Some think life would be better if only they had something they don’t now have. They think, I'll be happy when ______ . You can fill in the blank.
For some, that blank is a new job. For others, it’s that dream house. For many singles, it’s marriage. They think, I'll be happy when I get married.
What an awful assumption! Marriage alone will never make you happy. You could have your ideal of the perfect companion and still be miserable. Many have learned this lesson the hard way.
Marrieds can have a similar experience. They can think, I'll be happy when we have a new baby! Or I'll be happy when we can live closer to my parents. Or . . . well, you get the idea.
The true source of happiness
Here’s the problem. When you obsess over anything yet to happen, you focus on the future. Focus too much on the future, and your reality becomes a life lived in the future.
But that’s not where you are. You’re here in the present. This mismatch of living in one place while being in another can result only in confusion and despair.
Here’s another way to look at it. When you assume you must have something to be happy, you prevent yourself from feeling happy so long as you don't have that something. And so long as that continues, failure to acquire that something will leave you feeling trapped.
Free yourself by changing your thinking. Happiness doesn't come from having any sort of status or possession. Happiness comes from bringing your all to the right things.
That means more than just "keeping the standards" or going through the motions. Simply what you do doesn’t produces happiness. It's what you bring to what you do while doing the right things.
For example, we all know church attendance is right. So if simply doing what’s right makes you happy, how come some people at church aren’t happy? Answer: Because just doing what’s right doesn't lead to happiness.
Now consider those attending church intent on making a contribution. Those people are always happy. Why? Because happiness results not just from doing the right things but from what you bring to doing the right things.
The prophet Moroni wrote, "And the church did meet together oft, to fast and to pray, and to speak one with another concerning the welfare of their souls" (Moroni 6:5). They came to church not to play the sponge but rather to make a contribution. I would argue that, even with the Nephite civilization on its last breath, these faithful saints were happy because of what they brought to doing what was right.
Time flies on wings of lightning;
President Monson has taught
We enter mortality not to float with the moving currents of life, but . . . to think, to reason, and to achieve ("An Invitation to Exaltation" Liahona, Aug-Sep 1986).
By making conscious choices, you can live in the here and now instead of in a tomorrow that never comes.
Making conscious choices keeps your focus here in the moment. That’s precisely where your focus belongs. When you keep your focus on a future that never comes, you’re always yearning and never satisfied. When you keep your focus on living in the present moment, your reality becomes matched with the place where you are. When those two are joined, you have access to the true joy of living.
Here’s one of the most important conscious choices you can make. I’ve posted before about the importance of adopting a personal ministry. When you do, you’ll find it easier to stop focusing on an ever-distant future and focus instead on the present moment. And that makes it easier to bring your all to the right things, and thus easier to be happy now.
You don’t need a change in your situation to be happy now. All you need is a change in your thinking.
Don’t sacrifice the joy of today by focusing on a future that always seems elusive. Focus instead on the contribution from your personal ministry that you can make today. You can be happy now if you align your thinking and your actions with the true source of happiness.
Last week I posted about the need for many singles to let go of the preconceived life plan our subculture hands us. This is actually good for everyone, married or single, to do. But how exactly is that done?
In my post last week, I advocated two specific actions: (1) Develop a strong relationship with God, and (2) adopt a personal ministry. Sounds easy enough .... until the rubber hits the road. Again, the question remains. How exactly is that done? And how does that help you to live your best life?
The answer involves the Atonement of Jesus Christ.
Get good with God
Any endeavor needs a strong foundation to support everything that follows. The best foundation for life is a strong relationship with God. So get to know He who designed this mortal experience.
Christ’s Atonement allows a relationship between God and mankind to exist and thrive. But God will force no one to heaven. So you have to show Him you want that relationship. He wants it so much He immediately does His part when you do yours.
How do you go about building that relationship? Well, how do you build any relationship? Through frequent good faith interaction. So how’s your relationship? Do you counsel with God in prayer? Do you regularly visit Him in His house? When did you last repent? You know the list. What frequent good faith interactions do you have with God?
Having that foundational relationship with God is essential. You’ll need it for what follows.
Get good with yourself
Getting good with God involves learning more about the gospel, including the general plan He created for all His children. But there’s also a specific plan He can help you create for your life.
Put another way, getting good with God allows you to counsel with Him as you decide what your life plan should be.
We weren’t put on this planet merely to follow directions. We have agency so we can “do many things of [our] own free will and bring to pass much righteousness” (D&C 58:27). And earlier in that same verse the Lord declares that “men [and women] should be anxiously engaged in a good cause.”
That’s where a personal ministry comes in. A personal ministry lets you live your best life by making the best contribution you can today. That maximizes your attractiveness, and that gives you the best probability that a potential companion will both accept you and be more compatible with you, giving you a better foundation for a better marriage.
It also fulfills the Savior’s instruction to “be anxiously engaged in a good cause.”
How exactly do you know what your personal ministry should be? Start by looking at your talents. Your patriarchal blessing may provide some insight. What are you good at? What do you like doing? How can you use that to contribute positively to your world?
When you have those questions answered, counsel with God regarding your plan. A strong relationship with God lets you best hear and understand His still, small voice. And it lets you best feel His assurance of support when the plan that’s right for you becomes apparent.
Get good with life
Get good with God by developing a strong relationship with Him. Get good with yourself by adopting a personal ministry. Then you’re ready to get good with life. You can better focus on what you can do and stop focusing on what you can’t. You can more easily believe in possibility and align yourself with probability. You’ll start feeling like the world is your oyster. And guess what? It is and always has been.
You don’t have to control every detail of your life. The Atonement can change you. You can let go of the life plan our subculture has handed us and embrace the life plan you create in counsel with God.
The Atonement also helps us to transcend the difficulties of life, whatever they may be, filling us with confidence that God will not abandon us. He did, after all, allow His Only Begotten Son to die for us.
I can’t begin to tell you how pivotal these two actions are for letting go and enjoying life. The more lax I become in either my relationship with God or my personal ministry, the more lost I feel and the more disagreeable life seems. Conversely, the more diligent I am towards both my relationship with God and my personal ministry, the more life seems to fit together. And the more I savor living, despite my single status in a family-centered culture.
Let the Atonement of Jesus Christ transform your life. Strengthen your relationship with God and adopt your personal ministry. Then watch the joys of life unfold for you.
Recently I’ve been contacted by some employers with open positions. I wasn’t expecting their phone calls, but it does feel good to be wanted.
Life has been described as what happens while you’re making other plans. As I think back on my past employment, an element of the unexpected always attended each new position. Trying to plan it out so that everything would work out a certain way would have been pointless. I simply couldn’t see everything that required consideration.
Too many of us approach life trying to arrange things to conform to a certain plan. And because our subculture endorses it, we think we have to follow the plan to be validated. But really we just need to let go.
Everyone wants to be happy. We all want our lives to work out. But some of us simply cannot let go of the details. We want an assured result.
So when our subculture hands us this life plan that says go on a mission and go to college and get a job and then somewhere in there find an eternal companion and start a family, we want to manage the details of our lives to conform to plan. And we do it because we want acceptance within the subculture.
That plan is fine if your life can conform to it. But for many of us, this plan just doesn’t represent reality. The gap between our self-ideal (the life plan, or whatever else we think is ideal) and our self-image (how we view ourselves) warps our self-esteem. You can’t feel good about yourself if you constantly fall short of your ideals.
And that’s the real danger with this life plan. Too many of us get depressed when our lives don’t happen according to plan. If we’re single longer than the plan says we should be, we go crazy wondering what’s wrong with us. Or the marriage we had is over. The plan doesn’t address that. We again go crazy wondering what’s wrong with us. Or maybe our eternal companion died. The plan doesn’t say anything about that either.
But if we take a step back and understand our approach is simply a set of instructions programmed into habit, we can transform our lives into ones of joy and meaning.
Adopt a personal ministry
Life has some pretty crazy twists and turns by design. Insisting life conform to whatever image we or our subculture says it should be is like trying to navigate with a map that doesn’t match the landscape. Good luck with that.
Want a better approach? Let go of micromanaging your life. Instead, develop a strong relationship with God and then adopt a personal ministry. This way is harder because you have to trust that someone outside yourself will work out the details. But when you focus your efforts on being your best self and living the best life you can right now, you open doors of opportunity that you couldn’t before access simply because you couldn’t see them.
This counsel doesn’t in any way diminish the role of the family. We should all strive to obtain our next uncompleted essential ordinance, and we should all help those around us to do likewise. For many singles, that ordinance is eternal marriage. So a focused campaign to that end seems logical and righteous. But that’s not reality. Because the agency of another person is involved, you can only encourage the result you want. You cannot directly produce it.
Too many Latter-day Saints get married simply because that’s what the life plan says to do. In their rush for validation, they don’t establish a good foundation for a lasting union. If we’re truly serious about supporting the family, then we need to get serious about building better families from the start.
And we need to support better those who don’t have the ideal situation. We all need to let go of the life plan our subculture has handed us and replace it with a community that cares for each other. Whatever our situation, we can help those around us to strive for the next available essential ordinance. When it comes to marriage, the best help is often to live one’s best life.
That’s where a personal ministry comes in. Your most attractive you is your best you, and you become that best you when you focus on making a positive contribution in the world. Your personal ministry helps you focus your energies in that channel.
Just let go of the way you think your life is supposed to be. Develop a strong relationship with God, and then get to work making your contribution. Only when you let go will you see the true beauty of life unfold for you.
I remember thinking his address was good when he delivered it. But for some reason it didn’t resonate
with me like it did during this most recent reading. And while many have claimed this past Conference wasn’t very friendly to singles, Elder Clayton’s remarks have direct application to LDS singles life.
Few of us will ever endure an experience as harrowing as Sailor’s. But all of us will, at some time or another, have to traverse our own spiritual wilderness and undertake our own rugged emotional journeys.
Rugged emotional journeys. If that doesn’t describe typical singles life, I don’t know what does. But here’s the follow up from Elder Clayton.
In those moments, however dark or seemingly hopeless they may be, if we search for it, there will always be a spiritual light that beckons to us, giving us the hope of rescue and relief. That light shines from the Savior of all mankind, who is the Light of the World.
When we think of rescue from the vicissitudes of singles life, many of us think of finding that eternal companion. But if we carry with us ineffective habits of thinking and living, married life can be even harder than singles life.
That’s why the only source of true rescue comes from the Savior. Only He can break the bonds of ineffective habits and change us into new creatures. But He’ll only go as far as we let Him.
Belief lights the way forward
Many singles don’t believe enough in the blessings that God wants to grant them. Sure, they readily accept those blessings coming into the lives of others. But when it comes to believing those same blessings could come to them, they think they’re too imperfect — too short, too tall, too fat, too thin, too whatever — to qualify.
Living under this sort of belief contributes greatly to the rugged emotional journey many singles experience.
I like the way Elder Clayton put it.
There may be times when we have been hurt, when we are tired, and when our lives seem dark and cold. There may be times when we cannot see any light on the horizon, and we may feel like giving up. If we are willing to believe, if we desire to believe, if we choose to believe, then the Savior’s teachings and example will show us the pathway forward.
Who doesn’t want to know the way forward? Yet too many of us singles keep looking for that special someone as the embodiment of that way forward. In so doing, we have already decided what the way forward is. And often that “way forward” really leads backwards — back further into doubt and despair.
The way forward is not getting married to the first available and attractive partner ASAP. The way forward is first to believe in the Savior and His teachings — believe that He loves you and that because He loves you He wants to bless you with happiness unlike anything you’ve ever known. Then trust in His guiding hand as He leads you along to your blessings.
Belief is choosing to work
Many singles simply refuse to believe that such a wonderful life can be theirs. Maybe that’s because they refuse to work for it. As Elder Clayton put it,
Belief and testimony and faith are not passive principles. They do not just happen to us. Belief is something we choose—we hope for it, we work for it, and we sacrifice for it. We will not accidentally come to believe in the Savior and His gospel any more than we will accidentally pray or pay tithing. We actively choose to believe, just like we choose to keep other commandments.
How many of us can honestly say we’ve worked and sacrificed to believe love like we’ve never known can and will be ours? And yet, in order for us to believe — I mean, really, truly believe — we have to work for it. Much of that work comes in the form of acting on that belief, whether or not we have it.
And so we choose to believe when we accept opportunities we might not think are opportunities. We choose to believe when we stop testing our dates with pre-programmed litmus tests and just enjoy the moment. We choose to believe when we quit practicing destructive self-talk about how we aren’t good enough or why the blessings we want can’t be ours. We choose to believe when we patiently pursue a life mission and let the process take the time it needs to bring our blessings to us.
Many of us don’t want to travel that road because it seems hard. But Elder Clayton offers some encouragement.
Sometimes progress in spiritual things can seem slow or intermittent. Sometimes we may feel that we have lost ground, that we have made mistakes, or that our best efforts to find the Savior are not working. If you feel this way, please do not give up—ever. Go right on believing in Him and in His gospel and His Church. Align your actions with that belief. In those moments when the light of your faith has dimmed, let your hope for the Savior’s love and grace, found in His gospel and His Church, overcome your doubt. I promise that He stands ready to receive you. Over time you will come to see that you have made the best choice you could possibly have made. Your courageous decision to believe in Him will bless you immeasurably and forever.
Although our culture teaches us so, our biggest problem as singles is not having a companion. Our biggest problem is not knowing who we really are and then not forging a solid relationship between that person and God.
When you know who you really are, you’re totally comfortable in your own skin. You don’t feel deficient or defective. You don’t need another person in your life to feel validated. And when you add to that a solid relationship with God, you have the added confidence He will bless you beyond your wildest dreams.
Love like you’ve never known is real and available for you. But you have to do the work required. And you take that first step when you choose to believe.
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 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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