a life lived by intention, one you consciously choose. Because you choose habitually 97% of the time, you choose consciously only 3% of the time. That suggests you can’t live your best life, but you can because you choose your habits.
When you understand how habit works and then make conscious choices to embrace more effective habits — especially in how you think — you really can choose your life because you choose the elements that together create the life you have.
Own your life
The moment I realized that truth was a pivotal turning point in my life when everything changed for me. I had a life I didn’t want because I chose the elements that combined according to natural law to create the reality I had. And it all came back to how I chose to think.
Sure, those choices were by and large habitual. But I chose my habits. In the very least, by choosing not to improve an existing habit, I by default chose not to embrace a better one.
That moment when I consciously chose to own my life turned everything around for me. That’s because I started making choices that were more conducive to the reality I wanted. And that’s a choice you can make as well because you have the same gift of agency.
Don’t depreciate that gift. Choose to own your life. Choose to break yourself free of the habits of thinking producing a reality you don’t want. You don’t have to live that way. You don’t have to settle. When you learn how to leverage your gift of agency to your advantage, you can live a phenomenal life, irrespective of the choices others make. You can make your life extraordinary. 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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