Take a lesson from a farmer
Many don’t believe that. They assume life is the collection of circumstances outside their control. But that’s why many people aren’t all that happy.
Your focus determines your reality. Because you can choose what you focus on, you can choose your reality. True, most don’t choose their circumstances, but that never stopped anyone who lived joyfully from living joyfully. These people lived their best life because they made different choices with the same circumstances.
Some of us should take a lesson from a farmer. Farmers don’t choose their circumstances. They have the soil and the water that’s available. Their seeds for planting are whatever they are. The weather will be whatever it will be. So much of what’s needful for the harvest is outside their control. Yet with hard work in what they can control, they produce bountiful harvests year after year.
In like manner, we haven’t chosen many of the circumstances of our lives. What we have is what we have, and it’s often all we have. But if we work hard in what we can control, we can produce harvests of truly joyful living year after year. This is what I call your best life.
Embrace what you control
I can hear many of you now. What exactly can we control? Here’s my answer: Standards, attitude, approach.
It starts with standards. You’ll never design your best life without knowing what’s acceptable and what’s not. The best delineations between what you’ll tolerate and what you won’t are made after partnering with the Lord to get good with you. Once you know and accept who you really are and what your personal ministry should be, you can best draw that line between what you’ll accept in your life and what you won’t. The more clear you make that definition, the more able you’ll be to live the life you intend.
Once you know exactly what you want, you need resolve to do whatever it takes to get it (within the realm of covenant living, of course). You need the attitude of the victor and not the victim. That attitude will fire your imagination to design a life you’ll truly enjoy and pull you through to that fulfilling end when the road there gets tough.
Of course, attitude without action will never bring you achievement. To live a life you design, you must take action. Working smart as well as working hard requires attention to one’s approach. Too often we think what we seek must come in one specific way. But much of life is not path-dependent; there’s often more than one road leading to the top of the mountain. And sometimes the road that’s best for us to travel is not the one we expect.
Get clear and get going
With these three elements in place — standards, attitude, and approach — you can decide what you want your life to be and feel the joy that comes from working to make it happen. Usually that means taking small steps every single day to inch yourself closer to the life you dream.
That’s where many of us fall short. We don’t do the little things everyday that can near us to our best life. Then, after a larger block of time has passed, we can’t help but notice we’re left standing on the pier because our ship has long since sailed.
That’s where being clear about your standards, attitude, and approach holds its best value. Once you’re crystal clear on those elements, what you need to do everyday will be obvious. Performing those seemingly small and insignificant actions everyday will collect to create the very significant life you design for yourself.
So what are you waiting for? Get clear, and then get going. None of this happens overnight. But as you move closer to the life you design for yourself, you’ll feel the joy that comes from making progress. And that will bring you more joy in your journey.
Put your pieces together
As I reflect back on my life, I can’t accurately pinpoint any one trigger that brought me a phenomenal attitude. The change seems more a process than an event. That said, I can identify some key elements in my transformation.
Without question, developing a more solid relationship with God has been pivotal. You can’t have true joy in your life if you’re not good with you, which means you must know who you are. And that requires knowing who your Heavenly Father is.
When you come to understand who you really are as His child, you’ll realize your power to choose your reality. We do that when we select our thoughts, our self-talk, and our focus, because these produce our reality. When I realized how these elements worked in me, I felt empowered to take control. I could stop settling for mediocrity and start insisting on phenomenal.
Get some attitude
That’s when a new attitude emerged within me. I’ll no longer settle for anything less than a phenomenal life. I won’t settle for giving anything less than my absolute best. No longer will I accept failure or unhappiness or anything less than my best as my normal, and I’ll never give up on myself ever again.
I want phenomenal success. I want phenomenal fulfillment, phenomenal results, and phenomenal relationships. I want phenomenal for myself!
I can’t settle for anything less, because that’s giving up, and giving up is just plain flat out wrong. God gave me my gifts and talents not only to better myself but to better the world. When I refuse to let my light shine, others won’t have the improvement they might have had in their lives.
That’s why I insist on phenomenal in my life. It’s not about me. Giving up on myself and failing to achieve my potential means giving up on those who stand to benefit from that achievement. But when I strive to move closer towards my greatness, I automatically provide positive influence to everyone around me.
And so I can’t accept mediocrity. I’ll never be perfect, I’ll always fall flat on my face, but to quit trying to live my purpose, to fulfill my personal ministry, and to achieve greatness in my life is unacceptable. There are just too many people who would suffer, most of whom I’ve never met and likely never will. But it’s because of them I can’t accept anything less than my absolute best as my normal. I will never settle for anything other than phenomenal.
Make it happen
I have only one life to live. This is it for me. I’ll never get another opportunity to live this life. God gave my unique combination of gifts, opportunities, and personality to me and me only. So this is it. It’s do or die, greatness or bust, phenomenal or nothing. I must make it happen.
And that’s another key element in my transformation. The day I realized my life wouldn’t improve until I owned it was life changing. All the energy I’d wasted wishing my circumstances were better I should have spent wishing I were better. Instead of wishing for less problems, I should have wished for more skills. Instead of wishing the result I wanted would just come to me, I should have been working to make it happen.
Of course, I struggle where everyone else struggles — with the natural man. We’re all our own worst enemy. But working hard is the cost of entry to anything worthwhile. And so I put my shoulder to this wheel because I know people’s lives will suffer if I stop.
The best part is I’m not the only one. What’s possible for me is possible for you. If you want this transformation for you, you can have it. Embrace true foundational principles, do the work you need to do, and you’ll improve your life. And when you truly surrender yourself to that process, you too will have phenomenal. And that will bring you more joy in your journey.
Birthdays are a particular time of year for everyone. But for many LDS singles, birthdays remind them they’re another year older and no less single. That particular aspect gives me pause as I see another birthday approaching me.
I get reflective around birthdays. I think about my experiences over the past year. I think about the relationships I have as well as the ones for which I am still searching. Most of all, I think about how I've changed. Am I a better person than I was a year ago?
I'd like to think I am. But in truth I’m never quite sure. There is one thing, however, about which I am sure. Whatever comes my way, I know the Lord has prepared me for it. I know that the hardship, whatever it may be, will only leave me stronger so long as I choose not to be defeated by it. I know I’ve been prepared for such a time as this.
My mother’s condition drives part of my reflections. I've spoken before about my mother in this forum. But now things have taken a severe turn for the worse. A few days ago, my mother tried to kill herself.
Although it failed to end her life, her attempt has rocked the world of all who know and love her. It's not the dying part that's disturbing. Everyone dies eventually. It's her choosing to leave all of us that's disturbing.
I don't think anyone can really know exactly what's going on in anyone else's head. But I do feel the pain my mother has experienced over the past few years – pain the doctors can't diagnose and have never treated effectively – drove my mother to her disturbing choice. Whether or not that drove her, I don’t blame her.
That said, I can't begin to describe all the emotions that have run through me. But I can begin to have faith that the Lord is still in control and ultimately won't allow anything to veer too far outside His plan.
Feeling after faith
Of course, along with the emotional roller coaster come reflective moments. The reflection I would engage normally with a birthday around the corner is now deepened. And that's not altogether a bad deal.
My first impression is to follow Nephi's example and say I don't know the meaning of all things but I do know the Lord loves me (see 1 Nephi 11:17). And I feel fine with that. My experiences as an LDS single that lead me not to need to know the end from the beginning with regards to my eternal companion translate very well here. Trust in the Lord in any context is still trust in the Lord.
I also know my experiences in learning how to respond positively to the challenges of LDS singles life have made me a better man. And those improvements have prepared me for this moment in which I need to be strong not only for myself but also for others I love.
For instance, I’ve supported my father as he struggles with these events. More than anything, I’ve provided a listening ear. But I’ve also translated what I've learned from being single so long — the knowledge gained from experience that has made me a better man — into the lives of others as well as my own. The result is a new perspective that provides strength, hope, and courage for everyone.
Shining a light
To say things could be better is the understatement of the year. Yet overall I don't feel discouraged or depressed. I have the quiet confidence within me everything will somehow result in good for everyone.
Many of us tend to get so caught up in our own lives we don’t see the great tapestry God is weaving with us. He is preparing each of us not only for the challenges we’ll face ahead. He is preparing each of us to be a light that can shine brightly for those whose hope is dimming. He’s preparing us for times such as these.
People do not light candles to hide light but rather to let light shine so that all may see (Matthew 5:15). We all have goodness to share, gifts the Lord has endowed within each of us not only to help ourselves grow but also to help others along in their journey. When we share those gifts with others, we give the light of hope to others and the light of courage to ourselves. And that will bring us more joy in our journey.
Halloween! That frightful time of year we embrace with a spirit of good fun means dressing up in costumes and of course eating lots of holiday-themed food. And let's not forget the trick-or-treating.
But while we all spend one day a year approaching fearful sights with a gleeful sort of playfulness, many spend the other 364 days of the year cowering to fear. Can we bring to every day of the year the same sort of playfulness that we bring to Halloween?
We all have our fears. One of the biggest fears many LDS singles have is the fear of never marrying. Whether that fear or another haunts you most, you’ll never conquer your fear by cowering to it. To conquer your fear, you must take and use the power you already have within yourself. You must face your fears.
Believe the Lord
To start, you have great reason for courage. You’re not on your journey alone. Your Heavenly Father has provided a Savior Who loves you so much that He never could abandon you, let alone would. And that Savior Who created the universe is a powerful ally.
If you truly trust in that all-powerful Creator, if you truly have faith in Him, if you truly believe Him, you’ll never feel fear. And that’s simply because you won't be able to. Faith and fear cannot exist in the same space at the same time.
So when the Lord promises He’ll bless you, you can rest assured He’ll fulfill His promises. And He won't just fulfill them in part; He'll fulfill them down to the dot of the last I and the cross of the last T. So great will be your blessing that, when that glorious day finally comes, you’ll wonder how it ever was that you doubted Him.
And many of those promises are not just for the next life but for this life. Yes, a few may have to wait for eternity, but I firmly believe that 99% of us can have their promised blessings here and now in mortality. You may doubt and even laugh as did Abraham's wife Sarah, but the Lord will fulfill every syllable of every word of every promise that He makes to you. Period.
Partner with the Lord
How do you believe that? How do you generate such faith in the Lord and in His promises that you continue to believe fervently even when everything around you seems to say the exact opposite?
First, approach the Lord as did the father with the mentally disturbed son who exclaimed, "Lord, . . . help thou mine unbelief" (Mark 9:24). You’re never alone in your journey, so don’t try to go it alone. Walk with Him who gave His all so you could succeed in your ultimate journey.
Second, take action. The Prophet Joseph Smith taught that faith is a principle of action. That means you cannot have faith if you just wish and wait. To increase your faith, you must increase your action.
This is why you approach the Lord first. When you partner with Him, He’ll help you understand the next step you need to take in your journey. When you then act on that revelation and take that next step, you walk by faith toward a bright and glorious future, one with the blessings He wants to give you.
Walk with the Lord
Walking by faith doesn't mean never feeling fear, but it can bring courage. And courage means doing what you need to do even though you may feel afraid. When you walk by faith, you can face your fears with the confidence He will never abandon you.
If all of us were to step back and observe the situation, we’d see that all fear does is prevent us from taking the next step in our journey. But whatever your fears are, you still control what response you will provide. Will you allow your fear to control you and cower from your next step? Or will you control you and take that next step?
When you take that next step, your courage grows, your faith grows, and you can walk and take more next steps with more confidence. The more you act, the more your faith grows, the more your confidence grows, and the more you can live with the surety that the Lord will fulfill all of His promises to you. And that will bring you more joy in your journey.
The many changes announced in the most recent General Conference bring a feeling of starting a new chapter in LDS history. I’m not certain most of us anticipated such sweeping announcements. Yet those of us with faith will embrace the new reality and run with it.
In like manner, life brings to each of us sweeping, unanticipated changes. Perhaps you’ve reached a certain age without getting married. Or that marriage you thought would last forever won’t. Or you experience a job loss. The variety of surprises life can bring has no end. And they often come when we least expect them.
I believe the best response to unanticipated, unwanted events is the same best response to the most recent General Conference. We need to have faith to embrace the new reality and run with it. And when that new reality radically differs from our past, we need to let go of the past and start again.
Make it work
Letting go can be one of the most difficult challenges in life. You like the way things were. You were comfortable. And you don’t want to have the extra work changes often requires.
Yet successful people never confront life as they wish it would be. They confront life as it really is. They do the best they can with what they have. And they make it work.
And what exactly do you have? You have your Heavenly Father, with Whom you can counsel through prayer. You have the Lord Jesus Christ, Who suffered so you could have new life. You have the Holy Ghost, Who can provide revelation, comfort, and strength. You have angels and the powers of heaven upon which you can call when you keep your covenants. You have family, friends, and the Church which can each provide their own measure of support.
Considering what you have, is there any challenge you cannot overcome? As the apostle Paul declared, “I can do all things through Christ which strengtheneth me” (Philippians 4:13).
Let it go
Letting go of the past is often the first step in embracing a new reality. It can also be one of the most difficult.
Earlier in my life, I had a really sweet job. I worked remotely for an East Coast company while living on the West Coast. I had complete mobility both with my physical location and (within reason) my schedule during the day. I also made some good money with the gig. I had residences in two different states and traveled between them at will. Life was sweet.
Then came the word from HQ. Financial conditions necessitated massive layoffs. Half of my peers would lose their jobs. I thought my superior job performance and delivery record would keep me safe.
Then I got my notice. I was the first to lose his job. The shock left me speechless. For some time thereafter I was paralyzed. That paralysis evolved into a deep depression as other life events knocked me down. You can tell I’m not depressed today, so what happened? How did I leave my depression?
I took action. I started doing what the Lord inspired me to do, whatever it was. Completing even small tasks built my confidence and helped me to regain my faith in myself and my future. Slowly but surely, with the help of the Lord, I began to process of rebuilding my life. I started again.
Accepting that whatever bad thing happened to you actually happened to you requires a great deal of courage. But holding on to a past that doesn’t resemble the present reality is just extra baggage holding you back from moving forward in life.
Sometimes you need to take a new approach. And sometimes that new approach involves starting again.
I’ve had to start again in my own life at least seven times. That’s just the number of unanticipated change events from my life that come quickly to mind. I might find more if I really stop and think about it.
Still, it’s fair to say I’ve got a fair amount of experience with starting again. Here’s one of the lessons I’ve learned — starting again usually seems daunting and overwhelming at first but always gets easier once you dig in and start embracing the change with a positive attitude and effective actions.
It’s also helpful to remember everything you have. As I mentioned earlier, you have many in your corner rooting for you because they love you and want you to succeed. You can conquer any life-altering challenge before you when you start again. Embracing the change and making the most of it will help you to become everything your Heavenly Father wants you to become. And that will bring you more joy in our journey.
Life holds many challenges, and LDS singles life is no exception. Whether you never married, are divorced, or are widowed, heartache can cripple you emotionally and obscure your view of a bright future.
But just because you can’t see a bright tomorrow doesn’t mean that bright tomorrow won’t come. Day always follows night; it’s natural law. And it’s always darkest just before the dawn.
It’s easy to believe in that dawn when the light shines over the horizon. It’s harder to believe in the dawn when the darkness is all you can see. How do you resist the call of pessimism to abandon all hope?
You do it with faith. You must have a vision of what you can become. You must believe in that vision and your own ability to realize that vision. And you must have the resiliency to go the distance needed to make that vision reality. You must never say die.
Choose your vision
It takes faith to a have a vision of what you can become. It takes even more faith to believe you can achieve that vision. Where does such faith originate?
It comes from the source of all true faith — the Lord Jesus Christ. His restored gospel teaches us that through Him we can all become something more and return to live with our Heavenly Father. And in what must be the grandest glorification of God, we can also be like Him.
Indeed, the realization of such a vision is a commandment:
Just like every other commandment, the Lord will provide the way to accomplish it.
As I’ve pointed out earlier, Nephi was single when he uttered those inspirational words. He went on to achieve great things. We who are single can be just as inspirational and achieve just as great things in our own lives.
Choose your road
Walking that path of faith isn’t easy. But it’s not impossible. And it’s a lot more joyful than any alternative.
The Lord won’t abandon you. He loves you so much He willingly suffered a tortuous death. Love that strong means He won’t stop until you have every blessing you will receive.
Note that I said “will receive.” Great as His love is for you, the Lord will not violate individual agency. He won’t force blessings upon you. That means you have to choose.
You must choose light over darkness. You must choose optimism over pessimism. You must choose confidence over doubt. You must choose faith over fear.
Many are so much more comfortable with pessimism, doubt, and fear that choosing this low road is much easier. But that choice also means accepting darkness and all its attendant disillusionment and despair as your reality.
Don’t sell yourself short or live beneath your potential! Don’t give up on yourself! The Lord believes in you and your potential. He could never lead you into everlasting failure. Everything He has done and continues to do is so that you can become everything you were meant to become.
God never stopped believing in you. Will you not take Him at His word?
Choose your difference
Your blessings are real. They’re not vain imaginations of your yearning soul nor wishful whims of fancy. They are real, and you can achieve them because God has decreed it.
Don’t you dare give up on yourself! You and your contributions are far too valuable to sit idly on the sidelines of history. God has reserved you for this time and place because you have goodness which only you can give. Choose to make that difference by leaning on He Who is the difference for all of us.
Darkness may surround you now, but that darkness will not last forever. No trial comes into our lives to stay; sooner or later they all pass. Partner with the Lord and let His strength become your strength. Let His faith become your faith. Let His confidence become your confidence.
Never say die. It’s not over until you win. When you adopt that attitude, you can do the impossible. And that will bring you more joy in your journey.
It appears Sno-mageddon is alive and well. Normally when it snows here, it’s gone within a couple of days. Not this winter. Cold and colder temps attend every dumping of snow over previous layers of snow-turned-ice.
For a while I thought we might be getting a break. I’ve been taking advantage of it while preparing to start a new semester. But today, Sno-mageddon struck again, furiously dumping inches of snow within minutes. The college soon cancelled classes.
I’m somewhat disappointed. I certainly want my students safe. But with Monday being a holiday and now today being cancelled, we’ve just passed our first week of the semester without ever having class!
Yet when I learned of the school closure, I didn’t shift into panic mode or even survival mode. I shifted into thrive mode by preparing to take what I’ve been given and shine gloriously with it.
Not here to fail
My experience today resembles LDS singles life. Just as I didn’t anticipate a freak blizzard eliminating class, many LDS singles have met unintended circumstances. We were preparing for a different experience when events beyond our control forced us in a new direction.
Lost opportunities can yield heartache, disappointment, and concern about the future. Yet we can always choose our response.
Many of us struggle to choose optimism. We yearn after hope but feel overwhelmed by despair. I’ve felt that many times in my life. How do you go on when everything around you seems to say you’ll never do anything but fail?
You must awake to this realization: Not everything around you indicates you’ll fail. God certainly doesn’t believe that about you. He loves you. He believes in you. He sent you here to succeed and that gloriously. And He’s constantly pleading with you to believe in those truths. When you do, “the truth will set you free” (John 8:32).
More than surviving
We can get so busy keeping up with life’s demands that we wonder if we’ll ever succeed in having a good life, let alone our best life. Mere survival appears increasingly like a noble virtue.
But do you think God sent you here so you could merely survive? Or did He send you here to thrive?
Thriving is more than surviving. Thriving is living life with zest and optimism. It’s living in the moment, extracting every ounce of joy that moment offers. It’s exuding confidence in the future that faith will not go unrewarded.
I honestly don’t see how any Latter-day Saint — single or married — can experience that without partnering with the Lord for his or her life. That’s best done by seeking Him first.
Yet many of us are seeking first the wrong life partner. We naturally want to belong, so when our culture pairs belonging with marriage, we look for someone who’ll help us belong. Plus we yearn for someone who can take away the loneliness, discouragement, and pain of being single.
That someone is Christ. He taught, “Seek ye first the kingdom of God, and all these things shall be added unto you” (Matthew 5:40). Instead of looking first for an eternal companion to alleviate our troubles, we should look first for the Lord Who can do that and more. Instead of seeking first that special someone to take to the temple, we should seek first to walk with the Lord in the temple.
Weather any storm
The Lord’s love provides the strength to weather any storm. Nephi understood this. Bound to his ship’s mast in a violent sea, his wrists and ankles became severely swollen. Yet he didn’t complain nor cease to look to the Lord. Nephi always had trouble, yet he partnered with the Lord. Can anyone honestly think his life was not his best life?
The Lord can lift you to heights you could never imagine alone. Why settle for the companion you might have now when He can lead you to the companion you most need to have, the one you need for your best life?
With the Lord at your side, you can trust all will eventually resolve for your good. That faith allows you to release everything preventing you from living life joyfully in this and every moment. Hope, optimism, and positive energy naturally result from living with the Lord as your first life partner.
Don’t just survive. Thrive! Partner first with the Lord Who will help you to hear the whisperings of His Spirit more fully, see His tender mercies around you every day, and feel His love for you in powerful and undeniable ways. He can make more out of your life than you can without Him. He will bring you to your best life. And that will certainly provide you with more joy in your journey.
We’ve all fallen short at times. No one’s perfect. We’re all works in progress.
Yet too often we focus on our imperfections. We wonder how we could ever obtain eternal blessings when we just aren’t good enough. We’re not tall enough or thin enough or funny enough or beautiful enough or strong enough or whatever enough. We can go insane focusing on what we lack.
Because your focus becomes your reality, focusing on what you lack produces a reality of lack. It’s impossible to feel competent when you always focus on how you fail to achieve. It’s impossible to feel optimistic when you always focus on pessimism.
But the reverse is also true. It’s impossible to feel incompetent when you always focus on what you’ve achieved and what you can do. It’s impossible to feel pessimistic when you always focus on optimism and reasons to believe in a bright and glorious future.
We each have a choice every single day regarding the perspective we’ll embrace. I choose to say “Enough with enough!”
It’s half full and half empty
We’ve all heard how perspective in life is like a partially filled glass of water. Is the glass half full or half empty? Seeing the glass as half empty brings pessimism. Seeing the glass as half full brings optimism.
I agree our focus determines our reality. That’s why I say the glass is both half full and half empty. Yes, we want to be positive. But ignoring our problems just isn’t smart.
Nature teaches that weeds will infest your garden unless you act appropriately. Likewise, ignoring the problems in the garden of your life allows those weeds to grow and fester.
Yes, look to the positive. Then take the energy and optimism that perspective gives you to tackle the negative. See the opportunities in your obstacles. Believe in possibility, and make changes in yourself so you increase your probability of success.
You’re already enough
Of course, you should see the glass as half full before you see it as half empty. That approach fortifies you to overcome your challenges.
We can all easily answer what’s wrong with our lives. But what good is in your life? When you follow the advice of the hymn and count your blessings, you’ll start to see how much good you really do have in your life.
As wrong as you may feel your life is going, there’s always something going right. Last summer I faced the loss of a very special relationship. Yet in the midst of that experience, the Spirit directed my attention to how much I loved my job and how much it allowed me to contribute to improving the lives of others. While it felt like one part of my life was going very wrong, another was going very right. Focusing on that right part helped me to feel how blessed I really am.
Amplifying positive perspectives and experiences in your life grants strength to confront and overcome your challenges. Of no perspective is that more true than of the Atonement.
That consummating act of the Lord’s pure love proves you’re already enough. Would He have suffered and died as He did if you weren’t? Of course not. Additionally, the Atonement means He’ll never abandon you. He provides you with many tender mercies every single day. He’ll always be there to help you know your next step and have the strength to take it.
You are a conqueror
With that strength, you can conquer any challenge before you. You can transform any setback into an advantage. You can find opportunities in any obstacle. Rather than ignoring the “half empty” aspects of your life, you can confront them with confidence and come off conqueror.
What obstacle keeps you from your eternal blessings? Are you not funny enough? Say “Enough with enough!” and partner with the Lord to know how to work on improving that skill while searching for that someone who thinks your skill level is enough.
Are you not beautiful enough? Say “Enough with enough!” and partner with the Lord to know how to work on improving yourself while searching for that someone who thinks you are enough.
And so it goes with any area in which you think you aren’t enough. Say “Enough with enough!” Then partner with the Lord to know what changes you need to make in yourself and get to work.
You weren’t sent here to fail. You were sent here to succeed, and that gloriously. Stop focusing on how you aren’t good enough. Say “Enough with enough!” And then get to work on changing you. When you do, you can change your life and have more joy in your journey.
Recently I’ve been considering how I arrived where I am today. I remember a really dramatic episode from several years ago involving a woman I loved with all my heart. I was in my mid-30s and considered her as my last chance to secure the blessings I’d been wanting for over a decade.
Everything seemed OK until my rose-colored glasses could no longer obscure the truth. She called to tell me she was seeing another guy. I still held hope things could turn around. After all, we’re supposed to believe in miracles, right?
Only deep down I didn’t really believe a miracle would happen for me. Instead I felt desperate. It seemed my last hope was slipping away from me. I kept thinking about what I didn’t want to have happen. So what happened next shouldn’t surprise anyone.
She called on my birthday to say she was engaged to be married in two weeks. She knew it was my birthday because earlier she sang “Happy birthday” into my voicemail. As if stabbing me through the heart wasn’t enough, she twisted the knife by bluntly telling me I wasn’t invited to the wedding.
The excruciating emotional turmoil that ensued felt unbearable. The anguish of being lost for eternity tortured me. I felt more alone and forsaken than at any point in my life. I entered a depression that took literal months to overcome.
See the opportunity
I’ve learned in the years since my tragic episode I wasn’t alone in seeing a specific relationship as my only hope for securing eternal blessings. And I’ve also learned I created much of the pain and anguish I felt from losing that relationship. I hurt like I did because of the way I was thinking.
That concept may shock some, but it’s no less true. Sure, other people make choices, sometimes against us. But we construct much of our reality, including our emotional reality, with our thinking.
The story has been told of two salesman who get up one morning and see a very wet and windy storm. The first one says, “Wow, what a storm! No one can expect us to go out and make sales today.” He stays home. The second one says, “Wow, what a storm! And what a great day to make sales. Everyone will be home, even the other salesmen!” Both men saw the same storm, but each had a different reality because each choose to see the same storm differently. Where one saw an obstacle, the other saw an opportunity.
That’s what my experiences have taught me over the years. As much as it once felt like I blew my last chance, God has provided others. I just needed to see the opportunities instead of the obstacles.
Part of that required me to recognize what an opportunity actually is. So many of us LDS singles think so narrowly in that regard we’re standing in our own way. We place too many and too stringent filters up front, removing qualified candidates from our consideration. And we view the whole dating journey through binary lenses which blind us from seeing any value in relationships that for whatever reason don’t end in marriage.
Last week I provided the key to changing our perspective. We need to believe the gospel — I mean, really believe it. We know God loves us, but when you truly believe it, you’ll have the confidence He’s constantly working on clearing the next best pathway to your blessings. We know God is all-knowing, all-powerful, etc., but when you truly believe He has His characteristics, you’ll walk in faith He’ll turn everything bad in your life into everything good. All your mourning will turn into joy.
In truth, there is no Obi Wan. There’s never a last and only chance for eternal happiness. God loves you so much He’ll never stop providing you with opportunities to secure your blessings. You just need to set your thinking straight. You need to see the opportunities instead of the obstacles. You need to believe what you know is true. And you need to start doing the right things. The sooner you get on that train, the sooner you’ll savor the joy you can have in life.
Last week I extolled our need to choose Christ when life takes unanticipated turns. No matter how bereft or lost you may feel, Christ can transform your life into something meaningful and joyful.
Part of that transformation involves your sense of identity. Although many LDS singles know in their mind they’re children of God, many of them have yet to know that truth in their heart. And getting to that deeper level is essential to weathering the storms of LDS singles life with joy in our journey.
For example, many LDS singles see themselves and others through the lens of circumstance. Most people, single or married, do this habitually because others’ actions teach them so to act. Yet the perspectives embodied in many of these actions serve more to hinder our progression towards eternal goals than to help.
Christ offers ennobling perspectives. To gain those, we need to choose to think in new and different ways. And that means seeing ourselves and others with greater clarity.
You are not your body
Everyone knows how your body is shaped or groomed isn’t the real you. Yet many LDS singles — men and women — use physical appearance to filter who they befriend and date. These actions clearly communicate you must be attractive to be loved. And many of us feel very unloved.
Of course, most prefer interactions with physically attractive people. Improving your physical appearance can increase your chances of having the interactions you want.
But people are also hardwired to respond positively to a great attitude. I’m always inclined to know more about someone who displays generosity and cheerfulness towards me.
You are not your body. You are the character you choose to embrace.
You are not your job
It amazes me how some singles accept not getting to know someone who happens to be unemployed. That’s like saying it’s OK to divorce a spouse who loses a job. “What? You lost your job? Well, time to find someone else. See ya!” That’s absolutely ridiculous. And yet many of us have no qualms about filtering others with that ridiculous standard.
Those actions clearly communicate you must be occupationally successful to be loved. And many of us feel very unloved.
Of course, people typically prefer interactions with successful people. Improving your career can increase your chances of having the interactions you want.
But people are also hardwired to respond positively to a great attitude. I’m always inclined to know more about optimistic people.
You are not your job (or lack of one). You are the energy you choose to radiate.
You are not your bank account
On a related note, many LDS singles use wealth to filter who they befriend and date. These actions clearly communicate you must be financially secure in order to be loved. And many of us feel very unloved.
I can understand the allure of security, but it’s all facade. Marrying the right person can help us become who we need to become. That’s a life more fully lived than simply not having to worry about how to pay the bills.
Of course, we all want to associate with successful people. Improving your financial situation can help you to have the interactions with others you want.
But people are also hardwired to respond positively to a great attitude. I’m always inclined to know more about someone who sees the opportunities rather than the obstacles.
So are others. My bank account has seen highs and lows, but the best romantic relationships of my life occurred during the lows, not the highs. That’s because my confidence, the confidence others find attractive, has nothing to do with my bank account. How I choose to approach life speaks volumes about who I really am.
You are not your bank account. You are the confidence you choose to exhibit in your life.
Not everyone will choose this perspective. That’s OK. Their use of traditional filters tells you exactly who they are, making it easier for you to filter them from your consideration.
When high ideals inform your daily actions, it’s much easier for others to see and focus on your best you rather than any deficiencies. In short, it’s easier for you to succeed.
It’s also a more enjoyable way to navigate LDS singles life. Improving how you think improves your approach to life. Making conscious choices to communicate and reinforce gospel ideals with your actions provides more joy in everyone’s journey. You can create a rich life through meaningful contribution.
You are not your circumstances. If you think you are, reformat and reboot yourself. You are a child of God with infinite worth and potential. Start seeing that in yourself, and then others will be able to see that more clearly too.
Howdy! I'm Lance, host of Joy in the Journey Radio. I've been blogging about LDS singles life since 2012, and now I produce 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.
Joy in the Journey Radio offers many free resources to help LDS singles everywhere, but it certainly isn't free! Help Joy in the Journey Radio in its mission to improve the lives of LDS singles by donating today.
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