Whatever the reason, I'm learning not to question promptings to do good but rather simply to follow them. I'm learning to trust, without seeing the end, that the end will be better than I ever could have imagined it. I'm learning to trust that the blessings I long for most in my life will come, as Elder Holland declared, by and by.
See beyond your pain
It's easy for all of us to get so absorbed in our own trials that we lose perspective. And with that loss of perspective often comes also the loss of another sight — one that sees the way forward.
Many singles feel so burdened by the loneliness and heartache of singles life that all they see in their future is an eternity of loneliness and heartache. Such an outcome should not surprise. After all, your focus becomes your reality.
Singles who know the depth of that despair from seeming ever so out of reach of desired blessings intimately know loneliness and heartache. So of course singles would feel comforted and appreciative of Elder Holland's early and earnest recognition of that familiarity.
But notice what immediately followed. Elder Holland was just as eager and earnest in recognizing the depth of despair many trapped in a lonely marriage feel, seemingly ever so out of reach of escape from their familiarity with loneliness and heartache.
Without recognizing the pain others feel, it's easy to become so absorbed in our own pain that we can't see anything else. Our pain becomes so enlarged we think it not only fills our world but that it is the world.
Trust in Him always
That's one of the comforting aspects of Elder's Holland's remarks. He reminds us that, regardless of our individual situations, we all feel pain. We all ache under the burden of trial. We all long for relief.
Yet we often pray for freedom and relief on our schedule rather than for faith to rely on God's. As we plead with heaven to lighten our load, our pleadings will be answered, though sometimes not how or when we would wish.
As Elder Holland reminds us all,
But then Elder Holland cut straight to the truth at the crux of the matter.
How did people come to believe that all suffering is necessarily bad? Whatever its source, Elder Holland rightly suggests some suffering isn't bad. In fact, I dare to declare some suffering is necessarily good.
Rise above your trouble
No doubt those steeped in their own pain will find it difficult to believe any suffering could be good, let alone necessarily good. As already noted, it's easy to be so absorbed in one's own troubles that it's difficult to see how those troubles could ever be stepping stones to tranquility.
And yet that's precisely why some pain is necessarily good. Henry Ward Beecher once said our troubles are "the tools by which God fashions us for better things." It is through our trials that we become refined and more of our best selves. It is through our trials that we develop the characteristics of godhood. It is through our trials that we come to know God.
How else could He be known? Elder Holland says as much when he declared,
We all have pain in this life. But when we look beyond our own pain to see the pain in others, we find it easier to see our own in perspective. We find it easier to reach out to help others. We find it easier to see meaning and purpose in our own suffering. And we find it easier to trust God through bad seasons as well as good ones. We find it easier to walk in faith and confidence that the promised blessings will come to us by and by. And that will bring us more joy in our 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.
Procrastination is one way our biological hardwiring maintains our status quo. “Yeah,” it says, “that dream sounds great, but we’ll get to that someday. Right now we’ve got other things we need to do.” And as long as we keep accepting that excuse for not living our dreams, we’ll never live our dreams because they’ll never come true.
There are only seven days in the week, and someday isn’t one of them. When we quit tolerating some day and insist on today, we can move our dreams closer to reality.
I have a dream
That has been the kernel of my struggle for so many years. It’s perhaps the most concise explanation for why I don’t yet have all my dreams fulfilled. I too often tolerate lack of progress. But I also struggle as many others do with fitting everything I want to do into my day.
Part of that comes from having so many dreams that making substantial progress on any of them is difficult. There’s just too many objectives vying for the limited space in my calendar. And abandoning any them is even more difficult because, as I mentioned earlier, I can’t help but dream big — big not just in the extent of any single dream but also in my quantity of dreams.
I dream of an eternal marriage to a wonderful, faithful LDS woman who sees in me my virtues more than my vices. I dream of an LDS culture that fully accepts singles as well as marrieds. I dream of a vibrant LDS singles support network. I dream of a career in higher education through which I inspire the next generation to make the world a better place. I dream of building businesses generating overflowing wealth to support whatever my community needs. I dream of writing books and producing other products that help people live lives filled with more joy and satisfaction.
And my list goes on. Like I said, I can’t help but dream big. All the actions required to bring all my dreams into reality can’t possibly fit inside the fixed space of a 24-hour day or even a single week, month, or year. And so it’s easy to accept that “voice” from my biological hardwiring that says, “You can do that someday.”
Someday never comes
Ultimately, this fight — the fight within each of us — revolves around standards. What standards will we tolerate for the life we’ll live? The dreams we all have of a wonderful future necessitate change; otherwise we wouldn’t have those dreams.
But all results come only from action. Tolerating excuses that our dreams will happen someday keeps pushing the realization of our dreams further and further into the future.
That’s because someday never comes. Choosing to accept the excuse of someday is choosing to accept a standard of living life outside our dreams, and a standard of joy and satisfaction in life far below what they could be. The joy and satisfaction of living our dreams will come only after we choose not to tolerate anything below the standards of our dreams.
Raise your standards
We Latter-day Saints are familiar with standards. We often link them with blessings. Those who live the standards get the blessings that come from obedience. Those who don’t live the standards don’t.
Ultimately, standards serve another purpose. Standards provide boundaries that distinguish who belongs in the community and who doesn’t. In like manner, the standards required for our dreams determine whether we’ll live them or not. When we live by those standards, we move closer to our dreams. When we don’t, we don’t.
If you want to live your dreams, you need to raise your standards. Never tolerate someday. Always tolerate nothing less than progress — even if it’s only a little each day — towards making your dreams reality. When you stop focusing on what others did or didn’t do and start focusing on what you can do, you’ll start to feel the power that comes from moving towards your dreams. And that will bring you more joy in your journey.
Part of what enabled him to do this is the Restoration’s fulfillment of the hopes of ancient prophets and saints. They looked forward to the Restoration as a time when all gospel blessings would be enjoined together. Indeed, we who live today have the glorious blessing of the fulness of the Lord’s gospel. And those fruits can enable us to have a perfect brightness of hope for ourselves, our world, and our future.
See the blessings
Elder Holland begins with a list of what he would be looking for in religion were he living in 1820. He and his wife imagined themselves transported back in time with the same spiritual longings that many of the world’s inhabitants have possessed throughout time.
Elder’s Holland’s list provides a wonderful review of the glorious truths restored to humanity — the true nature and character of God, a clearer understanding of God’s plan for His children and especially the role of the Savior in that plan, an additional scriptural witness that enhances one’s understanding of the Lord’s life and ministry, and true priesthood authority to dispense every ordinance required for salvation and exaltation.
Elder Holland saved the crowning blessing for last. In his own words, he would have searched
Indeed, the blessings which the temple extends to bind the living and the dead across eternity truly crown the joy which living the restored gospel offers. As Elder Holland declared,
Elder Holland then directs our attention towards the future. The fulfillment of the hope of ancient prophets and saints for their future can give us hope for the fulfillment of blessings in our future.
Conquering the COVID-19 crisis is perhaps the most immediate of those hopes for the world. But once we overcome that challenge — and Elder Holland assures we will — other challenges will remain, such as hunger, poverty, safer schools, and the eradication of prejudice. And of course, truly conquering those physical challenges will require the adoption of spiritual solutions, what Elder Holland called
Elder Holland then gets deeply personal, and here is where he packs his best punch.
Isn’t that what we all hope for? Many LDS singles hope for a more perfect life, yet marriage never made anyone’s life suddenly perfect. You simply exchange one set of challenges for another.
That said, the hope that marriage can improve one’s life is not unrealistic, especially if one (to borrow a phrase from President Oaks) “marries right.” We LDS singles, no matter our individual circumstances, can and should hope for the achievement of righteous blessings, not only even when that fulfillment seems impossible but especially when that fulfillment seems impossible.
Feel the hope
I suppose that’s why this Conference address touched me. I’m in my mid-40s having never been married. What hope do I have not just of finding the right type of person who would want to marry me but also of having a family of my own, not just one I inherit from a now severed relationship?
I think Elder Holland would say I have every reason to hope. And so do you. The God who has performed miracles in the past can and will perform miracles in our present and our future. I echo with Elder Holland the message of a returned sister missionary in Johannesburg: “[We] did not come this far only to come this far.” Great and glorious blessings await each of us as we stand firm in our faith and continually choose hope over despair.
Truly, the Restoration has blessed us all. The hope of past believers fulfilled gives us hope our present desires for righteous blessings will not be in vain. Choose that faith over fear. Choose that hope over despair. When we walk in the perfect brightness of that hope, we’ll progress towards our best life. And that will bring us more joy in our journey.
Yet a recent experience caused me much reflection on both my own transformation to optimism and how we can all help those singles wont to wallow in their own mire come Friday.
An unexpected experience
Last Saturday, the newest member of my ward was baptized. The service reminded me of my own mission, and I cried as the Spirit brought past sacred experiences to my remembrance.
As I left, I noticed across the parking lot a sister missionary who’d previously been in the ward. She had obviously returned to attend the baptism. Just before her transfer, she and her companion gave me a very special gift. They snuck up to my apartment door and plastered it with paper hearts sharing messages of love, hope, and encouragement.
I never had the chance to thank them, because the very next day transfers came, and elders arrived in place of both sisters. Seeing that sister now in the parking lot, I called out to her and confided that what she and her companion left for me that night before their transfer meant a great deal to me. I then thanked her.
What happened next surprised me. She told me I should be thanked because I’d helped her tremendously. She didn’t go into details — I’m still insanely curious — but then she said something that later drove deep reflection. She said, “You’re awesome.”
A meditated realization
What surprised me was less that she said it (although yes, I wasn’t expecting to hear that from anyone, let alone a sister missionary) or that she was really sincere in saying it (which she was) and more that I found it hard to hear.
That realization caused me much reflection. I’m very comfortable with myself and enjoy my own society immensely. So why wouldn’t I believe I’m awesome? (And why is there an obnoxious song from The Lego Movie playing in my head right now?)
Seriously, why would that message be so hard for me to hear? After some deep reflection, I concluded it was hard for me to hear because I’d grown too accustomed to hearing the exact opposite.
That shouldn’t surprise anyone. Looking back over more than two decades of being a single Latter-day Saint, the vast majority of the messages I received from single LDS ladies were negative. They didn’t affirm my divine worth nor recognize the goodness of a heart that had sacrificed and suffered much. That’s not to say there weren’t those few who gave me positive messages (there were) or that I made my own mistakes worthy of negative messaging (I did). Rather it simply means I heard negative messages so often, especially in the dating arena, I came to believe them.
A more joyful life
I don’t believe them any more. My view today is much more optimistic. But what would my life have been like had I received more positive messages from other single sisters more regularly? And what of the other LDS singles who are now what I once was? What of those who are prone to throw that pity party on Friday because they don’t have a valentine of their own?
If you’re among that crowd, please know you have agency. That means you choose everything for yourself, including what to believe. I struggled for a long time with negative messages until I realized my agency means I get to choose everything for myself, including what to believe. Just because someone else believes something doesn’t mean I must believe it also. I don’t have to believe what I don’t want.
It’s the same for you. When others send you a negative message, don’t believe them! Instead, believe you have great worth (because you do) and God loves you so much He has prepared glorious blessings for you (because He does and He has). Then share that love with others and skip the pity party. Let your messaging reaffirm the worth of every individual. Then you’ll feel your own worth reaffirmed. And that will bring you more joy in your journey.
Here we find foundational principles local leaders can leverage to help LDS singles find their way.
Walk beside singles
We all understand others better when we step outside ourselves and view the world through their eyes. That increased understanding can open your eyes to what many LDS singles need — true friendship.
My last ward was absolutely awful. Usually no one talked to me or even greeted me. They didn’t seem at all interested in having me there. So when the storms of life beat against my door, no one was there to support me. I felt not just alone and unloved but spiritually stinted, like I was trapped in a sort of prison. What a nightmare!
If nothing else, that experience makes me very thankful for my current ward. Ward members greet me, shake my hand, and sincerely ask after my well-being. They’ve responded when I needed help and support. I feel the warmth of their simple love and sincere friendship. What a blessing!
It doesn’t take much to help LDS singles feel loved and supported. When local leaders — whether married or single — walk beside singles in true friendship, those simple acts can readily meet many needs.
Shore up faith
True friends always increase faith in others. Our Heavenly Father wants LDS singles to marry in the temple and raise righteous families who will promote His work on the earth. That won’t happen if singles don’t believe it will. Local leaders can portray faith and confidence in singles’ ability to achieve a righteous marriage.
How are LDS singles supposed to believe those blessings can be theirs when leaders respond quickly with trite expressions like “Well, it’s OK because there’s always the next life.” That’s true, but have you stopped to consider what living that really means? You’re saying it’s OK the experience singles have already had being single continue for another 40 or 50 years, and then they die, and then sometime after that they get their blessing. That’s not a very enticing prospect, even if it is true.
It’s far more enticing to fix one’s sights on examples like Abraham. His promised covenant child came when Abraham and Sarah were both around a century old. Or how about Jacob’s wife Rachel, who for the longest time was barren? I love Genesis 30:22 — “And God remembered Rachel ....” Local leaders who shore up singles’ faith in themselves and their ability to achieve eternal blessings now and not just in the next life provide greatly needed support.
Promote the next essential ordinance
Of course, securing that next essential ordinance of temple marriage takes more than belief or a motivational pep talk. The lives of many LDS singles stagnant in a lack of accountability. Local leaders are well positioned to provide that accountability.
Life has a way of beating us all into routines. We are, after all, hardwired to have habits. That can be helpful but also dangerous, especially if we’re lulled away from progressing towards eternal goals. The longer singles remain single, the more comfortable they can become being single. And with that comes less likelihood they’ll progress towards their next essential ordinance.
Local leaders can stem that tide of indolence with some gentle accountability. If they’ve paid the price to be a true friend, local leaders — and in particular ministering brothers and sisters — can guide singles towards their next essential ordinance with effective questions. “What’s in your way?” is a good example. As they repeatedly ask questions, simply listen, and then stand ready to help as requested, local leaders extend accountability for progression as singles decide for themselves how they will progress.
When they support singles by being a true friend, local leaders can minister more effectively to LDS singles. That will increase the love we all have for one another. That will build bridges of understanding between marrieds and singles. That will develop a stronger unity of the faith. And that will bring us more joy in our journey.
I’ve been thinking recently about what I do here — this program, the blog, and everything connected to it. I’ve had such hopes and plans for helping LDS singles everywhere live better, more joyful lives. I still do.
Bit by bit, it’s all coming together. I’ve come so far since that very first blog post on 12/12/12. I’ve come so far from that first blog post on this website, the post in which I declared my desire for real in my life. I’ve come so far from providing audio clip readings of my posts. And I’ve got farther yet to go before I’m done.
These accomplishments and dreams inspire me. Yet my mind turns to those who could have such accomplishments and dreams but don’t. They don’t believe they’re meant for anything extraordinary. They don’t see how anything approaching greatness could ever involve them. The future they see holds no promise, no hope, and no joy.
If that describes you, I hope you listen closely to the program today. I have a special message just for you. And it’s this: Don’t you dare give up on yourself.
Choose your joy
I know the depths of depression, the darkness that can envelope a soul in despair so devoid of hope that one wonders how life could ever be joyful for any but the luckiest among us. But I also know that vision doesn’t have to represent anyone’s reality. You can choose your joy.
Once, my sense of “logic” would find such statements repugnant, not to mention incomprehensible. What I see now that I didn’t see then are the faulty assumptions underneath that thinking. Just because others believe something doesn’t make it true. Nor does it mean you have to believe it. You can believe what you want to believe.
And you can believe that what you believe and how you think will ultimately determine your reality. That’s how our brains are biologically hardwired. You can choose to think more effectively, to give yourself messages filled with positive energy, to put controls around your emotions, to choose your joy. You can choose your reality.
Let your light shine
Because you can choose your reality, you can choose to be a victim, or you can choose to be a victor. You can choose to wallow within your own self-absorption. Or you can choose to look outside yourself to how you can bless the lives of others.
Think of what that means. We all posses the awesome potential for bringing goodness into the world, for making a real difference in the lives of others. That means you have that potential. You can inspire others to shine their lights bringing goodness into the lives of others when you shine your light bringing goodness into their lives.
But what would happen if you choose not to shine your light, not to make your contribution of goodness into the world? Would others falter because they never had the light you could shine? Would someone surrender to negativity because he or she didn’t have quite enough reserves to resist, reserves that would have been sufficient with your contribution?
The Master taught, “Let your light so shine before men, that they may see your good works, and glorify your Father which is in heaven” (Matthew 5:16). What distance between God and individual men and women will not be shortened when you choose not to make your contribution?
Partner with Him
That’s why you should never dare to give up on yourself. It’s not about you; it’s about all of us. So when you give up on yourself, you’re giving up on the people who stand to benefit from the contribution you could make, a contribution only you can make. When you give up on yourself, you give up on all of the rest of us.
When many of us look our meager offerings, we wonder how so much could ever hang in the balance. How could our contribution ever be so important? The Lord’s disciples thought this way when they saw they had only five loaves and two fishes (see Matthew 14:17). How could so little feed so many? And yet in the hands of the Master it did. Likewise, the Master can work miracles in the lives of others as you follow His direction to give your contribution.
Don’t you dare give up on yourself! When life looks bleak, partner with the Lord. He will heal you so you believe in yourself and your contribution. He will lead you to those who need your contribution. And His hands will transform your contribution into miracles in their lives. You can bask in their love for you and for the Lord when you make that contribution you can make. And that will bring more joy in your journey.
Elder Uchtdorf’s remarks are no exception. He begins by describing King Solomon’s trappings of worldly success — money, power, fame, prestige. But at the end of his life, King Solomon described his success as vanity. All his advantages weren’t enough to secure his happiness.
Many LDS singles experience something similar. Though they’ve many blessings surrounding them every day, because they focus excessively on the one blessing they lack, they too see life as vanity. They too wonder what really has worth when the blessings they want most continually seem out of reach.
Of course, it need not be that way. Life is wonderful and beautiful. And Elder Uchtdorf describes how we can capture that vision everyday when we believe, love, and do.
Everything starts with belief. That’s why faith in the Lord Jesus Christ is the first principle of the gospel. If we don’t believe, we’ll never receive.
That’s because true belief always motivates to action. You wouldn’t flip a light switch in a room if you didn’t believe the lights would come on. Everything you do is based on a belief that some result connected with your action will occur or could occur.
Elder Uchtdorf agrees. He declared,
I remember a time in my life when I wanted all the trite sayings about having a happy life to be more than just words but something I felt and lived every day. I wanted more than just the same old superficiality, pretending the life I wanted was just around the corner. In short, I wanted real.
I think that point comes into the life of all LDS singles who are single when they thought they wouldn’t be. Whether through divorce or death or just not marrying, LDS singles hunger for real in their lives.
But do you believe — I mean, really believe — you can get it? Do you believe the miracle you want to happen can happen? That it will happen? Belief is always the first step. If you don’t believe, you’ll never receive.
The belief God will perform a miracle for you becomes easier when you feel His love for you. This is why the Prophet Joseph Smith taught one cannot have faith in Christ without a true understanding of God’s character. It’s through God’s love we best realize all of God’s attributes.
That’s because, when we feel God’s love for us, that love simultaneously communicates every other attribute describing God. When you feel God’s love for you, you know more than just that He loves you. You know He’s good because His love is good. You know He’s kind because His love is kind. You know He’s compassionate because His love is compassionate. You know He’s merciful because His love is merciful. You know He’s just because His love is just.
Elder Uchtdorf declared,
John the Beloved spoke truly when he wrote, “He that loveth not knoweth not God; for God is love” (1 John 4:8). When you truly believe, you can reach out to Him and taste of His love.
Of course, love like faith prompts us to action. The Prophet Joseph Smith taught that the man or woman “filled with the love of God is not content with blessing his [or her] family alone, but ranges through the whole world, anxious to bless the whole human race.” When we fully give ourselves to that effort, we can transcend any of life’s difficulties, including the challenges of LDS singles life.
That’s why I’ve long encouraged LDS singles to adopt a personal ministry. When we partner with the Lord, a personal ministry can increase our belief in God and the miraculous blessings He wants to give us as well as provide opportunity for us to love those we serve the way God loves them. And when we allow the love of God to motivate us in fulfilling our personal ministry, we can feel for them the way God feels for them and see them the way He sees them.
Elder Uchtdorf invites,
I add my testimony to that of Elder Uchtdorft that when we truly believe with all our hearts, love God and others with all our hearts, and do the right things for us with all our hearts, we will not just feel happy but be happy. And that will bring more joy in our journey.
If you’re like most people, whatever New Years resolution you made hasn’t stuck with you. Or more accurately, you haven’t stuck with it. By now, most will have given up on the changes they resolved to make just two weeks prior. They’re just too comfortable with the same old same old.
When our sincere efforts to change fail, what can we say to ourselves that will encourage us to keep trying and at the same time allow us to maintain a level of integrity with ourselves? We can tell ourselves we haven’t succeeded yet. This statement recognizes we still have more to do — more we can do — while at the same time being truthful.
Of course, the most important word in that statement is yet. There’s magic in that word yet. It speaks of possibility and opportunity. It invites us to keep doing what we need to do for success to come to us. When we allow that word yet to motivate us to keep on keeping on, we unleash the power of yet in our lives.
Believe in possibility
I’ve said it before, and I’ll say it again. Your focus becomes your reality. When you focus on what you haven’t done, you embrace a reality of inability, one in which you become frustrated at your lack of progress. But when you focus on what you can do, then you embrace a reality of possibility, one in which action enables you to feel a sense of movement towards success.
That’s the magic behind the word yet. Yet invites us to focus on what we can do by reminding us of possibility and the opportunity we have each moment to try again. Only when we believe in possibility will we take the action needed to produce results that lead to success.
Conversely, when we disbelieve in possibility, when we believe the changes we want to make are impossible, then we give up on our dreams. We quit trying to go after them. We effectively give up on ourselves.
Be reasonable with yourself
We should never give up on ourselves. Nor should we demand too much too soon. Some things take time to realize. That’s why we asked in life just to make measurable progress in reasonable time.
That’s the key word: reasonable. We all have different talents and different backgrounds, so we all progress at different rates. What’s reasonable for one may not be reasonable for another. And yet (pun intended) too many of us spend too much time looking at others assuming that, because we haven’t made the progress in our lives others have made in theirs, we’re somehow deficient or defective.
Again, the word yet can work magic here. By reminding ourselves that we haven’t progressed as far as someone else yet, we give ourselves permission to believe in what can be. And that can provide hope that tomorrow can be different than today or yesterday.
We’re all different enough that no one-size-fits-all life plan will truly work for everyone. Why then do we cling to any one-size-fits-all life plan? Why can’t we embrace our own personalized life plan, one we create after partnering with the Lord? As long as we keep trying, the Lord will recognize our efforts, even though we haven’t progressed as far as we would like yet.
I’m still working on all the goals I established for myself two weeks ago. I’m making terrible progress. In fact, my effort is so pathetic I’m not even sure I cam claim to have made anything that could reasonably be labeled as progress.
But I’m not discouraged — not in the least. I know the power of yet. When I tell myself I haven’t achieved my goals yet, I remember that as long as I get back up every time I get knocked down or fall flat on my face or my butt, eventually I will succeed. As long as I keep trying, I know it’s OK I’m not yet where I want to be because I’m on my way there.
And that’s the power that yet can have in each of our lives. When we seize the opportunity we have every moment to begin again and continue towards our goals and dreams, we accept the invitation in the word yet to believe in possibility and do what we can. That movement will inspire us with hope and encouragement to keep on keeping on. And that will bring us more joy in our journey.
You must believe
People make resolutions with the best of intentions. In fact, those good intentions drive us to create the resolution. We see something we want in our lives, or maybe something we want out of our lives, and we resolve to change.
But the road to hell is paved with good intentions, so good intentions alone are insufficient to achieve greatness. Good intentions reflect good desires, and as such they make a good start. But you must also believe in the change you want for yourself.
If you don't believe, you won't receive. Without believing that what you want for yourself is possible, you won't even try. You’ll quit before you start. And you’re guaranteed not to achieve anything if you don’t try.
But you must believe in more than possibility. You must believe what you want for yourself is probable. And you must believe in yourself and your ability to make what you want more probable. That’s of course easier to do when you partner with the Lord. “I can do all things through Christ which strengtheneth me” (Philippians 4:13).
You must plan
Once you believe the attainment of your desires is not only possible but also probable, you must take action, starting with a plan. What steps will you take to achieve your desires?
How we achieve our goals may not happen exactly the way we envision. In fact, they very often don't. But a good plan provides concrete action you can take. It gives permission and direction to be busy doing. And that's essential, because results come from one thing and one thing only — action.
The best plans provide specific actions you can take. Clearly defined, simple tasks conform well to how the brain is hardwired. Our brains are hardwired not to think but to execute clear, simple instructions. When you break your plans down to that level, you align yourself with how you’re built. And that significantly improves your probability of success.
The best plans also consider environment. Your brain is hardwired to determine normal by assessing your surroundings. Let’s say you want to lose weight. If the people usually around you have some pounds to shed themselves, then your brain will think being at that weight is normal, and it will be harder for you to lose weight because most of us don't want to be abnormal; we want to fit in and belong to the group. You must also consider potential distractions in your environment. Again, if you want to lose weight, make sure your food stores don't contain anything that will work against you.
Finally, the best plans consider psychology. Many who are overweight use emotional eating to compensate for something they lack. They use the pleasures of eating to feed their emotional needs (pun intended). If you try to lose weight without addressing deeply seated psychological influences, it's more probable you won't succeed. Your plan must include healthy ways to address your emotional needs that can support you in achieving your goals.
You must act
With a good plan in place, the only thing left is to do. Results come from one thing and only one thing — action. Action plus attitude equals achievement.
Your past attempts ending in failure can provide lessons for success. A failed attempt doesn't mean you’re a failure; it just means your approach is a failure. Direction determines destination, so make a slight change in your approach — in the direction you take — and you can arrive at an entirely new destination. Anything you can imagine you can have. Anything you can dream you can live.
A new year is now upon us, and with it comes new opportunity to improve upon ourselves and to live our best life. When we believe, plan, and act, we can achieve anything. Now is the time for you to rise up and claim your best life. When you do, you give others permission to rise up and claim their best life. That makes life better for everyone. 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 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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