You’d think that situation would turn me away from gratitude, but I had an experience the other day that turned me around. I realized that anyone can adapt to undesired change. You just need to find your new joy.
Coming to terms
We’re all creatures of habit, and I certainly have habits when it comes to the holidays. As I just mentioned, many of those habits involve food.
My condition won’t last forever. One day my recovery will end. I don’t expect I’ll go back to how I was before my first ER visit, and I’m not sure I’ll want to go back. But I am sure I’ll want to partake of my favorite foods occasionally — and indulge a bit when the annual holidays come around.
That’s all cold comfort for me right now. Or at least it was. Sure, the thought of being around people gorging themselves on delicacies I can’t now enjoy doesn’t exactly fill me with delight. I already cancelled my birthday food plan. Now I’ll need to cancel my food plans for Thanksgiving and probably also Christmas and New Years. You’d think I wouldn’t have gratitude from this — and you’d be right before I had this wonderful experience the other day.
Seeing new perspectives
I was shopping for some new diet items and of course conscious of the items in others’ carts — items I wanted in mine but dared not on penalty of pain. So I tried distracting myself by focusing on accomplishing the task before me. I would get what I needed and go.
That’s when the thought came to me. I’m not that bad off. First, I’ve been moving towards my present diet for some time in increments. I just didn’t want to surrender my favorite foods completely. My current condition won’t tolerate the increments; I have to be there now. That sudden shift gives new perspective on how much moving in small increments was really worth, and that’s something to be grateful for.
Second, removing those foods from my diet left a lot of space, so I’ve been searching out recipes online that meet my restrictions. One by one, I’m finding them. Not only that, I’m finding new worlds of flavor as I avoid usual fillers like sugar and embrace spices and seasonings. I’m not sure I’d have all these wonderful new taste experiences without my health challenges driving me, and that’s something to be grateful for.
Third, many of these recipes are so easy to make and way cheaper than the pre-packaged versions that I’m finding a new perspective on convenience. The short term convenience of time I get a can or a box doesn’t outweigh other conveniences like more flavor in my mouth, more health in my body, and more money in my bank account. All that’s something to be grateful for.
Finding new joys
When I put it all together, I have an experience I wouldn’t otherwise have. And that gives me a new perspective on not just my health but also living my life and finding more joy in it.
Yes, I’ve had some undesired changes in my life, but I still have access to joy. It’s not the same joy I had previously; my circumstances won’t permit that. But new doors open for every old one that closes, and behind those new doors are new experiences, perspectives, and joys that all give reason for gratitude. So even though I won’t be partaking of the usual Thanksgiving Day feast tomorrow, I will be reflecting on how grateful I am for the new joys I’ve found and continue to find in my new life.
So when your situation changes in a way you really don’t want, please take a moment to consider what you do have and find your new joy. You’ll gain new perspectives and new experiences you’ll wish you would have found earlier, and you’ll find yourself grateful you did find them. And that will bring you more joy in your journey.
Another two years later, I need those words. I find myself challenged even more with a hospital stay. It’s a new experience for me, as is needing any surgery, let alone two. All this has been unexpectedly thrust upon me. Yet even in these challenging circumstances, I can still choose my response. And so can you. No matter what life gives, when you choose to act, you can fight your fears with faith.
Pray and act
My most recent trouble began with abdominal pain, coming hard, fast, and sharp one afternoon. It seemed to wane as the night came, so I thought I might sleep it off.
But the pain returned very soon after awakening. Having recently been diagnosed with an ulcer, I thought the pain might be excess stomach acid. I took a couple of antacid tablets and waited, but the pain continued on. And it was so massive, I couldn’t ignore it. But I didn’t know what to do.
So I prayed for help. A voice I felt more than I heard whispered, “Go to the emergency room.” I looked at the time and wondered if I shouldn’t try to tough it out for three or four more hours, because then the clinic, which costs less than the emergency room, would be open. Again the voice whispered, “Go to the emergency room.” So I got dressed, put my shoes on, and went.
There was certainly no sense of emergency in the people working there. Eventually I learned my previous diagnosis of an ulcer was not correct. My real problem is pancreatitis, a severe inflammation of the pancreas caused, in my case, by gallstones. But here’s where it gets tricky. Some of those gallstones have traveled into the bile duct connecting the liver with the pancreas. Those must be removed before the gallbladder. Due to differences in how surgeons enter the body for each of these tasks, two surgeries are necessary.
Make your choice
The universe isn’t without a sense of irony. I was thinking just the other day very little in my life is actually going my way. Everything seems a challenge, and I’m continually fighting from the edge of a cliff hoping not to fall over the edge into despair. Then I get this.
As if that isn’t bad enough, the first surgery’s scheduled for Monday. Yeah, that’s right. I’m going to be under the knife on Halloween. I think I’ve had my fill of irony!
Still, the choice we all have remains for me. Where will I place my focus? And what action will I choose? Sure, I have fears. In addition to ones stemming from current events, some of the same fears that plagued me four years ago continue to haunt me today. That’s because I haven’t taken sufficient action to build the faith needed to conquer those fears.
And so it goes for us all. When we focus on what we lack, we encourage inaction, and faith being a principle of action cannot thrive, leaving fear to reign. But when we focus on what we can do and take action, always taking the next step we can take, we build the faith we need to fight fear.
Don’t slow down
It’s so easy to step back and surrender to fear. So often we all choose habits of maintaining the status quo rather than consciously maintaining our momentum towards our best life. But the easy choice rarely leads to great reward.
Faith is built only through action. To have the faith the face your fears, you must act. Initially, any action will do, just to get some momentum. Once you start building enough momentum through any action, then you can shift your direction so you move towards your best life.
When you choose to act, you can fight your fears with faith. The Lord hasn’t given up on you, so why should you? Take His strength, act in that strength, and no matter what comes your way, you can truly believe great things are in store for you. And that will bring you more joy in your journey.
Approach with intention
When you pray, what do you intend the result to be? Surely we can all think of prayers we offered simply because it was time to pray. We had a habit of praying upon getting out of bed, for instance, and we were simply going through the motions when the time came.
And what resulted? We could cross morning prayers off our to-do list. When you think about it, that was the result intended by just going through the motions. If all you wanted was to go through the motion, then in the end that’s what you got — a completed motion.
That approach with prayer — or anything else in life — will never result in a growing relationship with anyone, let alone the Lord. To have the result of an improved relationship, your approach must invite that result. You must approach with the intention of securing your desired outcome. That doesn’t mean merely wanting your desired outcome as you approach the moment. That means your approach leverages the moment to turn your intention into your desired result.
How would your prayers be different if you approached them with the intention of building a relationship with the Lord? Would you use the same tired phrases over and over? Would you deliver a laundry list of desires? Or would you open your heart, share your hopes and fears, present more of a conversation than a monologue, and spend more time listening for the Lord’s voice after you concluded your prayer?
Schedule your intentions
Scripture study goes the same way. Your time with the scriptures will build a closer relationship with the Lord when you approach it with intention. Don’t just read. Actively look for the Lord in the scriptures. Seek Him out by trying to understand His character, His qualities, His perspective, and His perfection through the written words.
Thus it goes for anything in life. Don’t just collide with the waves in the waters of the moment. Approach the moment before you with intention. Planning the moment in advance can help you do that.
Modern life tends to have so many currents pulling you in so many different directions that, unless you’re intentional about your day, opportunities for improvement will pass you by and you’ll find yourself no closer to your goals and dreams. It’s hard to approach the moment with intention when that moment doesn’t happen. Schedule it so it will.
Make the time
That’s not to say every moment you plan will go as planned. Life is about change and learning how to adapt to change. But if you don’t schedule time for producing the results you want, you’re not likely to take the actions that will give you the results you desire.
Thus, to develop a relationship with the Lord, schedule the time you will spend building that relationship. But if you really want to get serious, schedule not just time for activity but time to become more like Him. What will you need to do to become more holy? Pray with real intent? Schedule that time. Search Him out in the scriptures? Make that time. Devote yourself more in His holy house, a.k.a. the temple? Schedule that time. Spend more time serving others? Schedule that time.
Take time to be holy. As you schedule your moments and then approach those moments with intention, you’ll bit by bit strengthen your relationship with the Lord. You’ll feel more of His love, which will strengthen you as you confront your challenges in life. You can then approach with intention every other area of your life — your career, your social life, your dating, whatever — and start having more of the results you intend. That’s not just going through the motions of life. That’s living your life. And that will bring you more joy in your journey.
That relaxed attitude was no match for the “Yeah, but”s that always intervene when we’re stretching ourselves out of our comfort zone. “You should work on that dream” confronts “Yeah, but it’s been a long day and I’m too tired” and you don’t make any progress on your goals and dreams. “You should finish that task” meets “Yeah, but I’ve got bills to pay [or insert other work that appears to take priority]” and you don’t make any progress on your goals and dreams. So if you want to move towards your goals and dreams, don’t be a butthead!
Leave your comfort zone
So long as we stay within our comfort zones, we’ll always have average lives of mediocrity. And that’s the way our brain likes it. How do I know? Quite simply, it’s designed into our biological hardwiring.
Anciently, venturing too far outside your comfort zone could get you killed. Thus, the forces of evolutionary biology adjusted the design of our internal controls. Our biological hardwiring now provides a check point if we go too far beyond the borders of safety. “You don’t really want to go this way” becomes the persuasion of the moment attended by a natural pull back within our comfort zone. It’s all designed to keep us safe.
But staying safe will never result in your best life because staying safe leads only to mediocrity. Now, I’m not saying we need to be a reckless version of Evel Knievel. What I am saying is playing it safe every time never got anyone anywhere. Your best life isn’t found inside your comfort zone. If it were, you’d have your best life because it’d be easy to find and you wouldn’t be dreaming of something better.
Turn knowledge into action
None of this is new to me; I’ve known all of it for years. So why then have I kept slipping? Why hasn’t the knowledge of how my biological hardwiring works translated into forward-propelling action? It’s comforting to know that even with all my slipping the ball’s at the one-yard line, but even still. why isn’t it in the in-zone?
I simply haven’t been vigilant watching for lapses. Our biological hardwiring has us operating mostly out of habit, so it’s easy for eyes to drift away from watching out for potential slips. And those opportunities to slip sneak so silently upon us that not watching vigilantly essentially invites slips towards our goals and dreams to occur.
Those slips often begin with “Yeah, but.” Without vigilant watching, those “Yeah, but”s come and carry the moment. Each surrender to natural inclination is a vote to stay average. Over time, those votes can aggregate to deliver a life of mediocrity. In this way you can get close to scoring but never actually do.
Adopt a new habit
Can you ever get the “Yeah, but”s out of your head? No, they’re a part of your biological hardwiring. But you can develop habits for confronting those “Yeah, but”s successfully.
Begin by deciding your response in advance. Then write out that response: “When I get told ‘Yeah, but’ X in such-and-such situation, I will Y.” Writing out your response burns it more into your brain so that, when your trigger event occurs, you’re more likely to follow through with your pre-determined response. Once you play that out enough times, you’ll have a new habit that propels you forward to your goals and dreams.
So don’t be a butthead. Don’t just let the waves of life carry you wherever the winds happens to blow. Own your life. Take control. Reject any surrender to “Yeah, but” by setting yourself up to adopt the habits you need to succeed. You’ll find yourself slipping a lot less and scoring wins a lot more on the road to your best life. And that will bring you more joy in your journey.
There really was nothing wrong with me, but there was something wrong with my thinking. Despite seeming natural, these sorts of comparisons with others are never fair. And I wasn’t alone there; many LDS singles unwittingly compare themselves to others. But you should compare you with you and no one else.
Understand how you’re built
Comparing yourself to others is inherently unfair. We all have different backgrounds, different knowledge, different experiences, different ways of seeing the world. Comparing yourself with others is like comparing apples and oranges. They’re both fruits, but beyond that they have few similarities.
Yet recognizing that no good comes from that comparison doesn’t stop anyone from doing it. Why does it seem so natural to compare ourselves with others? Why are we so prone to make these comparisons despite their inherent unfairness?
The answer is biology. We’re all biologically hardwired with a basic desire to be loved and accepted. Since like begets like, that desire translates into a desire to be normal, to fit in, to belong. And so part of our biological hardwiring assesses what’s normal by comparing ourselves with those around us.
Think of that system as a sort of thermostat. We set our “temperature” to match the “temperature” of those around us so we’ll be like them and therefore fit in. This is why fat people who hang out with fat people find it hard to lose weight and fat people who hang out with skinny people find it easier to lose weight. In both cases, biology prompts the individual to be more like those whom that individual spends substantial time.
Leverage how you’re built
The same biological hardwiring works in any situation, including the one in which LDS singles feel like Moroni as they watch their friends leave singles life one by one. They feel out of place because they’re not like those around them. Time’s progressing, but they don’t seem to be.
How do you deal with such situations? If your biological hardwiring has you wanting to be like those around you, and you find yourself stuck and unable to be like those around you, are you doomed to a miserable existence? My response? Only if you want to be.
You can’t change your biological hardwiring, but you can redirect its influence. First, recognize both your propensity to compare and the inherent unfairness in comparing yourself with others. Then accept comparisons only between you and you. Every time you find yourself comparing you with anyone else, stop, remind yourself how unfair that comparison is, and then compare you with you.
Essentially, you compare the person you are today with the person you were previously. It may be the person you were last year, last month, last week, yesterday, or even earlier today. But if you can see a reasonable improvement between the previous and present you, you’re making progress. And that’s what really matters.
Grow into something more
Of course, simply making progress doesn’t necessarily satisfy the basic need to belong, especially if everyone one around you isn’t comparing them with them. But that just highlights the need to choose with caution those with whom you choose to spend your time. Maximize your time around others who’ll help you compare you with you, and minimize your time around others who won’t.
In the end, it won’t matter whether you did this or that within whatever time frame as much as whether the you at the end is better than any previous you, because that will mean you made progress along the eternal path. And making progress along that path will mean your time spent in mortality was worthwhile.
Stop comparing yourself with others. They don’t have the same combination of background, knowledge, experience, and perspective you have. For all we share in common, our individual experience in mortality really is individual. So compare you with you and no one else. You’ll turn your focus more on making the progress you need to make, and that focus will then determine a reality of progress. And that will bring you more joy in your journey.
It’s not uncommon to find singles who have extended such expectations to every part of their lives. They include how many kids they will have, where they will live, what kind of career they have, and more. The list of rules their life is supposed to follow is quite long if not endless. Well, I’ve got just one thing to say to that. Your rules are dumb.
Make rules for you
Setting rules for how life is supposed to proceed establishes expectations. And that’s a problem, especially where other people are involved. Everyone is so imperfect that you’re almost certain to be disappointed.
I know that sounds cynical. I’m not trying to be. Successful people take the world as they find it, not as they wish it would be. That means seeing things as they really are and calling them out. Expecting people to act a certain way so your life can unfold according to your fantasy is just dumb.
Instead of establishing rules for how others should act, make rules for how you should. Others will almost certainly disappoint you, but you can choose not to disappoint yourself. You can work towards your best life by becoming your best self, and you do that by exercising the discipline to conform to rules that your best self would follow. That process of struggle as you seek to change not just your behavior but your identity fuels the growth for the transformation into your best self.
Leverage life’s little surprises
Your rules for how your life should proceed are dumb for another reason. By staking out an expectation of what will or even should happen, you cut off all other possibilities from being acceptable. And that removes much of the beauty your life could have.
Life is wonderful not because it conforms with some plan of perfection but because of possibility. Variety and spontaneity are the spices of life because they highlight possibilities. It’s the possibility of surprise that helps make it interesting.
Of course, some of those surprises would be more interesting if they didn’t invade your life. For example, my place recently flooded for the third time in the last two months. A surprise to be sure, but I don’t wallow in playing the victim. I choose to leverage the event to fuel my drive to improve my situation. Those improvements require me to think creatively about possible solutions and to work hard to realize them.
If I insisted that my place wasn’t supposed to flood because that’s not how my life is supposed to be, I’d cut off the creativity I need to find solutions. I’d spend far too much time focusing on the problem, which creates a reality filled with problems. I’d miss out on how beautiful my life could be by truly living it — taking it by the reins and making it the best it can be.
Open yourself to possibility
What would happen if you suspended your rules and opened yourself to possibility? Instead of insisting that your life proceed according to some pre-determined expectation, what if you had the humility to embrace an alternative?
I recall in a previous ward receiving an invitation to dinner. The family had invited another family to join us. As we waited for the women to finish preparations, the children were playing outside, and we men were conversing.
Speaking of his wife, one of the men said, “I never thought I’d be happy with a red head, but I am.” When single, he expected he needed to marry a blonde to be happy. What he found by releasing that expectation and embracing possibility was true happiness found not in what he had but in what he gave. And the life he described living was truly beautiful.
Your rules are dumb. Let go of the expectations that life must unfold a certain way in order for it to work for you. Your life will work for you when you do the work your best life requires. And that will bring your more joy in your journey.
not so, my firstborn in the wilderness, righteousness could not be brought to pass, neither wickedness, neither holiness nor misery, neither good nor bad. Wherefore, all things must needs be a compound in one; wherefore, if it should be one body it must needs remain as dead, having no life neither death, nor corruption nor incorruption, happiness nor misery, neither sense nor insensibility” (2 Nephi 2:11).
To Father Lehi’s list of essential opposites we can add this pair: comfort and growth. We all want growth, but growth by its very nature is often uncomfortable. And if we avoid the discomfort, we’ll never grow. There’s no comfort in growth but also no growth in comfort.
Understand the nature
We’d all do well to remember these essential opposites as we encounter challenges in our lives. Many LDS singles naturally retract from the discomfort their challenges bring. That has nothing to do with being single and everything to do with being human. But the growth they want can’t come without discomfort.
Many of the challenges of LDS singles life come from the nature of singleness. You’re made to connect with another half, but you have only the half you are. Everything in your life has to come from you. All your financial support has to come from you. Maintaining everything in your life has to come from you. If something doesn’t work, the fix has to come from you. If you have children to raise, then that too has to come from you.
We’ve all been there in Singleland. Some of us have been there longer than others, and others more are still there. In fact, that’s where the majority of the adult Church membership is. And the majority of that majority is stuck right there in Singleland because they keep looking for the comfortable exit in the futile hope they can grow without discomfort.
Embrace the discomfort
That hope is futile because growth and comfort are essential opposites. You can’t grow if you stay comfortable. To have growth, you must be willing to embrace discomfort.
Notice I said embrace. A mere acceptance will not do. You must put your arms around the pain and take it in. You must channel it into the molding of your character. You must leverage it to your advantage. You must take what appears to hold you back and turn it into the very impetus that propels you forward.
Most people don’t think this way, which is why most people when presented with challenge will whimper and wallow in self-pity. Those who successfully transcend — not just overcome but transcend — their challenges are those who embrace the discomfort. And that embrace is what allows them to experience the most growth from their challenges.
Experience maximum growth
We’ve all had the experience not just of trials but also of realization after the trial that the uncomfortable experience made us stronger. We learned something we didn’t know before. We have a perspective that’s more complete because of the experience the trial provided. We grew because of the discomfort.
But most of us leave it there, taking just what life has forced upon us. We’re leaving some growth on the table when we do that. There’s so much more growth we could experience if only we embraced the discomfort.
And that discomfort is something LDS singles especially should want to embrace. We’ve talked often about the fundamentals of the dating journey and how you must become more agreeable by changing you. That change you most need is almost always uncomfortable. But embracing that growth by being all in with both your circumstances and what you do in those circumstances will bring that change to you more quickly and more completely. And maximum growth leads to maximum joy.
There’s no comfort in growth but also no growth in comfort. May we each remember that truth as we each consider our response to the challenges in our own lives. And may we each embrace the discomfort in those challenges. Doing so will maximize the growth we’ll experience. And that will bring us more joy in our journey.
After inviting a student to read the first stanza of Robert Herrick’s oft-quoted poem “To the Virgins to Make Much of Time,” Mr. Keating draws the students into a discussion about the meaning of the poem. Carpe diem is probably the best known Latin expression among the common populace today, most of whom don’t speak Latin. Yet for as well known as the Latin phrase meaning “seize the day” is, few actually practice it.
And that was the whole point of Mr. Keating’s lecture. We each have a window of opportunity while we live, and that opportunity is to seize the moment in front of us and make the most of it. This was Mr. Keating’s message in his first lecture. “Seize the day, boys! Make your life extraordinary!”
Make the conscious choice
I’m not sure why it didn’t hit me earlier, but this is a perfect message of LDS singles. Too many waste their lives away waiting for something wonderful to happen, as though the blessings they want in their life will appear magically at their front door.
Here’s the problem with that approach: It wastes opportunity. The same agency that singles use to waste away their time waiting for their blessings is the same agency they could be using to make their lives extraordinary.
But most don’t make their lives anything, let alone extraordinary. They simply flow with the waves of life, going wherever they’ll carry them. This is the path of the natural man and the natural woman. Simply following the impulse of the biological programming within our physical bodies is easy, and that programming would have us staying where it is “safe.”
But the extraordinary life doesn’t come to anyone who simply goes with the flow. Rather it comes to those who will make their own waves to create the currents that carry them to the destination they desire. They make conscious choices to act against the natural impulse to go with the flow.
Wield your greater power
Conscious choice is the key not only to making one’s life extraordinary but also to encouraging the blessings you want in your life to come into your life. Notice I said encourage, not make. Many blessings require the agency of another to decide in your favor.
That truth doesn’t diminish the greater power we each have to achieve the results we desire. Too many focus on what is outside their control, and that focus belittles the power we each have to change our lives for the better and make them truly extraordinary. In reality, many exercise their agency in accordance with what is presented to them. And you choose what you present to them every single day (pun intended).
So what should you choose to present to others in order to attract the results you desire? If you want an extraordinary life, then present the elements that will attract an extraordinary life. This is more than just the activity you embrace in your life. This is also, and perhaps more importantly, the assumptions and attitude you embody.
Focusing on what you can do will enable you to feel more of the power you truly have within you. And by acting on that truth, by doing what you can do, you’ll feel more powerful more often.
Start with what’s interesting
When you make your life extraordinary, you make yourself more attractive. So where do you start? How do you start?
The extraordinary life is an attractive life, but it is also an interesting one. So start by making your life more interesting. And the easiest place to begin is with your own imagination. What do you think makes a life interesting? Put those things one by one in your life. And don’t rely on what others think is interesting. Follow what you yourself genuinely think is interesting.
Make your life extraordinary. Take action to start living your life. The more interesting you make your life, the more attractive it will be to others and the more enticed they will be to share it with you. When you leverage the power you have in your own agency, you can make your life more than you imagined it could be. And that will bring you more joy in your journey.
Write your best story
Our reality is simply the combination of our results in life and the meaning we ascribe to them. A story is essentially a description of that reality. Stories are how we make sense out of life. That’s why we all have a story.
And that’s why, when your life starts going off plot, it’s natural to freak out. The story you’ve been using to make sense of your life doesn’t match reality. “Wait a minute!” some cry. “I’m supposed to be married by now. This isn’t how my story is supposed to go!” Or maybe you weren’t supposed to get married to a “consolation prize.” Or maybe you weren’t supposed to get divorced. Or maybe your spouse wasn’t supposed to die so soon. There’s endless ways to detail the difference between the story you’ve been using and the one you’re experiencing.
But Christ can make up the difference because He is the difference. Your goals determine your direction, and direction determines destination. How can you embrace the best destination unless you embrace He Who is the only Way to that best destination? Sister Johnson acknowledged that truth as she began her remarks with an invitation:
Partnering with the Lord is the only way to your best life on both sides of the veil. You simply can’t write your best story without Him.
Understand why you hesitate
As simple as that answer is, it isn’t easy. Partnering with the Lord often means surrendering your will to His. And the natural man and woman are nothing if not unwilling to be ruled.
Combine that truth with our biological hardwiring to resist change, especially uncomfortable change, and you’ve got obstacles to becoming your best self before you even begin. Sooner or later, we’ll all sense that accepting His will instead of our own will mean accepting some uncomfortable outcome, deviating the story of our life away from the story we’ve told ourselves is the one that’s supposed to be.
This is essentially why we hesitate to turn our story over to Christ. Sister Johnson said as much in her remarks:
Christ knows you and your potential so well He will guide you to what will help shape you into your best self, and He won’t allow anything to come into your life that you can’t leverage for that end. Sister Johnson confirmed these truths when she taught,
Embrace your best story
So it really comes down to this: Are you willing to let Christ write a story for your life far better than any you could write on your own? You can stay in your comfortable hovel believing in your own story and denying any deviations life will always eventually present. Or you can embrace the discomfort that will lead you to your best life by letting Him prevail in your life.
The truth is we don’t know everything we think we do. As discomforting as a turn in your story might seem, if that turn comes from Christ, embracing it will turn you more into your best self and your life more into your best life. As Nephi taught, “He doeth not anything save it be for the benefit of the world; for he loveth the world, even that he layeth down his own life that he may draw all men unto him” (2 Nephi 26:24).
Let Christ author your story. Partner with Him, and He’ll make more out of your life than you ever can on your own. Whatever discomfort you experience from so doing will turn around to your gain. When that day comes, you’ll look back on your decision to let Him prevail with gratitude. And that will bring you more joy in your 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.
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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