Focusing on incremental, one-percent improvements instead of some grand transformation intrigues me. I’m led to question not just what goals are best for me but the very process by which I determine those goals. After all, the process of improvement must be doable to mean anything. Focusing on being one percent better is not just doable but far more enriching than the alternative.
Catch your vision
Elder Dunn began his remarks by sharing the story of British cycling. For about a century, British bicycle racing teams won little distinction. Their performance was so poor some manufacturers refused to sell bicycles to them, for fear the association would irreparably tarnish them.
But that changed in 2003 when a new coach, Sir Dave Brailsford, was hired. Sir Brailsford rejected using the latest trends and technology, preferring, as he put it, “the aggregation of marginal gains.” British cyclists began looking at everything they did and how they could improve by just one percent. The results were amazing. As Elder Dunn described,
He further explained,
After applying this approach over the past two decades, British cycling has amassed an impressive array of awards, including six Tour de France victories and more Olympic medals across all cycling disciplines than any other country.
Clear your path
This approach and these results together get me thinking. What if I’ve been going about this New Years resolution business all wrong? What if a shift in my focus towards small, one-percent improvements is what I’m really missing?
I began by adjusting my goal creation process. Normally I start by reviewing my mission statement (which details my life purpose) and then my vision statement (which describes the characteristics of my ideal best self) to see if they still resonate with me. If they don’t, I make changes until they do. I then ask myself, “What portion of the gap between where I want to be and where I am will I work on this year?” and I make goals to address that portion.
But I see now this approach invariably leads to biting off more than I can chew. I always justified it thinking it’s better to aim for the stars and miss than aim for a pile of dung and hit target. But by attempting too big a change, I set myself up for failure and disappointment.
This year I’m trying a new approach. Keeping the mission statement review, I adjusted the vision statement review to describe what my best self looks like at the end of the year rather than the end of my life. I then scored myself on how well I meet that end-of-year standard today.
Of course, that comparison finds me wanting, but that’s OK. Elder Dunn taught that
Stephen Covey declared the main thing is to keep the main thing the main thing. For achieving goals, the main thing is making sure to get just one percent better every day.
Work your plan
I tied each goal to a descriptive characteristic from my end-of-year vision statement to maintain alignment with my direction. Now the question each day is this: What will I do today to get just one percent better in each of my goals? I plan on evaluating my progress after each week and month to assess progress and adjust where needed.
Focusing on improvements of just one percent each day seems like my missing essential element. I’ve already felt greatly encouraged applying this new approach for creating my goals, so we’ll see what develops in what I actually achieve.
If making New Year’s resolutions you’re confident you won’t keep discourages you, or if the failures of previous attempts to achieve and become your best self dismay you, I invite you to consider focusing not on some grand transformation but rather on the one percent change you can make today. When you get one percent better each and every day, it won’t be long before you find yourself making remarkable progress. And that will bring you more joy in your journey.
Starting with gratitude simply promotes an extra portion of power. That’s especially true of giving. Indeed, true giving begins with gratitude. As we discussed recently, the more grateful you are, the more you will have, and the more you have, the more you can give. You can truly light the world when with gratitude you share your gifts from God with others.
Reflect on unique gifts
We often think of gifts being highly prized and desirable attributes or skills. So it’s not that surprising when some of us who don’t have those highly prized and desirable attributes or skills feel we don’t have any gifts.
That’s of course not true. I don’t care who you are or where you’re from. Everyone has gifts from God. We all have talent for something. When we exercise our talents, executing the necessary action just seems to flow more easily, even if we lack specific training. God gave talents to everyone so we all can contribute positively to others’ lives.
I’m convinced we each have multiple talents from God. Often, they aren’t what we’d think of as talents. I once knew a sister missionary whose smile was so infectious you couldn’t help but feel a little better when her smile shone upon you. Another friend was a really good listener. We don’t normally think of smiling and listening as talents, and yet I would submit they qualify.
What talents do you have from God? What gifts has He given you that make your contribution to the lives of others unique? Reflect on those gifts for a moment and simmer in gratitude for them.
Reflect on common gifts
Of course, we share some gifts from God in common. Again, I don’t care who you are or where you are from. God has blessed each of us not only with gifts unique to each one of us but also with gifts we share in common.
The first such gift is the greatest gift of God — the gift of His Only Begotten Son, Jesus Christ. He is the reason for the season precisely because He is the greatest gift. Through Him, we all have the opportunity to repent and to live forever with God and those we most love. Through Him we all have the power to acquire the fulness of not just our spiritual potential but every other potential as well, be that emotional, intellectual, or physical.
Unfortunately, that gift too often goes unappreciated, as does the second greatest gift from God — agency. Every moment, we get to choose for ourselves what we’ll think, say, and do — and with that what we’ll become. Between our Advocate with the Father and our agency, we have the essentials to become our best selves, live our best life, and achieve the fulness of our potential. Yet too often we don’t even consider these gifts as the gateways to greatness they are.
Don’t let that be you. Take a moment to reflect and meditate on these wonderful gifts and the opportunities they make possible in your life. Marinade your soul in gratitude for your gifts from God.
Share gratitude with others
But it’s not just enough to feel gratitude. You must share it as well! Otherwise, the circle won’t be complete.
What does that mean? Gratitude is an emotion for what has come into your life. You then decide what you will send out to others. What you send out will come back to you again, even when that something is nothing; if you send nothing out, you won’t get anything back again. But when you send out something — say, gratitude, for instance — you will find it later returned to you.
Whatever your gifts from God, take time to reflect on them, feel gratitude for them, and then share that gratitude with others. You’ll find more reason to celebrate the season while moving yourself closer to becoming your best self and living your best life. And that will bring you more joy in your journey.
But then as I thought about it, I began to see I needed to see this differently. I’m not knocking the Light the World calendar. If you want to do that, that’s great. I just think I need to focus more on what I can give than on what I have received. I think I need to be that shining star for someone else rather than showcase what someone else has been for me.
See your full potential
Yeah, I get it. Like I said, I’m not knocking the Light the World calendar or anything like that. It’s all good and, like I said, if you want to do it, then do it. There’s a lot of good that can come from that.
But when I turn the consideration away from what others have done or will do and towards what I will do, I feel I need a different focus. It’s not hard for me to see that producing Joy in the Journey Radio has helped me undergo a transformation. I’m not the same man I was last year, and next year I won’t be the same man I am this year.
What’s happened? What’s changed? And what’s driven that change? I think the essence of it is simply that I’m becoming more of the man that God wants me to be. And that man is a man who spends his days serving others, helping others, and inspiring others to become the men and women God wants them to be. I think that man is a man devoted to helping others along the covenant path of eternal progression.
And when I say that, I’m not just talking about the spiritual. I’m talking about the total package — the physical, the emotional, and the mental/intellectual as well as the spiritual. That’s because I think God wants each of us to become the total package.
Understand the bigger picture
Don’t misunderstand me. I’m not suggesting we all become identical clones of some unrealistic ideal. Your total package may not be the same as my total package. But your total package represents the fulfillment of your potential just as my total package represents the fulfillment of my potential.
And that’s really the whole idea behind why we’re here. The whole intent of our Heavenly Father’s plan is for us to achieve the fullness of our potential. Coming here to this fallen mortal world and having experiences in mortality allow us to take important steps along that path towards achieving our full potential.
That’s what the covenant path of eternal progression really is. That’s what becoming the total package really is. It’s all just a series of steps that each help us to become more of that man or woman we can and should be.
Truly light the world
I’m not going to become the man I can and should be unless I turn my focus to giving. I need to do more of what the man I can become would do in order to become that man. I need to be that shining star for others because that’s what the man I can and should become is.
Again, I’m not knocking the Light the World calendar. And hey, if you really need to do that in order to become the man or woman you need to become, then I say go for it. Pour your whole self into it. Whatever your potential is for you, pour your whole self into it and embrace the transformation.
For many of us, I think that transformation will come when we decide to be the shining star for others. When we decide to hold up our light, others are both inspired to come out of the dark and given permission to hold up their own light. When they do, that will inspire others and give them permission to do the same. When we each decide to be the shining star we need to be, we can truly light the world. And that will bring us more joy in our journey.
Clearly, the Savior understood that power. His ministering example teaches all the love generated when we give our full attention to others. Indeed, one of the greatest gifts we can give to others is the gift of full attention.
Understand the fix
Society today hungers for attention, so much so everyone seems scrambling after it. Whatever new trick can potentially secure the attention of others finds its way onto the to-do list of many seeking to capture attention for their own gain. And these actors, feeling a scarcity of the attention they desire, saturate us with attention demand overload.
Combine that situation with the addictive nature of social media, and it’s not hard to understand why people give more attention to their phone than to people around them. Many take full advantage of the dopamine hits social media networks are designed to generate. And far too many of us surrender our agency to the addiction we hold in our hands and carry with us wherever we go.
We’ve discussed before on this program the mediocrity this life on autopilot creates. We break free by living in the moment, making conscious choices to move in the direction we determine and not just where the impulse of addiction would drive us. That’s what I love about the suggested action for today on the Light the World calendar. It encourages us to make a conscious choice to break free from impulse and move in a direction we consciously choose.
Choose real love
That conscious choice unlocks the real power of giving our full attention in our interactions. So doing sends a clear message: Out of all the choices I could make in this moment regarding where to place my attention, I choose you. This is part of why the gift of full attention is a truly a gift of love.
The other part deals with the basic human needs we all have to feel loved, needed, and belonging to something greater than ourselves. Putting down your phone and giving your full attention to others essentially tells them they are preferred, and realizing that preference generates in others the feeling of being loved, needed, and part of something bigger.
Now consider what happens when we don’t make that conscious choice to give full attention. We tell others through our actions we choose something else over them, that something else is preferred. And that preference generates in others feelings of not being loved, needed, or part of something bigger.
I still remember the love generated during a single adult conference 12 years ago when an attendee chose to give me full attention. Our exchange lasted only five minutes, yet the influence of that seemingly small choice in how to spend five minutes has lasted 12 years, and the end is not in sight. The gift of full attention is truly a gift that keeps on giving.
Expand the power
And we need not limit the power of that gift to just the one small act the Light the World calendar suggests for today. We can expand our influence even further by practicing active listening in all settings.
Our society suffers substantially from a lack of listening. People think listening means simply hearing the words other people say. Meanwhile, they look for chances to inject what they want to say into a conversation. But real, active listening involves hearing what others say with the intent to understand them. Instead of looking for breaks to project our own selves onto others, we can use those same opportunities to try to understand others. In so doing, we help others feel loved and thereby expand the power the gift of full attention can provide.
So today and every day, let’s give more of the gift that keeps on giving. Let’s give the gift of full attention. When we do, our seeming small act of surrender to love will invite others to do the same. And when they do, the cycle will continue, resulting in a better world filled with the light and goodness of love. And that will bring us more joy in our journey.
The suggested action for today carries the title “Let Your Love Shine” and encourages tagging three loved ones with a “top 3 things I love about you” message and invitation to do likewise. The three I wish to highlight don’t use social media, but I’ll highlight them all the same because I believe you can’t best feel your love until you let your love shine.
The cat comes first
First on my list is my cat Tashi. She died about eight years ago as unexpectedly as she’s impacted my life since.
Last weekend while speaking with a friend grieving the recent death of her cat, I shared how I still feel Tashi with me, even though she hasn’t been with me physically for over eight years. That’s the first thing I love about Tashi. Our relationship was so strong I still feel her with me despite her death. Hearing my experience seemed to comfort my friend, suggesting perhaps she too could experience something similar.
Tashi knew how to comfort me. She’d waltz into my lap as I sat discouraged, seat herself against me, and then look up at me as though saying, “How can you be sad when I’m here?” It amazes me she never failed to do that when I needed it.
And she was such a character. I remember one Christmas when she chose her stocking for the fireplace that year. It’s a humorous story I’ll detail later in the program.
Next comes my mother
My mother’s the second of my top three. I’ve spoken about her before, most recently when I surprised her for her birthday. Her condition has since worsened, but my love for her hasn’t.
My mother always thought constantly of her children. Every day she worked hard for our benefit. I remember one morning thinking I could delay my usual departure for the school bus. My mother called out a reminder to get going. But I delayed, missed the bus, and walked back in shame to confront my mother. Predictably upset, she still drove me to school.
I love how that support was constant. Years later I was preparing to return to campus after the holidays to finish my master’s program. Just before I left, my mother and I knelt in prayer. I still remember her prayer for me, and it was the memory of that prayer that gave me the strength I needed to finish my program. She’s always supported me through the years.
And I love that my mother taught me life skills, especially cooking. I can’t list all the times having that knowledge has helped me, but I can list teaching me how to cook among the many ways she’s blessed my life.
Then comes Uncle Darryl
Then there’s Uncle Darryl. He’s actually my great great uncle. I never knew him well, but he’s had a profound influence on me.
I love that influence, especially the respect it engenders for veterans. Uncle Darryl’s WWII experience left him so traumatized he couldn’t talk about some things for the rest of his life. His sacrifice in defense of freedom lasted some 65 years.
I also loved his welcoming nature. I could always come by unannounced, and he’d stop and entertain my visit. What an example of gifting love through attention! And he always seemed sincerely interested in me, even towards the end as his faculties slipped.
I won’t be tagging anyone since none of these three loved ones use social media. But I love them each. And I love the Lord Who blessed me with love from them and many others. Letting my love shine for them today is a small gift I can give in return.
If you haven’t given that small gift today to three loved ones in your life, take a moment now and let your love shine. You’ll feel more of the essence of the Christmas season. You’ll invite others to embrace that spirit in following the Lord Whose expressions of love provide the reason for the season. 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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