Given that Singles Awareness Day — oh, excuse me — Valentine’s Day is tomorrow, it seems appropriate today to talk about something from the program last week that got me thinking. Many of us know how we want life to be. But it’s been said life is what happens while you were making other plans. Life has a way of turning out differently than we planned.
Many singles plan to find the perfect companion — someone they’re meant to be with, someone easy for them to fall passionately in love with and who falls passionately in love with them — and to get married and have a family and live the rest of their lives in a blissful happily ever after.
Then life happens. They notice life doesn’t match their idyllic dream. And that mismatch presents questions of compromise: Should they wait for the one who’s right for them forever, or should they just take the one who’s here right now because the one who’s right for them forever doesn’t seem to be coming and that person who’s right here seems good enough for right now?
Are our dreams portents of a possible future or a cruel joke of mortality? Why do we dream if the dreams never become real? Do they never materialize because they weren’t meant to be or because we aren’t good enough?
You’re not good enough
There’s two ways to answer that question. Here’s the first: Of course, we aren’t good enough. That’s why Christ plays such an essential role in our Heavenly Father’s plan.
If we were good enough, we could secure eternal blessings on our own. We wouldn’t need a Savior. We could simply persevere with hard work to secure our blessings.
But that’s not how it works. Yes, we need to work hard to achieve our goals and dreams. But we’re not likely to achieve them on our own because too often we get in our own way.
And that’s the beautiful part of the Atonement. Elder Bednar put it beautifully when he declared
Christ saves us not just from sin but from ourselves — our mistakes, our imperfections, our propensities to fail, and the natural man or woman residing inside each of us.
You are good enough
There’s another side to that coin, though. It says we are good enough to secure eternal blessings. Last week, I introduced the analogy of the electoral college. In the US, we elect the chief executive with a winner-take-all voting system that appropriates different numbers of votes to each state based on population. All a candidate needs to win is 270 electoral votes. And you can get that without the state with the most electoral votes. The current occupant of 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue is a case in point.
In like manner, many singles think they need to be perfect to secure their dream companion. Yet we’re all so mired in imperfection that many singles wonder how they could ever be agreeable to an acceptable marriage partner. That happens in the same way the President doesn’t need to win California to become the President. Those who are serious about what marriage really entails generally evaluate other people as a whole package. That means strengths in some areas can compensate for weaknesses in others.
Of course, that doesn’t justify ignoring our weaknesses. We should always do our best to improve in every area of ourselves and then trust the Lord to make up the difference. And Christ can make up the difference because He is the difference — the difference between eternal glory and eternal misery.
Partner with the Lord
In the end, we can best secure the blessings we desire when we partner with the Lord and walk with Him on the proper path towards our blessings. The Spirit will reveal to us the next steps along that path. And the Lord will grant us the courage we need to take those next steps.
Here as in every other way, your focus becomes your reality. When you focus on what you don’t have and can’t do, your reality becomes filled with lack and inability. That leads to frustration, anger, disillusionment, and despair. But when you focus on what you do have and can do, your reality fills with abundance and possibility. That leads to encouragement, appreciation, illumination, and hope.
Are you good enough to achieve your dreams and desires? Of course you are — when you partner with the Lord. So instead of the pity party many singles have on days like tomorrow, choose instead to partner with the Lord. Counsel with Him to develop an action plan that will get you moving forward. When you move in that direction, you’ll make real progress towards your eternal blessings. And that will bring you more joy in your journey.
Last week we discussed the importance of taking action to get the results we want in life. Often that means practicing small habits every day that lead to our desired results. When we stay consistent with those habits, eventually we achieve the results we want.
For example, if I want to learn to play the piano, I need a daily habit of piano practice. I need to dedicate a set amount of time every day to learning how to play.
Sometimes, however, the small daily habits needed for desired results are not so simple to envision. Many LDS singles wonder what habits will help them achieve the temple marriage they desire. Some may think the small daily habits they need revolve around finding the right person. Such an approach assumes people don’t need to improve upon themselves to attract the right person into their life.
And that’s why that approach rarely works. All of us have such imperfections that looking to improve ourselves is really the more effective approach. Instead of looking to find the one companion we want to take into our life, we need to be the one companion for the person we seek.
Make yourself more agreeable
Effective approaches often find root in fundamental principles. So how is being the one instead of looking for the one rooted in the fundamental principles of LDS dating? It all revolves around agreements.
Progress in your dating journey depends upon your ability to secure each agreement you need to move to the next stage of your journey. That means you need to be agreeable in someone’s view, because people aren’t going to agree to an unattractive prospect. That just isn’t agreeable.
If you focus your approach on finding the one, any improvement in your chances of securing the agreement you need will be marginal at best. But focusing your approach on becoming the one exponentially increases your probability of success because, when you work to become the one, you’re making yourself more agreeable
Take the next steps
That fundamentals-based approach begs this question: What must we do to make ourselves more agreeable? The answer will of course vary with the individual. We’re all so different in the totality of the dating prospect we represent that what we’re each missing to become more agreeable will also vary greatly.
That doesn’t mean there aren’t answers. Previously I’ve explored applications to the lives of LDS singles from Elder Larry Lawrence’s October 2015 Conference address on securing revelation through the Spirit. The Spirit can and will give us the next steps we need to improve ourselves and our lives. When we faithfully follow the instructions we receive, we are blessed with a better life and more instructions for making that better life even better.
Often those steps will be small. Elder Lawrence describes a single adult who asked after her next step and received the prompting to clean her room. That is a small step, but it also can bring about great results. Clearing the clutter in our local landscape can clear the clutter from our perspectives, helping us to feel less burdened and more capable of focusing on the work we need to accomplish. Whatever small step the Spirit prompts you to take, do it.
Secure the power of small
The success LDS singles desire in their dating efforts won’t likely come overnight. However, persisting every day in the small habits of making ourselves more agreeable dating prospects will over time transform us into more capable travelers in our dating journey. Small things give rise to great things.
This is the way the Lord works. “And out of small things proceedeth that which is great” (D&C 64:33). When we take the small steps that will help us become the one someone else wants, we become more agreeable to potential dating partners. And that means increased probability of securing that agreement we need to progress to the next stage in our dating journey.
Yes, finding the one is important. You can’t have the companion you want if the two of you never meet. But simply crossing paths with someone isn’t going to influence that person to make the agreement you need to progress to the next stage of your dating journey. Being a more attractive person will. And you’re likely to cross paths with many prospective companions as you get active in becoming the best version of you that you can be.
So don’t focus on finding the one. Rather focus on being the one. Your progress in becoming your best self will by itself invigorate you. At the same time, you’ll be making yourself more attractive. Giving your all to those right things for you will bring you happiness. And that will bring you more joy in your journey
In Western culture we adore people supposedly born with unique talent. Of course, we should congratulate those who have talent. The problem comes when we think those at the top have been born with “it.” That type of thinking leads to so much failure.
We think like this more often than we might realize. Ever heard someone say “I’m just not good at math”? People learn math all the time, and yet some persist in thinking they're “just not math people,” whatever that means. This thinking reflects the fixed mindset, the idea that you either have “it” — the something wonderful you need to succeed — or you don’t.
The fixed mindset has everyone climbing all over each other trying to prove how great they are. They seek to validate their own sense of self-worth in a game of comparisons. Unless you can prove you're better than someone else — that you have “it” — the world teaches you aren’t validated.
The fixed mindset also encourages you to do everything on your own. If you need help, you obviously don’t have “it”. If you’ve ever wondered why some find it hard to accept service from others, it may be because they don’t want to appear like they don’t have “it”.
This one cultural influence frustrates many LDS singles as they try to create families. For example, suppose you have some bad experiences with dating. (OK, so maybe you don’t have to suppose.) Is your normal response to give up because you think you don’t have “it”?
It’s very easy to think, if we weren’t born with whatever wonderful something it is we believe we need to have to succeed, then why even try? After all, it’s obvious you don’t have “it” if you aren’t as wonderful as someone else. So why torture yourself by proving what you fear, that you're unable to have your righteous desires? After all, you just don’t have “it”.
But you don’t need to think that way. Replace the idea of “it” with the idea that talent can be learned. You can then see service from others as an opportunity to learn something new and to improve upon yourself. That makes it easier to embrace.
Learn and grow
No talent of any kind is innate. Learning line upon line is part of the experience we came to mortality to have. Even people who think they aren't “math people” can learn math. I see it every semester with the math classes I teach. Talent can be learned.
And because it is learned, you need to see failure as a chance to improve yourself. Remember that your focus determines your reality. For example, it’s easy to think you're somehow defective because you can’t get a date. And as long as you focus on how “defective” you are, your reality will feel to confirm just that.
But when you focus instead on your efforts, your failure to get a date doesn’t mean something is wrong with you but rather with your effort. Ask yourself, “Why was it exactly that my effort to get a date failed?” and then keep following that trail until you find real answers.
Look to the Lord
Ultimately the Savior has already accepted you. He would not have suffered all He did if you were not worth redeeming. That means you don’t have to prove or validate yourself or even compare yourself with anyone else. You’re already accepted.
And His acceptance is the only one that matters. When you accept that truth, you free yourself from feeling you must have a significant other in order to be accepted. You can more easily be real in your interactions with other people. You don’t have to pretend you're something you really aren’t. That freedom makes life so much more enjoyable.
If you don’t feel that freedom now, then pray for it. The Lord will guide you to embrace your true worth. After all, He knows you're worth it. He’ll help you to feel His love for you if you but ask. When that happens, you’ll realize more fully your own worth. You’ll know more fully that you’re already accepted. And that will bring you more joy in your journey.
Long time audience members know I’m not much for social media. But occasionally I do dip my toe in the pool. And despite the infrequency of my visits, I do notice trends. One I observed recently is the continual appearance of memes that claim to know all about real men.
These memes would have us believe real men always follow the natural hunter instincts buried deep within them. If he wants a woman, so say these memes, a real man won’t hesitate to chase after her. So, they conclude, if a man isn’t obviously chasing after a woman, then that woman should stop hoping for a relationship with said man because clearly the man isn’t interested.
Seeing something like this once, I just shake my head. But several appearances make a trend. And that concerns me more, especially since these folks don’t seem to know much about real men.
Real men are imperfect
Our modern society likes to idealize everything. But that’s nothing new. Ancient Greek statues consistently show figures of perfect proportions even though the distribution of body shapes in their society was undoubtedly not very different from our own. We could say likewise about the Romans.
So it’s no wonder that some would think real men are perfect. After all, no one dreams of living forever with imperfection. Everyone dreams of living forever with perfect.
But perfect doesn’t exist in mortality because every mortal is imperfect. The Brethren have repeatedly taught that the perfect marriage is not the union of two perfect people living happily ever after but rather the union of two imperfect people working together towards perfection. That means real men are imperfect.
Real men have issues
These imperfections will often manifest as some issue. And that issue could prevent a man from publicly indicating any interest in a woman. Primordial instincts may make men the hunter gender, but primordial instincts don’t take precedence over the psychological forces of the present day.
Real men have imperfections. Real men have issues. Some of the those issues we created in each other. Women who complain about not receiving any invitations to go out and then reject casual dating invitations have trained many men into inaction. Likewise men whose actions teach that perfection is a prerequisite to being loved have trained many women to devalue themselves.
The idea that men always go after what they want can’t possibly describe real men. That’s an idealized fantasy which makes no allowance for the reality that everyone’s imperfect. To get to know a real man — I mean, really know him — you need to know his reality: his real hopes, his real dreams, his real challenges, and his real imperfections.
The story has been told of a Latter-day Saint who was inspired to look up a scripture referenced in a sacrament meeting talk. Having that smartphone handy, this citizen of Zion executed the task right then and there. Soon thereafter, this same member received an email from a fellow ward member that went something like this: “I used to admire you, but that was before I saw you use your smartphone in sacrament meeting. I can’t believe you would do something so irreverent.”
Sometimes things are not what they appear to be. Likewise, real men don’t always display the idealized behavior. They’re imperfect people with issues.
Real people want real
Everything said here about real men could also be said about real women. Real women are imperfect and have issues. And you’ll never know a real woman until you know her reality.
In the end, real people want real — real relationships with real people; real compensation from a real career; and real rewards from a real life that really moves them closer to their goals and dreams. They recognize the reality of their challenges but also the reality of their potential to grow and conquer those challenges.
Over four years ago, I declared my desire for real. I still hold that desire today. I’ve long since tired of the typical LDS singles life that has me doing the same things over and over while moving me no closer to my goals and dreams. I want real. And that’s something you’ll never get from social media memes that don’t understand what real really is.
When we see real men and women for what they really are — people with real imperfections and real issues in the real world — we begin to recognize they aren’t all that different from us, because we too have real imperfections and real issues in the real world. As we come to embrace that reality, we also embrace the beauty found in the wonderful tapestry that’s the core of God’s work in this real world. And that will bring us more joy in our journey.
We all know the LDS single who’s so eager to be married that he or she instantly gravitates towards anyone who appears to promise a blessed end to single status. Maybe you’ve even been that single yourself.
I was once all about finding that eternal companion but never actually finding her. I felt like that hamster down at the pet store, always just spinning my wheels and never getting anywhere. And I felt miserable.
I thought I was doing the right thing. After all, our leaders have talked endlessly about the importance of marriage and family. Our LDS culture is centered around family. It made sense to go after it directly.
But that’s exactly the problem. It doesn’t come when you pursue it directly. It comes when you let it come to you.
Understand how it works
We’re all hard wired to operate out of habit. And what we do determines what we get. So if we entertain less effective habits, we’ll keep getting less effective results. And it won’t end until we replace the less effective habit with a more effective one.
Many LDS singles have the less effective habit of making a beeline for anyone appearing to promise hope for marriage. But when you understand how everything works, you’ll realize you need to ditch the beeline.
Here’s how it works. Marriage means the agency of another person is involved. You can’t choose for others. Someone else has to choose you. That means the most you can do is influence that choice.
That’s why you keep hearing platitudes like “Just be yourself” or “Keep working on yourself.” They’re all true up to a point. Doing these things will influence the right person to choose you.
But beyond that point lies the reality where we all live. This most important choice has many influences in addition to the one you exert. And these other considerations outside your control can drown any hope of acquiring desired blessings. Your challenge, then, is to exert your best influence, trusting the Lord to cross your path with someone who will choose you. Are you up to it?
Rise to the challenge
You can best rise to the challenge by letting go of pursuing marriage directly and adopting a personal ministry. This really is your best approach for exerting your best influence.
Here’s why. When you pursue marriage directly, you broadcast to everyone around you you’re all about marriage. No one really wants to marry someone who’s more interested in some personal agenda. So you come off appearing desperate.
When you drop the beeline and adopt a personal ministry, you’re about something bigger than yourself. You let your best self shine while serving others. Devoting yourself to your own personal ministry shakes off the scales of desperation so that others see you as someone interesting, someone worth getting to know better, maybe even share a life with.
Guess what? Now you’re influencing others to decide in your favor.
Other powerful influences exist, yes, but that’s where walking by faith comes in. When you partner with the Lord, He’ll lead you to those with whom your best influence will be more than good enough. That’s because they’ll hearken to the voice of the Spirit when He says, “Give this one a chance.”
Embrace your best self
Many LDS singles live in fear that their desired blessings won’t come. But that’s no way to live. It’s much more joyful to let go of directly pursuing marriage and instead pursue what will influence others to choose in your favor.
Devoting yourself to your own personal ministry can make the waiting more joyful, however long that waiting lasts. Do you want just to endure to the end? Or do you want to thrive?
Of course, you should keep looking for and pursuing opportunities that arise. But your universe won’t be rotating around them. So let go of directly pursuing marriage. Let it come to you. When you devote yourself to your personal ministry, you can embrace your best self. And that will bring you more joy in your journey.
Last week I addressed how habits can keep LDS singles back from enjoying the eternal blessings they seek. At the end of the day, results are what matter. And whatever results we have come from the choices we consistently make. Our results come from our habits.
Habit is so individualized that no one can detail every habit holding people back. But I can describe some less-effective habits many LDS singles have in common. We talked about some of them on the program last week.
In thinking about that program this past week, I recognize one habit many LDS singles have that deserves special attention. Too many of us want perfection to waltz into our lives and set comfortably in our laps. We look at people as they are now, and we act on the assumption that what we see now is what will always be.
But the truth is that people will always change over time. The question then is in what direction. Will that change be positive or negative? Direction, not position, determines what results we’ll get in the future. If we truly want to think about the long game of eternity, we should value direction over position.
Get to know people
This may seem incredibly simplistic. You might even be thinking to yourself this isn’t a problem you have. But such is the nature of habit that very often what we do and what we think we do don’t match.
A common manifestation of this habit appears when we judge others by their external appearance. Just because someone is fat or otherwise physically unattractive doesn't mean that person will always be that way. And yet isn't that what we think when we see people like that?
With just a single point on a graph, you can’t tell where the next point on a line will be because the line could be oriented in any direction. But with other points to mark the way, forecasting a future point on a line becomes easier.
Likewise, you can't tell from a single conversation or other encounter what direction someone has. You can tell only their position. But after multiple encounters, it's much easier to determine someone's direction.
Those multiple encounters are like multiple points on a graph revealing the patterns that evidence what habits someone has. And understanding their habits allows you to forecast more accurately what results they’ll have – and also what results you’ll have if you both intertwine your lives together. To value direction over position means getting to know people well enough to ascertain their direction.
Accept the risks
Some don’t want to spend that time. Maybe they accept that people will change, but given someone’s present position they don’t want to deal with the inconvenience that change will bring. In this age of instant everything, we want the results we want to appear now. Spending extra time with people to get to know who they really are doesn't jibe with that culture.
But it does mesh well with a Christ-centered culture. Christ was the ultimate example of that love called charity. When we surrender to love and take the time to get to know who people really are, we follow in the path marked by the Master.
Why don't we make more effective choices more often? The best answer is the simplest; we have less effective choices encoded in our habits. We've adopted the habit of not surrendering to love, of staying safe within our own comfort zones, and of avoiding the risk of pain or other difficulty in our lives.
Yet the only true safety lies in taking risks. You can’t have the greatest happiness without risking having the greatest sadness. You can’t have the greatest comfort without risking having the greatest hassle. Greatness simply cannot come without risk.
Put aside the agendas
When we put aside our own agendas and get to know people for who they really are, we not only surrender to love but also invite into our lives the love we seek. When we value direction over position, we declare with our actions that we value the fundamental nature of people more than what appears superficially today.
When we value position over direction, we send the message that we love people only if they meet certain conditions. But when we value direction over position, we send the message that we love people unconditionally because we don’t insist that people be a certain way today. We recognize we’re all imperfect today and on the same journey towards perfection tomorrow.
Value love for others over love for self. Value people over personal agenda. Value direction over position. When you do, you'll find your dating journey more enjoyable. And that will bring you more joy in your journey.
If you’re struggling with LDS singles life, and particularly with dating, then you need to examine your attitude and your approach. Your results in life always come from what you do. And what you do inside yourself (your attitude) and outside yourself (your approach) comes from your choices. We’re all choosing the life we want.
Many LDS singles without the life they want need to adjust both attitude and approach. We touched on some aspects of a more effective approach two weeks ago when we discussed the proper role of revelation in dating. Then last week we addressed aspects of a more effective attitude. Neither of these discussions was comprehensive, but they do contain good starting points for positive change.
Here’s another aspect of both attitude and approach: Many LDS singles make assumptions about their world which their habits then use as the basis for action. But it’s like the old saying goes — garbage in, garbage out. A more effective attitude and approach begins with more effective assumptions.
Everything goes back to the way you think. That’s why a periodic reformat and reboot is good; you need to step back, examine your assumptions, and clear your head of anything faulty or less effective.
Question your assumptions
Sometimes what we think is significant really isn’t. Many LDS singles reject opportunities for success because their assumptions about what was important or even essential guided them along a different path. Their assumptions blinded them into thinking what really was an opportunity wasn’t an opportunity.
For example, most singles think the age of their special someone is within 5-6 years of their own. Why? Because they assume that’s what they should want. But often it’s not experience guiding them to adopt that assumption; they’re just being good “sheeple” in following the herd.
Thankfully, President Hinckley’s parents didn’t follow that assumption. They were separated by 13 years of age. And their union produced a prophet!
Life will never fully unfold for you until you start questioning your assumptions. When you let go of what you think you need but really don’t, you open yourself to more possibility. And that increases your probability of achieving success.
Don’t discount the good
Many LDS singles interact with other singles only insofar as it serves their agenda. Once someone no longer serves their agenda, they cease all interactions with that someone.
This faulty approach is itself based on faulty assumptions: Spending time and money on people who won’t progress with you towards marriage is a waste. That assumes people matter only insomuch as they help you achieve what you want. In the end, all that really matters is getting the goal.
When you spell it out, it’s not hard to see how ridiculous those assumptions are. People have inherent worth as children of God. Everyone matters. Yet many of us don’t have the self-awareness necessary to realize how ridiculous our own assumptions are.
Yes, lovers should be friends first. But friendship alone has intrinsic value. Who couldn’t use more support in facing the challenges of LDS singles life?
Every relationship you have, romantic and otherwise, offers knowledge and experience that can help you have a better relationship with that special someone when that person comes into your life. By discounting the good many potential friends have to offer, you make life harder than it needs to be. And you might be staying single longer than needed as well.
Look for the flecks
Elder M Russell Ballard once told the story of a young man who went to California during the Gold Rush to seek his fortune. He eagerly panned for gold nuggets like the ones he had heard about before coming west. But after weeks of effort, he had found nothing.
Then one day he met an older gentleman who had spent many days prospecting and found enough gold to fill a small bag. The young man was discouraged to learn that gold was not the nuggets for which he searched but rather many tiny flecks. After hearing his discouragement, the older gentleman responded that those flecks had made him a wealthy man.
If we assume the eternal companion we seek is a gold nugget, then we may be joining that young man in disappointment. Most people aren’t gold nuggets; they have imperfections aplenty. Yet they also have flecks of gold mingled among those imperfections. Choosing to give those gold flecks more weight than the imperfections can make us wealthy indeed.
When you clear your head of faulty assumptions, you can more easily meet with your success. Embracing all experience opens the door of possibility, increases your probability of success, and helps you to find much more than you ever imagined you could. And that will bring you more joy in your journey.
Like most things in life, LDS dating has its own set of challenges. And like most challenges, our ability to come off conqueror depends upon our attitude and our approach.
Unfortunately, many LDS singles remain single because they have a completely wrong attitude and a completely wrong approach. Last week we discussed some of the ways in which LDS singles can improve their approach. Although not comprehensive, that discussion provides some ideas for starting the change towards securing better results.
Yet, as good as those ideas are, they won’t take you very far without the right attitude. That’s because your approach always takes root in your attitude. Even if you have a more effective approach, a bad attitude will water that garden with contaminated water that will destroy whatever blooms your approach encouraged.
Conversely, a good attitude will prosper that garden into providing a harvest of beautiful blossoms. And the best part is that you can choose the attitude you embrace. It all starts when you boot out the negative from your life.
Leave the past in the past
Have you ever seen ads for investments? They always have some fine print somewhere that essentially says past performance does not guarantee future earnings. Now, why is that? They’re trying to cover themselves. After all, the future’s not written. Anything could happen.
That’s just as true for our lives as it is for a financial portfolio. Yet too many of us don’t believe that. We believe that somehow the past determines our future. We think we’re deficient or “less than” because of something that happened to us. Or maybe it’s because of something that hasn’t happened to us. Our focus turns more towards the negative, and before long our reality is negative as well.
It doesn’t have to be that way. Our past will become our future only if we choose that. If we choose differently, then our lives will be different. It all starts when we leave the past in the past and believe a brighter tomorrow awaits us ahead.
Yes, whatever bad thing happened to you happened. OK, great. Now it’s time to move on. Do you want a different future? Move towards it!
Watch the self-talk
Moving towards a better future means gaining control over your self-talk. I’ve discussed self-talk so often in this forum because it’s absolutely essential to having joy all along your journey. Up to 95% of our emotions comes from self-talk.
Self-talk is essentially the messages we give ourselves. Most of it operates out of habit, so whether it’s positive or negative, you’ll drown yourself in whatever you’ve programmed your habit to play to you. And yes, you have programmed your self-talk habit.
That may sound discouraging, but it really isn’t. If you make conscious choices in how you program your self-talk habit, you can feed yourself positive messages that will uplift and inspire you. You can feed yourself hope, optimism, and light that will support you in moving towards a positive future that’s very different from whatever past you may have. All this is possible because you can choose what messages you give yourself.
Make the change
We choose not only the messages we give to ourselves but also the messages we give to others. Even some of the messages our world gives us we can choose. After all, we choose our environment. We choose our friends. We choose what media we allow in our lives.
With so much that you choose for yourself, your life is very much what you’ve decided it to be. When you accept responsibility for the results your choices have brought you and own your life, a whole new world of possibilities opens before you. You become free from the shackles of self-limiting beliefs and excuses. You can do anything because you have the power within you.
You can move forward to make whatever change you need to make. No longer held back by your past or held down by your self-talk, you can change your life when you change yourself and the way you think.
So boot out the negative! Get it out of your life and replaced with the positive. Immersing yourself in that energy will empower you to become everything your Heavenly Father wants you to become. And that will bring you more joy in your journey.
Last week we discussed President Nelson’s remarks from the most recent General Conference about increasing the revelation we receive in our lives. By following the Prophet’s counsel, we can find answers to questions and solutions to challenges.
Many LDS singles rightly seek revelation during their dating journey. However, many become their own worst obstacle when they seek too much revelation too soon.
These singles ask the obvious question: Is this person “the one”? That question seems appropriate for exclusive daters contemplating engagement. But many ask that same question before they get anywhere near the Exclusive Dating stage. They’re in the Casual Dating stage or even still in the Friendship stage.
I understand why they do it. They don’t want to waste their time with someone who ultimately won’t give them what they want — a temple marriage. And they don’t want the emotional pain of heartache after investing in a relationship that dies. But I also understand why this approach turns LDS singles into their own worst obstacle.
So much of the thinking in LDS subculture is binary. Everything’s either good or bad, black or white. There’s no room for gray.
This narrow perspective drives LDS singles to see every dating prospect in extremes. Everyone is either potential marriage material or an acquaintance. Why waste time and money, the thinking goes, on someone who won’t be with you in the end anyway?
It’s little wonder we don’t really know what friendship is anymore when we discard further association with others once their failure to satisfy our personal agenda becomes evident. Getting to know other people is never a waste of time. Who couldn’t use more support while traveling the road of LDS singles life?
Cutting off association with others once all hope of romance dies sends the message that our worth comes from our ability to provide marriage. Yet our worth really comes from our status as children of God. Building genuine friendship with others — especially when they can’t really help us any — is the mark of a true friend. And more true friends means more support when relationships we do hope will work out don’t.
Asking “Is this the one?” too soon introduces excessive seriousness in our dating journey. Everyone retracts, becoming extremely cautious about everything they do because they don’t want to be tied to any undesirable commitments. And that restricts progress in our dating journey.
We also tend to misinterpret our experience with revelation when we ask such a serious question too soon. What will be the answer to such a question? More often than not, it’ll be “No.” We then assume that means this person isn’t “the one” and proceed to sever all relations. In actuality, it’s far more likely that “No” simply means “No, you’re going about this all wrong.”
I once met an attractive woman at a singles conference. We really seemed to click. But a couple of emails later, she told me she prayed to know whether I was “the one” and God told her to stop talking to me.
Please! Revelation properly used in dating is about confirming choices we make, not instructing us with what to do. Her choice was in no way informed. We never went on a single date!
And what resulted from her choice? No one won. Both of us remained single longer than we needed to be, and neither one of us gained a new friend. In many ways, we really are our own worst obstacle. If only we could get out of our own way!
Be where you are
We can promote rather than frustrate our progress in our dating journey by respecting where we are. Before the Exclusive Dating stage, there’s no elevated commitment level. Any commitment between people dies with the end of the date activity.
With such low levels of commitment, asking a very serious question like “Is this the one?” has no place until time with the more serious commitment of the Exclusive Dating stage prompts consideration of progressing even further. No wonder the answer to that question asked too soon is more often “No.” The Lord is trying to tell us, “No, you’re going about this all wrong!”
Why can’t we just focus on where we are in our journey and enjoy that place? Dating is supposed to be fun, and it can be when we set aside our expectations, enjoy getting to know others, and build friendships rather than rushing everything towards the end goal.
Don’t be your own worst obstacle. Save serious questions for later stages of the journey when the level of commitment demands that level of seriousness. When you do, you’ll free yourself to enjoy more every part of dating. And that will bring you more joy in your journey.
This is a common plight among singles groups everywhere, especially in areas where Latter-day Saints form a small proportion of the population. There is a solution to this dilemma, but it’s not very common.
First, we need to ask ourselves, “What exactly are we trying to accomplish? How are we defining success?” Once we have that definition, we need to evaluate it, because our definition of success may not be the one we need to have.
With the right definition of success in play, your next steps are developing a vision and then aligning everyone with that vision. Many singles programs falter because they have the wrong vision or no vision at all. And you can’t rally anyone around a vision that either doesn’t work or doesn’t exist.
How do these steps typically play out? Let’s examine that.
Define your success
I’ve got a few years experience as both a ward and stake single adult rep, so I’ve sat in plenty of those meetings where activities and singles issues are discussed. I’ve also shared experiences with numerous singles groups leaders at conferences.
One pattern I’ve found is the typical definition of success. Most singles leaders define success by attendance; the more people who come, the more successful the activity. But what’s really going on here? Does a bigger number really mean more success?
In my experience, bigger numbers are simply a bigger stroke to the ego of those who organized and sponsored the activity. That doesn’t really help anyone live a better life.
If we can put our egos aside, we can more easily recognize that the Savior focused on only one number: the number one. He was always concerned about the individual. In fact, most of the stories we have of Him ministering to others involves His interaction with an individual person.
If we define success in terms of touching or improving the life of at least one individual, then it doesn’t matter how many people attend. Success will always be within our grasp. And paradoxically, it lays the foundation for explosive growth in the numbers.
Develop your vision
In Proverbs 29:18 we read, “Where there is no vision, the people perish.” That’s just as true for singles groups as it is for anyone else.
Typically, LDS singles attend activities with one of two visions — the dating forum or the activity club. I’ve spoken about each of these at length in previous posts, but here’s a brief review.
The dating forum perspective sees singles activities solely as a means to find an eternal companion. If they don’t see anyone they want to date, people don’t attend. Then there’s the activity club. This is the group that’s tired of dating and just wants to have fun with friends.
The problem with both of these approaches is their inward focus. Singles with either of these perspectives invariably focus on serving themselves. Contrast that with the more effective approach of the support network — attending activities with the purpose of supporting other singles. That outward focus aligns much better with the path of discipleship our Savior marked.
When everyone adopts the attitude of the support network, people feel they’re part of something bigger than themselves. They have a contribution to make that can improve the life of someone else. And losing themselves in service, they find themselves enjoying life a lot more.
Build the network
What I’m describing won’t happen overnight. That’s because it’s not some quick-fix, fly-by-night fairy dust. This is a real solution that really works.
While I lived on the East Coast, our activity attendance increased by 10X in one year. But more important than that, our exchanges with each other were more real. We were genuinely concerned about each other, despite coming from different generations and backgrounds. Our activities weren’t about completing a calendar or checking a box on a to-do list. Rather our activities were about supporting LDS singles.
That’s the driver behind real growth — love. People respond to love. Feeling loved is one of our most deeply seated needs as individual children of God. When you love the people into a support network, they’ll join you.
The dating forum and the activity club make very poor primary drivers behind participation. We best help ourselves and everyone else when we discard our individual agendas for attending singles activities.
People have needs. When we align what we do with meeting the needs of the people, we’ll find the true success that the Savior marked. And that will bring 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 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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