But the converse is also true, and symbiotically so. Gratitude for our blessings encourages us to share those blessings with others. And sharing those blessings in turn encourages gratitude for them. Want to feel more gratitude? Share your blessings. Want more blessings to share? Feel more gratitude. The best way to grow your gratitude is to share what you’re grateful for with others.
Remembering old traditions
Is that where the popular Thanksgiving tradition came from? You know, where everyone takes turns around the table sharing something they’re grateful for? There’s something about sharing our blessings with others and hearing them share their blessings with us that inspires increased gratitude for our own blessings.
I don’t quite remember whether my family had that tradition. The tradition I do remember is feasting on our typical family spread. My mother would cook a turkey roast in the slow cooker and then serve it with mashed potatoes and gravy, stuffing, green beans, corn, sweet potatoes baked with brown sugar and marshmallows, and of course my mother’s absolutely wonderful homemade yeast rolls. There was always pie for dessert.
Then after stuffing ourselves with the late lunch, we’d embrace our second great Thanksgiving tradition: a good game of Fat Dog. If you’ve never played Fat Dog, it’s really easy. You find a comfortable seat, raise your feet, put your hands on your belly, and pretend you’re holding jelly. (Actually, that last part I added just for the rhyme!) Seriously, there’s nothing like a good game of Fat Dog to help you feel grateful for good food.
Counting the blessings
As I think back upon those times, I feel grateful that I lived them. If you’ve ever had one of my mother’s rolls, you know all other rolls are inferior. I’m grateful I could have that experience. What a fond memory is now mine!
That’s not my only fond memory. I’m grateful my mother taught me how to cook. I’ve never been as good as she was, but that skill has proven very useful on multiple occasions. I’m also grateful for the values my parents taught me. They helped make me the man I am today.
I’m grateful for my education. My teachers taught me how to think rather than what to think. I’ve also had special opportunities to pursue higher education, starting in high school and continuing on through college. How many people can say they graduated with a bachelor’s degree completely free of debt? These days not many, but I’m grateful to be one of them.
And this may sound surprising, but I’m grateful for my romantic relationships that didn’t work out. Ostensibly that would be all of them since I’m still single, but I learned valuable lessons about myself and about life that I couldn’t have learned in any other way. Those lessons will serve me well when the Lord’s promises to me of an eternal companion are at long last fulfilled.
Sharing the blessings
Expressing my gratitude for my blessings turns my focus towards how abundantly I’ve been blessed. And immersing myself in that gratitude inspires me to share those blessings with others.
Perhaps the mere mention of one blessing will instill gratitude in someone else who reflects and remarks, “Hey, I have that blessing too.” Or perhaps hearing of my blessings will inspire someone else to help others to be as blessed as I am. Or perhaps — and this may be the most important outcome of all — just perhaps immersing myself in my gratitude for my blessings will inspire me to share my blessings with others by working to help them enjoy what I enjoy.
That’s the power of gratitude, and like a testimony you grow your gratitude when you share. So this Thanksgiving, be sure to share your gratitude. Whether by social media or by phone or in person or even in a journal that no one may read until years after your pen has touched paper, take a moment to share your gratitude for your blessings. You’ll feel the power of gratitude more fully in your life, and you’ll be inspired to work to share your blessings with others. And that will bring you more joy in your journey.
I’ve felt free like I haven’t felt in quite some time. I still have lots to do, and I still don’t know how I’m going to accomplish it all. But I feel as though I have more than enough time to do everything needful, even though I did the math and know the numbers don’t fit. It’s a great blessing from the Lord, and I realize my choice to chase purpose, not proof, paved the way for my blessings.
Commit to purpose
Part of the difficulty I wrestled last week was feeling I needed to do more than time would allow. Meeting with my advisor helped resolve that by providing some clarity around exactly what effort was needed. And I felt the Lord’s guiding and supporting hand.
But the floodgates of feeling truly free and empowered opened only after I committed to my purpose. Don’t get me wrong. I committed to my PhD program back when I gave up my employment, got rid of two thirds of my belongings, moved the remaining third clear across the country, and accepted a lower standard of living — all to pursue a step towards my dream job.
But I hadn’t committed myself completely. I was busy with so many different things, all of them valuable but not all of them conducive to my commitment. Complete commitment is always reflected in completely prioritized time pursuing it.
Once I made that complete commitment in how I would spend my time, that’s when freedom swept over me. That’s when I felt I had the time I needed to do what was needed. That’s when I felt I could truly achieve my potential.
Align with happiness
Too many never do that. Even if they have a purpose they say they pursue, they aren’t really chasing after it. Instead, they chase after proof.
By proof, I mean evidence they’re accepted. They devote more time and energy to acquiring validation and belonging than to any life purpose. And by going off the path of their purpose, they go off the path of their potential.
We all have a deep-seated need for acceptance. We all want to belong, and we all want to be loved. There’s nothing wrong with those desires. But there is something wrong with not prioritizing your potential.
And here’s what’s wrong with it. You’re leaving happiness on the table. You think you’re chasing happiness, but you’ll never capture it by seeking to have something. Happiness isn’t about having; it’s about giving. Happiness is giving your all to all the right things for you. And one of those right things is achieving your potential.
Pursue your potential
Let’s look at an example. What do typical LDS singles do with their time, especially the time they aren’t compelled to do anything? Many spend their so-called “free time” consuming content or soaking in social media, looking for love and belonging, pursuing proof not purpose.
Happiness doesn’t come from having that special someone or having social media likes or indeed having anything. Happiness isn’t about having; it’s about giving. That’s why pursuing your potential is linked to happiness. The more of your potential you achieve, the more you have to give and the more happy you can be.
And you maximize your happiness by committing completely to your purpose, a commitment you demonstrate with the time you devote to that commitment. So take a look at how you spend your time and make adjustments where needed. Chase purpose, not proof. You’ll find yourself feeling more free and more connected with the Lord. And that will bring you more joy in your journey.
Everything works that way. We all dream of having our best life, but to have that life, you must pay a price in faith, diligence, patience, and longsuffering in daily doing the small acts that over time will aggregate into a harvest of success. Most people don’t do that because it’s hard. But that’s precisely why it’s worth doing. With great diligence, you can have the positive changes you want in your life.
Diligent in faith
Success isn’t complicated. Do the right things day after day, and eventually you get what you want. But like the seed in Alma’s parable, you don’t reap a harvest overnight. And that’s probably the hardest part of achieving success.
We all have changes we want in our lives. But taking action day after day and not seeing the results you want can wear you down. Many quit the fight too soon. Because only action produces results, quitting the fight means taking no action, which means getting no results. So what can keep you in the fight when it gets hard?
Alma provides an answer. He mentions diligence, but first he mentions faith. And that’s what can pull you through. With a vision of your life after you pay your price for what you want, you can keep on keeping on.
I’ve used that in my PhD program. As I’ve felt the challenge increase, I remember teaching as an adjunct and relive how good it felt to work my dream job. My faith that overcoming my present difficulty will get me closer to the result I seek drives me through the difficulty. So it is with anything in life. Seeing the light at the end of the tunnel is really the other side of the mountain and not an oncoming train can help you push forward no matter how bleak your present position.
Diligent in patience
As you push on in the darkness of the moment, the difficulty separating you from your desired best life isn’t just in doing what’s needed everyday but also in having to wait for results to materialize. We all want results on our schedule, and our schedule often screams now.
So it’s not surprising Alma, to faith and diligence, adds patience. It takes patience to nourish a seed into maturity. Part of the price you’ll pay for what you want is in patience. You must take the small steps required day after day, continually putting forth effort with faith those results will come, especially when they don’t come instantly.
Faith helps me have patience, but so does celebrating small wins. Recognizing a victory, no matter how small, helps me feel I’m making progress and moving closer to my best life.
Having patience in the overall journey and not just the task before me also helps. When one approach fails, I don’t lose hope. I have faith the approach I need exists, and I keep searching with the determination to do so until I find the approach that will work for me.
Diligent in longsuffering
That attitude necessitates a lot of trial and error, which requires longsuffering. Often you must pay your price over a long time without seeing desired results. Little wonder Alma includes longsuffering in his parable of the seed.
Suffering must be endured; it makes your harvest much more precious. But suffering doesn’t mean you must be miserable. You can have sincere joy while suffering if you strengthen your faith and focus on the blessings and opportunities along your way.
Whatever positive changes you want can be yours if you pay in full and in advance the price you must pay. That requires diligence in doing the small daily actions that over time will accumulate into your success. But you also need faith to see the glory awaiting you, patience to allow the natural workings of the universe to operate, and longsuffering to endure well the time before results come. With those three attributes married to diligence, you can make whatever positive change you want. You can have your best life. And that will bring you more joy in your journey.
But I also had a conversation with my PhD advisor, who wants to see much more out of me. That experience led me to reflect on what I have in my life and more importantly why. Reassessing the different elements in my life somehow brought me to President Nelson’s remarks from the last General Conference entitled “Make Time for the Lord.” In this address, President Nelson shared three ways in which we can make time for the Lord.
Focus on the Savior
The first time we should make for the Lord is to fix our focus on Christ. President Nelson declared, “Nothing invites the Spirit more than fixing your focus on Jesus Christ. Talk of Christ, rejoice in Christ, feast upon the words of Christ, and press forward with steadfastness in Christ.”
In my recent reflections, I’ve wondered how much of my focus is fixed on Christ. How often do I talk of Him? How often do I rejoice in Him? How often do I feast upon His words? How often do I feel the determination to press forward with steadfastness in Him?
I’ve focused my scripture study this year on success and the path to prosperity. My study hasn’t yet concluded, but it’s already abundantly clear lasting prosperity comes as God’s blessing upon those who embrace true principles. This conclusion encourages us to follow the Prophet’s counsel to fix our focus on Christ.
Later this month I’ll pivot my scripture study towards my annual tradition of studying the Sermon on the Mount to increase my discipleship. I’ve discussed this practice before on the program, and I expect it once more to increase the fixation of my focus on Christ. All are welcome to join me, but whether or not you do, find some way increase your focus on the Savior.
Delight in the Sabbath
The second time President Nelson encouraged us to make for the Lord is to delight in the Sabbath day. He taught, “Make your Sabbath a delight as you worship Him, partake of the sacrament, and keep His day holy.” Consider that teaching. The Sabbath is a delight when we make it one.
How do you make your Sabbaths feel delightful? Do they feel delightful to you? You can use that question to gauge how well you keep the Sabbath. The more delightful the Sabbath feels to you, the better you keep the day.
And no matter how delightful the Sabbath feels to you, there’s always another level you can reach. Obviously you can feel more delight in your Sabbath if you don’t feel any. But if you do feel delight in your Sabbath, you can feel more. So the question is this: Are your Sabbath day activities what they should be? Or do you need to change something?
Connect with the temple
The third time the Prophet pleaded us to make for the Lord concerns temples. President Nelson taught, “Please make time for the Lord in His holy house. Nothing will strengthen your spiritual foundation like temple service and temple worship.”
Because my nearest temple has yet to reopen, I currently need to travel some distance to attend the temple. And so I’ve been meaning to get more into family history work in preparation for when my temple reopens. I say meaning to because I’ve done nothing more than occasionally dabble. Clearly the Prophet is calling me to repentance.
And with that call comes an invitation to extend the Prophet’s admonition to every area of life. With all my responsibilities and everything in my life, am I making enough time for the Lord? We could each ask ourselves that question. If you haven’t considered it lately, I invite you to make time to consider it. In the end, if you haven’t made time for Christ, it won’t matter what you made time for.
So make time for the Lord. When we make the time to consider what time we are making for what matters most, we can more easily connect with what matters most. In that way we can establish a better balance in life. And that will bring us more joy in our 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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