Ah, New Year’s Day! Time for strings of parties. Time for all those resolutions most of us won’t keep past a couple of weeks — if we’re lucky. And time to reflect on what we’ve actually accomplished over the past year.
As I think back on 2015, I see I’ve been greatly blessed. Yeah, there were some less-than-stellar moments. I’m still the walking construction zone I’ve always been, and not everyone has used their agency as I would have liked. But I’ve also had some really outstanding moments, ones that for many years I thought I would never have.
That’s what I love about New Year’s Day. No matter what we have experienced, we all have a chance to start over. And we all decide what we’ll do with that opportunity. We can give up and surrender to pessimism and despair. Or we can get up and embrace optimism and hope.
I say it’s time we get zesty.
You can always choose
No, I’m not talking about Mama Capri’s to-die-for lasagna. I’m talking about attitude — one that won’t make excuses, won’t accept surrender, and won’t take any prisoners. That attitude is a choice!
Agency is perhaps the most misunderstood and underappreciated gift outside of the Atonement. Perhaps we make so many choices all the time it’s easy to take for granted our ability to choose.
Too often we think about how others have used their agency against us. We focus on their choices which we cannot change but which have left us empty, forsaken, and in need.
But that’s where agency becomes a truly glorious gift. We can make choices of our own. No matter our past, we can always choose to reach for the positive option. And there’s always a positive option. We can always get zesty.
Choose your best life
Many singles don’t want the life they have. They want instead what they conceive as their best life. But how can you have your best life without the best attitude? Attitude influences everything from how you feel to how others perceive you.
If you want your best life, you first must embrace your best attitude.
And that can’t just be a superficial face lift. You have to believe so much your best life will come to you that you just exude confidence. You don’t doubt it will happen, and no one who knows you doubts it either.
How do you ride that train if you aren’t already on board? The answer may sound ridiculous, but you just choose it.
Own it all
If you told me ten years ago I could turn my life around just by choosing to believe my best life will come to me, I would have called you an idiot. But that was before I owned my life.
Taking responsibility for how your life has resulted will empower you to act rather than be acted upon. And acting with intention — out of conscious choice rather than habit — opens the doors of belief wide open. You start to realize all belief, even and especially the belief your best life will come to you, is a choice.
And the glorious gift of agency gives that choice to you.
I remember when my life had hit what felt like rock bottom, and I hungered after real. That hunger led me to question everything in my life, including what I believed.
I came to a moment of decision. Is it true or not? If it’s really true, isn’t it time I start believing? Do I really have to wait for my life to work out before I believe it’s all true? Realizing belief is a choice, I simply choose to believe.
I chose to believe my future is what I make of it, not what my past dictates. I chose to believe God is real, loves me immensely, and really does want to bless me just as immensely. I chose to believe my best life was just ahead of me.
And things started to turn around for me. I started feeling better about myself and my future. And then new opportunities in my career and my dating life began appearing. There’s still challenges, of course, but overall life just seems to be getting better and better.
And all of this was just waiting for me to get zesty — to start living with intention to reach for the positive choice. Once I chose to believe, the true joy of living began unfolding for me.
We’re all God’s children. What happened to me can happen to anyone. So choose to believe. Embrace the new year with zest and confidence. Get zesty, and live in confidence your best life will come to you. Then watch it happen.
Some of my greatest Christmas memories are getting presents as a boy. As children, my brother and I always looked forward to Christmas morning with great anticipation. We always had hopes for some new toy and were always disappointed to get socks.
And we always went first to the stockings. Those were fair game whereas the presents under the tree were off limits until after breakfast.
We didn’t like everything in our stockings. I still remember every year dumping everything out and then putting back in the shelled peanuts. If they were coated in chocolate instead of their natural shells, I would have kept them. But for a kid, shelled peanuts weren’t that exciting.
My, how times change! Now I’m appreciative if someone gives me a useful gift like socks. But I still don’t care about peanuts (unless they’re coated in chocolate, of course).
One other thing has remained the same. And I think it’s as true for many of us as it is for me. I still have some focus on getting.
Watch your focus
I’m sure everyone struggles with that. It’s the natural man prompting us to focus on self and our own comforts. And it’s so ironic to have that focus habitually during a season that celebrates He Who gave everything to us and for us.
Despite what the world would have us believe, the true joy in the season is found in giving. Just as I posted last week and many times previous, happiness is about giving your all to the right things.
Our focus will always be our reality. When we focus on getting, we chain our sense of fulfillment to the agency of others. Our reality might be pleasure or disappointment, depending on how others choose. But when we focus on giving, we can always be satisfied because our fulfillment depends only on the choices we make.
As recipients of the gift of agency, every day presents us a new opportunity to make a better choice. That better choice is always giving your all to the right things.
Watch your mouth
Shifting focus, however, can be easier said than done. If your focus is on getting, how do you switch it over to giving?
In addition to participating in activities that encourage us to think more outwardly, we can change our language. Our language indicates the way we think and see the world, so changing our language can help us think and see the world in different ways.
A common question asked after Christmas is “What did you get?” By replacing that question with “What did you give?” we help not only ourselves to think differently about Christmas but also others as well.
Consider the difference changing the word get to give produces. When someone asks you, “What did you get?” you can run through the memory of opening your presents around the tree. But when someone asks you, “What did you give?” can you answer as quickly? I know I would have to think awhile before answering.
I’d also feel a little ashamed if my answers were superficial like “I gave my mother a sweater.” Or “I gave my nephews a new bike.” So what? In 50 years my mother won’t need the sweater, and my nephews will be too big to ride the bike I gave them. What meaning will the memory of that gift really have?
I was greatly touched by the gift. Lots of people said my father’s mother was the best cook. I never thought her the best cook — that prize I gave to my mother’s mother — but she was a good cook. The gift of her recipes touched me because it allowed me to approach being with her by making and eating the food she made and ate.
That gift will mean something 50 and even 100 years from now. And my aunt who never married can take great joy in answering “What did you give?” with that.
Christmas is two days away, so please don’t rush to change everything if your gifts for others don’t meet that standard. And please don’t feel guilty about it. But please do think about asking yourself and others “What did you give?” more often. Asking “What did you give?” is definitely one of those right things to which you can give your all. And when you give your all to the right things, you can’t help but be happy.
Recently I was shopping for my little nephews and noticed a few things. Like how all the really cool toys are out now that I’m grown up. And how expensive some of the toys I’d like to get for my nephews are. And how some of the peeps in the store weren’t all that happy.
I get it. If you’re a parent at the end of a busy day that hasn’t yet settled down and you’ve got fussy infants tagging along with you, you’re probably not going to be in a great mood. And the attitude of parent or child influences the other.
I thought about how many years I spent acting like the fussy kid because I was single and therefore not fully accepted by my LDS subculture. All that fussing didn’t make me attractive to a potential companion. It certainly didn’t make me happy. And the holidays were the worst because people with their families and their happiness kept telling me I should be happy too even though I didn’t have my own family.
But the thing is . . . they were right.
You gotta own it
We singles can get caught in false patterns of thought — habits that keep us from living our best lives. But it’s not because we’re single. It’s because we’re human.
One of those faulty habits is thinking we need to have something to be happy. But as I’ve posted previously, happiness isn’t about what you do or are. It’s not even about keeping the standards, although that’s certainly part of it. Happiness is about giving your all to the right things. And you just won’t do that until you own your life.
You don’t get to be single past your early 20s in this Church without going through some sort of hell. Whether it’s discouragement from the opposite gender never accepting you, or disillusionment from a marriage that soured, or despair from experiencing the loss of a loved one, being single can bite — hard.
Our natural tendency is to disown the pain and with it the circumstances that brought us that pain. So we blame everyone else for how our lives have resulted. But that road only perpetuates the pain. To resolve that pain and turn our lives around, we have to turn ourselves around. We have to own our lives.
Turn your life around
Owning your life means accepting responsibility for how your life has resulted. Sure, other people used their agency against you. But you made choices, too. Owning your life means embracing the role your choices have played in bringing you the life you have today.
And only by owning your life can you be happy despite your circumstances.
I know the deep seated desire to have your circumstances change, especially if they’ve been less than desirable for a long time. I’ve been single for over 20 years, so believe me when I say I know. I’m very familiar with negative emotional companions that just don’t want to leave.
For many of those years I refused to own my life. I kept blaming other people for my singleness and telling myself the lie that I could never be what I needed to be to have a better life. Any story told long enough becomes believed, and I spent years as my own worst obstacle blaming everyone but myself for my undesirable life.
Only when I accepted my part in creating the life I had did my life begin to turn around. And the best part is that I didn’t need to have anything more than a new way of thinking to get my life on a better track. I just needed to own my life.
Give, said the little stream
It’s very possible to be happy despite having less-than-desirable life circumstances. That’s because true happiness is about what you give, not what you have. Owning your life allows you to give more of yourself, opening the way to more happiness.
Christmas is a season of cheer. It’s also a season of giving. That’s not a coincidence. There’s a strong connection between giving of yourself and being happy.
When you own your life, you start seeing more clearly your role in creating the life you have. That empowers you to let go of trying to change others and to start changing yourself. In that process you begin to realize true happiness really is all about giving yourself to the right things. And that’s a choice you can make consciously time and time again.
The Christmas season can be as happy as you want it to be. Make this Christmas one of happiness, regardless of the circumstances of your life. Make the conscious choice to give your all to the right things. Get your merry on!
I love Christmas. Christmas represents cheer. Christmas represents kindness and the best in all of us. And Christmas represents hope — hope that we’re not forsaken, hope that our tomorrow can be better than our today or yesterday, hope that redemption can be ours.
I grew up with “If you don’t believe, you won’t receive.” And I’ve posted on this blog about an experience I had with my father and believing. It’s as true the rest of the year as it is during Christmas.
Many singles, however, aren’t very believing — at any time of the year. They think years of negative experiences mean they’ll never have their righteous desires. And during those years of negative living, they developed habits that hold them back from embracing the wonderful life God gave them.
Others will believe you
My life is overflowing with bad experiences that “prove” how no one would ever want me. Through the years I kept telling myself how my experiences were evidence that I could never have what I really wanted.
This negative self-talk became a habit that held me back from embracing my life. Instead of living with joy regardless of my circumstances, I lived a life held captive by circumstances. Because others didn’t seem to believe I deserved eternal companionship, neither did I.
But I can’t really blame them. They took their cues from me. My words, my body language, and my actions all broadcast my lack of belief in myself. Others received these messages I sent and decided I knew something they didn’t. So they used their agency against me.
Note the role of habit here. I embraced negative self-talk out of habit. The messages I sent to others about myself were habitual. And when others used their agency against me, I habitually told myself I had more evidence to “prove” how the blessings I desired would never be mine.
Playing out these habits year after year didn’t make me any less single. Only when I began to believe — really, truly believe — did things begin to turn around for me.
Free yourself with belief
Many singles today feel just as trapped as I once felt when my negative habits of depending on the choices of others determined the quality of my life. But it doesn’t have to be that way. We can’t decide for others, but we can influence what others decide about us by consciously choosing first to believe we’re worth believing in.
If you don’t really believe, then you won’t really receive. That’s because most people in most situations make decisions about you from the information you feed them. When you don’t really believe you’re worth believing in, you broadcast a message that says, “Don’t invest in me!”
But when you truly believe in yourself, your broadcast says, “I’m well worth getting to know better!” True, people still decide for themselves, but you won’t be doing yourself any favors if you broadcast any less-than-positive messages about yourself.
Of course, the changes I’m talking about here are more than superficial. That’s why my upcoming book is entitled You’re Not Digging Deep Enough. Most of us don’t dig deep enough. You can’t just subscribe to a positive message feed on social media sites and then spread those messages in your networks. You have to believe so powerfully that you could generate those types of messages. And that’s easy to do when you really, truly believe.
I like the third Indiana Jones movie best. There’s just so much to love in that third installment.
Take this scene, for example. Indy is faced with a desperate choice: Help his enemy Donovan obtain the Holy Grail or watch his father die. We should all ask ourselves the question Donovan presents. It’s time to ask ourselves what we believe.
Wake up! It’s time to own your life. It’s time to replace less effective habits with more effective ones. It’s time to start enjoying life regardless of your circumstances. Christmas is a season of belief. It’s time to believe.
We all believe the worth of souls is great (see D&C 18:10). But do you believe — really, truly believe — that the worth of your soul is great? The message of the restored gospel of Jesus Christ has always been one of belief because Jesus Christ is the ultimate reason for belief.
If you really, truly believe the restored gospel, then it’s time you embrace that belief. There’s no going through the motions here. Only when I owned my life and really, truly began to believe did I begin to experience joy in life independent of my circumstances.
So own your life. No matter what you may have experienced, you still hold the power of agency. Choose to believe, and let the true joy of living unfold for you.
Two weeks ago I posted about how adopting studying the Sermon on the Mount annually has helped me devote myself more to the Savior. Today is only Day 11, and I already feel greatly blessed.
I also feel puny compared with my perfect Master. He is the Great Prototype, the Grand Exemplar. I’m still a walking construction zone. But the benefits from my study outweigh that sense of disparity with a great hope that one day I’ll be much closer to my Lord.
One such benefit is the opportunity I’ve had to consider the ways I spend my time. Each new day is of course a new opportunity to consider my ways. But my Sermon on the Mount study each year provides an increased awareness of those opportunities. It puts them square in my face.
Wake up, Sleepy Head
We all have the same 24 hours each day, but we all make different choices in how to spend those 24 hours.
Me? I’ve always been a big fan of sleep. There’s no way it’s overrated. It’s fantastic! But you can get too much of most good things, and sleep is no exception. I’m sure we’re all familiar with the admonition in D&C 88:124.
Cease to be idle; cease to be unclean; cease to find fault one with another; cease to sleep longer than is needful; retire to thy bed early, that ye may not be weary; arise early, that your bodies and your minds may be invigorated.
I’m still working on that arising early part. But I’ve been questioning whether I should be using less time for sleep and more time for, uh, I don’t know, something more productive?
How much time do we devote to worthy causes and how much to frivolous pursuits? Are we the captain of our life’s ship? Or do we just float wherever the waves of life take us?
I’ve posted before about the need for singles to devote themselves to a personal ministry. Devoting ourselves to a personal ministry best attracts that eternal companion we all seek, plus it enables us to weather better the storm that singles life can bring.
I’m questioning whether I should be sleeping a little less so that I can devote myself more to my own personal ministry.
Find your own balance
What does it really mean anyway to “retire to thy bed early”? Exactly when is “early”? I think we each must find our own standard. Recently I’ve been trying to be in bed by 11:00. If I fall asleep quickly and sleep through the night, I can arise at 6:00 and have about 7 hours of rest. I think 6:00 qualifies as “early.”
I’m not perfect with it, but I’ve noticed a difference as I try to approach this standard. My once strongly held belief that I couldn’t function with less than 8 hours of sleep has begun to evolve. With that belief is its cousin idea that I’m just not a morning person. And as I’ve used the extra time gained, though it seems quite small, towards my personal ministry, I’ve felt a great uplift and support in my daily living.
While serving my mission, I often heard a story told in Africa that every morning a gazelle awakens. He knows a tiger will be hunting him and that his best chance of survival is to get as much of a head start as he can. But every morning that tiger also awakens. He knows that his best chance of eating that day depends on catching the gazelle before he can outrun him. Thus, it doesn’t matter whether you’re a gazelle or a tiger. When the sun comes up, you had better be running.
Make the most of your time
Please don’t think I’m suggesting everyone retire at 11 and arise at 6. I’m not saying that at all. What I am saying is this standard seems appropriate for me and everyone else should find what works for them. If your standard matches mine, great! We can form a club and offer jackets! If your standard doesn’t match mine, that’s fine. You can wear your own jacket.
We should more consciously choose how we spend our time. Once it’s spent we don’t ever get it back. Only by living intentionally do we get the most out of life. Likewise, only by choosing our activities with intention do we make the most of our time. And the best intention for our time is in our own personal ministry by which we labor to make the world a better place.
So consider your ways. Are you making the most of every day? Are you living with intention? I can’t say I always have. But I can say the real joy of living has unfolded for me when I have consciously chosen how to spend my time. And I can say how grateful I am to be reminded of the opportunity I have each day to consider my ways and make changes where necessary.
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 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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