Yet in other respects, I feel like I’m worse, especially when compared with what I’d expect to be at this point in my life. As I think about why I’m where I am, I realize I’m no different than anyone else. We do what we want.
Tony Robbins once said, “Change is never a matter of ability. It’s always a matter of motivation.” If you really want to make a change in life, you simply make the change. It’s never a matter of ability because, if you want it bad enough, you’ll find a way to do it.
So despite the volume of our protestations, we all do have the life we really want. My life is where it is because that’s where I want it to be. I see a change I think I want in my life, and I think I want it because it appears to give me something desirable. But in reality I have the life I truly desire most, because results come only from actions, and I chose the actions that have given me the results I have.
Still, I keep returning to the question of making changes in my life because what I have truly desired does not completely satisfy. Why then do I not make the changes that will give me that different life? I have ability to change but not sufficient motivation. I’m just too comfortable where I am now.
I think many of us live in this same rut. We don’t really do what we need to do to achieve positive change because we’re far too comfortable with out present life. Pursuing positive change opens the door to problems and challenges involving pain and confusion. I think all of us have enough of those not to want any more.
At the same time, there’s no reward without risk. You can’t really feel the deep joy of love without opening your heart to betrayal and loss. You can’t lose weight without exposing yourself to pain and discomfort a new diet might bring or to the exhaustion and injury that exercise can inflict. You can’t experience the good results from being out in the world without exposing yourself to the bad things that happen to people every single day.
Many of us sense these risks and pull away. We want safe, sure, guaranteed. So we stay in our comfort zones, yearning to get out but never wanting to do what will get us out. We’re just not motivated enough. We’re doing what we want.
So how then do you get motivated enough to change? I think we’ll all have our own answer, but I do see one common thread that could tie all those individual answers together. You get to a point where you won’t tolerate not having the change any longer.
You just get sick and tired of being sick and tired. You make a decision — a real decision, one in which you cut yourself off from every possible outcome except the one you pre-determine. You put your all into producing the actions that will produce that pre-determined result. And to keep yourself motivated, you surround yourself with like-minded go-getters who’ll support you in going after your best life.
Not everyone will do that, but either way, we do what we want. We have the results we have because of the action we’ve taken, and we take that action because that’s what we really want to do. If you really want to do something different that’ll produce different results in your life, then you’ll do that. Hitting rock bottom could be the greatest blessing ever, because there you can more easily find your motivation to do something different. As you then decide not to tolerate anything less than your absolute best, you’ll get yourself on the path to your absolute best life. And that will bring you more joy in your journey.
This logic keeps many LDS singles single longer — in some cases, much, much longer. Here’s a more effective approach: Live where you are in your dating journey. Don't reject a date based on your standards for marriage. Reject a date based on your standards for dating.
Know where you are
To live where you are, you must first know where you are. Having a good map can be helpful for that. As we’ve discussed before, the dating journey map shows these stages:
Know your next step
No map will tell you where to go. But once you decide your destination, a good map will tell you how to get there. Understanding the different stages of the dating journey helps you know where you are on the map. From there, the dating journey map tells you how to get where you want to go.
You don’t climb a mountain by constantly staring at the peak. You climb a mountain by looking where your feet you are and taking a step forward. Your focus, then, should be on the next step in front of you, not the end goal.
Once you know where you are in your dating journey, your next step is to secure the agreement for the next stage. Without the necessary agreement, you don’t progress. Period. You don’t need to look beyond the agreement you need for the next stage. That’s like staring constantly at the summit without looking where you put your feet. Good luck climbing the mountain that way.
Be where you are
Many LDS singles have disagreeable dating experiences because they keep looking at that summit of marriage instead of the earlier dating stage where their feet are. It’s no wonder they keep tripping over themselves and getting hurt. If that’s your experience, here’s some free advice: Start living where you are.
If you focus on where your feet are and take the next step directly before you, and then the next one, and so on, eventually you’ll climb the mountain. So focus on where your feet are: Apply standards of dating to dates.
This of course means you might date someone you wouldn’t marry. So what? That’s perfectly normal; everyone dates people they never marry. Only by dating lots of people will you better know that right type of person who demands more serious consideration.
Because you’ll date people you’ll never marry, your standards will change with each stage of the dating journey. You’ll casually date people you won’t exclusively date. And you’ll exclusively date people you won’t marry.
Recognizing these truths makes it easier to live where you are. You can better enjoy someone’s company irrespective of whether or not you’ll marry that same person when you focus on that moment rather than on some agenda to achieve a future goal.
Applying standards of dating to dating helps you to live in the place where you are. This in turn helps you to live more fully in the moment and makes you more attractive to someone who can help you be where you want to be. And that will bring more joy in your journey.
That’s because if you always get back up and keep pressing forward, sooner or later you’ll achieve your goals and live your dreams. You don’t get that staying down. So if you’ve been knocked down, get back up and let the journey begin again.
Always get back up
It is about the journey, after all. The destination is essential in that it determines the direction; it sets the course for your sails. But no destination ever changed anyone. It’s the journey that does that.
And it does that job well, but only if you embrace it, only if you choose to be changed by it. If you stay down when life knocks you down, you essentially choose to stay separated from the destination embodied in your goals and dreams. You essentially choose to stay unchanged.
But when you get back up after life knocks you down, when you refuse to stay defeated, you choose to be changed by your challenges into something that overcomes those challenges. Is it easy? Of course not. If it were, everyone would be doing it. Most don’t do it because they aren’t willing to pay the price for what they want. They prefer the easy choice of staying down. They prefer the fade out of failure to the surge of success.
Perhaps they console themselves in being normal. Everyone does fail, after all. So failure doesn’t make you defective or deficient. It just says you’re normal.
Even those who succeed start out as failures, and many of them failed over and over ad nauseam. Take Stephen King, for instance, one of the most prolific and popular American authors from the last century. Publishers rejected his first book Carrie 30 times. And when that 30th rejection came, King was so disheartened he promptly placed his draft in the circular file.
Life had knocked King down, and left to his own devices, he would’ve chosen to stay down. But he wasn’t alone. His wife removed the draft from the circular file, handed it back to him, and asked, “Why don’t you try just one more time?” That one more time was all King needed. He published his first novel, and the rest is history.
Every success story I’ve ever encountered goes the same way. Everyone fails initially, and often abysmally. But those who succeed choose not to stay down when life knocks them down. They pick themselves up, dust themselves off, and start all over again. They rise and declare, “Let the journey begin.” And off they go to begin again.
Just start over
All of us can do that, and yes, that includes you. And here’s the best part. You don’t need to wait for the first day of the week, month, or year to begin choosing better. Every day offers the opportunity to begin again. So if you’re normal and find yourself knocked to the ground before January is through, just pick yourself up, dust yourself off, and start over again.
Did you fall off that exercise train you committed to ride at the start of the year? Hop back on. If you messed up that diet, forgive yourself and get back on it. Trying to gain a new skill and missed a day or two or more? Pick up where you left off. Struggling with adopting some new positive habit? Keep struggling, keep fighting, and every time you fail keep starting over.
Whatever goal you set for yourself this year, don’t let failure settle you back into staying your old you. Let the journey begin again. Embracing the confrontation with challenge lets you grow into something that transcends your challenge. You’ll probably fail countless times, and that’s OK. Just keep punching. Keep getting back up every time you get knocked down, and eventually you will succeed. You’ll achieve your goals, you’ll live your dreams, and however many failures you had won’t matter at all. And that will bring you more joy in your journey.
That said, the smart tough get going long before the going gets tough. They don’t just wait for the waves of life to crash against them and hope for the best. They anticipate their challenges and prepare for them. They embrace a vision that drives them to do more and to be more. They don’t just perform; they super-perform. They understand that life is so short and so marvelous the only real decision is to go big or go home.
To start, let’s step back from the whole making-goals-for-the-new-year routine and adjust our approach. Quite frankly, too many of us have simply played out ineffective habits that don’t produce the results we really want in life. You need to step outside yourself and see everything anew.
And the first thing you need to see anew is yourself. Too many people refuse to go big because that vision doesn’t match how they see themselves. Motivational speaker Zig Ziglar often said, “You cannot consistently perform in a manner that is inconsistent with the way you see yourself.”
So are your dreams of your best life small or big? And how do they compare with how you see yourself? Do you see yourself as capable of accomplishing great things? Or do you see yourself as a nobody, a failure, or someone who’ll just never have success? If you find it hard to dream big, examine your self-image. If you see yourself as unworthy or incapable, you’ll struggle to believe — and I mean really believe — you can achieve anything great in your life. So before you start setting goals, you need to get good with you.
Once you’re good with you so the way you see yourself matches big dreams, only then can you truly dream big. That’s because a poor self-image fetters your dreams within self-imposed restrictions. When you free yourself from those self-imposed restrictions, you feel liberated to achieve the full measure of your potential. And it’s an empowering feeling.
However, most never get to that point. They keep listening to their biological hardwiring say, “Yeah, but ....” Truly, that voice is designed to keep you safe. But the longer you listen to that voice, the more your self-imposed restrictions that begin with “Yeah, but” will keep you living far beneath your potential. “Safe” isn’t really safe. Risky is the real safe.
Let go of your fears, your disappointments, your inadequacies, your failures, your excuses, and everything else keeping you from the life you want. No one achieves anything big by accident. Big results call for intentional choices, and big dreams can drive the choices that produce big results.
Notice I haven’t said anything yet about setting goals. That’s because it’s pointless to go after a target before you’re properly prepared. If you want to climb Mount Everest, for example, don’t wear shorts and sandals. Be smart and bundle up.
The same is true about goals. Before you announce any New Year resolutions — or really any goal at any time — make sure you have the right foundation of being good with you and unchaining yourself from the self-imposed limitations of small dreams. Only when you think big and dream big can you then live big.
Living big doesn’t mean what it appears on the surface. It doesn’t mean living outside your means or suddenly achieving greatness in a single bound. Living big means taking small steps every day and celebrating the daily wins you encounter along the way. Real success is the daily accumulation of those seemingly insignificant small wins.
So go big or go home. Life is too short and too marvelous to waste on small potatoes. Supersize your life by getting good with you, releasing the restrictions on your dreams, and then setting goals to achieve and celebrate the daily wins in your life. When you do, you’ll grow yourself into living big. And that will bring you more joy in your journey.
And that's quite an accomplishment. Most of my posts contain just under 800 of my own words each, so by that estimation I've written about 278,400 words. That's more than a quarter million words! It just goes to show you don't know how far you've come until you stop and consider.
Look back and ahead
I had no idea what I'd accomplished with my word count until I stopped to consider it. I don't think I imagined that result when I published the first few hundred words with that first post in 2014. The only thing I imagined was never backing down. And look what that attitude brought.
We all have potential for greatness. But if you're like most people, that potential is largely untapped. I haven't completely untapped my greatness, but as just described, I've started. And I did it by consistent, persistent effort. I did the work to lay the "bricks" in my "building" one at a time. Now, years later, I can look back at the wonderful edifice I've built.
I can also look ahead to the "building" I'll yet have, because what I see today is hardly finished. That's no different from any of us, really. We're all walking construction zones, filled with more imperfections than Swiss cheese has holes. The encouraging part is that God isn't finished with us yet.
Lay your "brick" for today
If I trust that Master Architect to accomplish His grand design, all I need to do is what's right before me today. I have the "building" I have because over time I laid the next "brick" when I needed to lay the next "brick."
And in laying that "brick," I thought hardly anything about future "bricks." I focused simply on the work to be done now, the work that was right in front of me. That work was laying a single "brick" in place.
I'm reminded of something Will Smith said about success in an interview with Charlie Rose.
That's all I've done with the Joy in the Journey Radio blog. I didn't set out to write over a quarter of a million words. I just set out to write a few hundred each week. That was the work that was right in front of me each week. And now, years later, I can look back at the "wall" I've constructed from the accumulation of "bricks" laid for every week after 2013.
Stay slow and steady
In reality, anyone can do this. My accomplishment isn't the only one that can be broken down into individual "bricks." Any greatness you dream of having can come the same way. In fact, there's no other way it can come.
So what are the small, seemingly inconsequential tasks you need to perform to achieve your dreams? What "brick" do you need to lay today (and every day) to build the future you want? If you don't know how to answer that question, perhaps you should stop and consider that.
While you're at it, consider how far you've come already, and schedule appointments with yourself to consider it again at regular intervals into the future. Our modern age has us expecting everything instantly, but that's not how real progress works. You need occasionally to consider how far you've come to remind yourself of what you have done and motivate you towards what you can yet do.
It may not be quick, but slow and steady will win your race. Consider how far you've come. Then look to the work you need to do today and throw everything you have into doing that work the best you can. Do that every single day, and before long you'll begin tapping into your potential and living your dreams. And that will bring you more joy in your journey.
The lesson here is clear. You boost your power to achieve your goals — and therein change your life — when you write them down.
Learn the ritual
This wasn't the first time I came across this story. And yet this time something clicked inside me. I came to a realization that had somehow escaped me before. I say somehow because it's staring me in my face, leaving me at a loss to explain why I didn't see it before.
But I'm glad I saw it now, because it led me to a new daily ritual that's improving the quality of my life and giving me more motivation and momentum to dedicate myself more completely to the accomplishment of my goals.
What is this new daily ritual? Before I begin my tasks for the day or even turn on my computer to review my tasks, I open a notebook and write down each of my goals for the year. Everything here is old school. I take a pen in my hand and physically transcribe onto paper each of the goals I made back in January.
Gain your power
I have goals for my personal life and each of my business endeavors — 36 all told. Since I'm writing each word by hand, it takes me about 20-30 minutes to complete this exercise. That's a sizable chunk out of my day, but I'm starting to see some sizeable return on my investment.
Each moment I spend writing each goal, I'm not just copying words. I'm considering the gap between where I am and where I want to go. Starting my work for the day with a realization of what I need to be done is empowering, especially when paired with the motivation stemming from the grandeur of my goals (yes, I can't help but dream big).
Starting my workday with that motivation drives me to do more with my day. The act of physically forming letters in a set arrangement on paper is a metaphor for completing the tasks in real life that together form the set arrangements known as goals. It's a form of spiritual creation that precedes the physical creation. That's how God created all things (D&C 29:31-32). How can you follow the same pattern and not gain some semblance of the power He wields?
Wield your power
I've embraced this new ritual for only a few days now, so I haven't practiced it long enough to become a habit. But I do feel stirrings of power within me, a taste of the great potential this practice will unleash.
That real power isn't just checking items off a to-do list. It goes beyond completing tasks or even accomplishing goals. The real power is having our tasks transform us into something more than we were before. We're human beings, after all, not human doings. We live our best life not because we do more but because we are more.
It's never too late to start a new way of living. You can feel empowered every day to effect change in yourself, accomplish great goals, and attain your best life. To start feeling that power in your life, decide to start living that way and follow through with the simple yet powerful practice of writing down your goals at the start of each day.
So what are you waiting for? Start right now by collecting the tools you'll need to write out your goals. Then tomorrow morning use your tools to practice your first iteration of a new habit. You may not feel much effect after just one session, and you probably won't. But with diligence and persistence in this practice day after day, it won't be long before you start feeling a growing effect within you. Keep on keeping on with that, and you'll empower yourself to accomplish anything. And that will bring you more joy in your journey.
Procrastination is one way our biological hardwiring maintains our status quo. “Yeah,” it says, “that dream sounds great, but we’ll get to that someday. Right now we’ve got other things we need to do.” And as long as we keep accepting that excuse for not living our dreams, we’ll never live our dreams because they’ll never come true.
There are only seven days in the week, and someday isn’t one of them. When we quit tolerating some day and insist on today, we can move our dreams closer to reality.
I have a dream
That has been the kernel of my struggle for so many years. It’s perhaps the most concise explanation for why I don’t yet have all my dreams fulfilled. I too often tolerate lack of progress. But I also struggle as many others do with fitting everything I want to do into my day.
Part of that comes from having so many dreams that making substantial progress on any of them is difficult. There’s just too many objectives vying for the limited space in my calendar. And abandoning any them is even more difficult because, as I mentioned earlier, I can’t help but dream big — big not just in the extent of any single dream but also in my quantity of dreams.
I dream of an eternal marriage to a wonderful, faithful LDS woman who sees in me my virtues more than my vices. I dream of an LDS culture that fully accepts singles as well as marrieds. I dream of a vibrant LDS singles support network. I dream of a career in higher education through which I inspire the next generation to make the world a better place. I dream of building businesses generating overflowing wealth to support whatever my community needs. I dream of writing books and producing other products that help people live lives filled with more joy and satisfaction.
And my list goes on. Like I said, I can’t help but dream big. All the actions required to bring all my dreams into reality can’t possibly fit inside the fixed space of a 24-hour day or even a single week, month, or year. And so it’s easy to accept that “voice” from my biological hardwiring that says, “You can do that someday.”
Someday never comes
Ultimately, this fight — the fight within each of us — revolves around standards. What standards will we tolerate for the life we’ll live? The dreams we all have of a wonderful future necessitate change; otherwise we wouldn’t have those dreams.
But all results come only from action. Tolerating excuses that our dreams will happen someday keeps pushing the realization of our dreams further and further into the future.
That’s because someday never comes. Choosing to accept the excuse of someday is choosing to accept a standard of living life outside our dreams, and a standard of joy and satisfaction in life far below what they could be. The joy and satisfaction of living our dreams will come only after we choose not to tolerate anything below the standards of our dreams.
Raise your standards
We Latter-day Saints are familiar with standards. We often link them with blessings. Those who live the standards get the blessings that come from obedience. Those who don’t live the standards don’t.
Ultimately, standards serve another purpose. Standards provide boundaries that distinguish who belongs in the community and who doesn’t. In like manner, the standards required for our dreams determine whether we’ll live them or not. When we live by those standards, we move closer to our dreams. When we don’t, we don’t.
If you want to live your dreams, you need to raise your standards. Never tolerate someday. Always tolerate nothing less than progress — even if it’s only a little each day — towards making your dreams reality. When you stop focusing on what others did or didn’t do and start focusing on what you can do, you’ll start to feel the power that comes from moving towards your dreams. And that will bring you more joy in your journey.
Now I’m struggling with page layout problems. What I thought was settled in my word processor apparently isn’t. And when that’s done, who knows what unforseen obstacle I will encounter next?
That said, I’m not discouraged. I know in the end I’ll succeed in publishing my book as well as many more in the future. I just need to keep looking for the next opportunity and then pounce on it.
That’s how anything worthwhile in life works. The world owes you nothing. No one will deliver the life you want on a silver platter. If you want something, you need to go get it.
That’s where most people falter, because going to get it means work, and most aren’t willing to work. After all, most already work just to pay the bills, so the last thing they want is more work. Thus, when the next opportunity to move closer to their dreams and goals appears, they opt instead to watch TV or surrender to social media or diverge into some other distraction.
Such distractions come to all of us. But those who heed their siren call soon find themselves off potential. They waste time they could have spent helping others and moving closer to their dreams and goals. And at the end of the day, their dreams are nothing but wishes.
But we can all choose differently. We can all choose to look for the opportunity to move closer to making our dreams reality. We can choose to exercise discipline and pursue that opportunity even when we’re tired or don’t feel like doing it. And at the end of the day, that choice allows us to rest our head on our pillow with satisfaction because we accomplished something. Even if it’s only something small, we accomplished something.
That gives me hope. I know an opportunity to near myself to the life I want will always come my way. And when it does, I know I can pounce on it and reap the satisfaction that can come only after action.
How do I know opportunity will always come? The Lord loves me and wants me to succeed. I can’t succeed without opportunity. And so the Lord will bless me with opportunity. And because He loves me, He’ll bless me generously with opportunity after opportunity after opportunity. But I have to do the work. So I look for the next opportunity and then pounce on it when I see it.
And I’m OK with doing the work. I own my life. I accept I’ll need to work hard and work smart to get my best life. And I embrace doing what I can to move even a little bit closer to my dreams and goals, because I know the closer I get to my dreams and goals, the sooner I’ll see them become reality.
That’s just as true for you. Every movement towards your dreams and goals, no matter how small, carries with it a momentum. So even small movements count a great deal.
This is, after all, how the Lord works. Small movements produce small momentum, true. But working that small momentum allows a slightly bigger movement, which carries its own slightly bigger momentum that allows an even slightly bigger movement and so on. Before you know it, you’re not just splashing a small street puddle; you’re roaring a tidal wave that totals the coastline!
So what tidal wave will you create? What dreams and goals will you approach? What opportunity will you pounce on today? No matter how large or small, take what steps you can today to move yourself closer to your dreams and goals. Then get up tomorrow and do it again. Then get up the next day and do it again. And keep doing that until you win. When you do, you’ll know the satisfaction of making your dreams reality. And that will bring you more joy in your journey.
But automation isn’t all roses. It keeps us inside a “safe” zone where we can roam freely without fear of pain or other potential pesky problems like death. As great as that sounds, growth is never pain- or problem-free. If we don’t step outside our comfort zone, we’ll never approach our potential, let alone achieve it.
Fortunately, you have choice. Yours need not be a mediocre life on autopilot. You can be phenomenal, and it starts when you step outside your comfort zone to embrace the new you.
Pay the price
Admittedly, the prospect of stepping outside one’s comfort zone literally terrifies many of us. The mind quickly presents memories of past pains that linger on into the present. It’s like our brain is saying, “Hey, remember this? You don’t want to go there; you might get hurt again!”
And that’s true. You might. But here’s another piece of truth: Nothing ventured, nothing gained. You can stay inside your little hobble with its practically guaranteed pain-free life. And you’ll live that life first with the repressed yearning of wanting more and then with the regurgitating regrets of never responding to that call.
Again, the good news is you have choice. If you want to have or be something more, you can have or be it. You just need to be willing to pay the price in full and in advance to get it.
That’s how everything is. If you want to see the show, you need a ticket. But you’ll never get the ticket until you pay the price in full and in advance. Only then do you get admitted to the show.
Push through the pain
And that’s where most people get off the train. That’s why most New Year’s resolutions don’t even last a week, let alone the whole year or even the first month. The vast majority of us collide with that eternal truth and decide we’d rather be comfortable. And so we revert back to our old habits and spend the rest of the year wishing we had a better life only to repeat the whole cycle again at the start of the next year.
Seriously, is that the life you want? Do you want to go through the same motions over and over, always wondering why you can’t ever seem to escape that rut of failure? Are you sick and tired of always getting less than what you want? If you want a different life, you can have it. You just need to be willing to pay the price to get it.
For many, that point doesn’t come until they get sick and tired of being sick and tired. Only after that moment do they have resolve to push through the pain of growth, achieve their dreams, and become the embodiment of their potential.
Take the risk
And yeah, it’s scary. You very well could get hurt again. But you’ll never see the new you emerge unless you’re willing to risk.
Take love, for example. Many burned in a romantic relationship retreat back to their hobble where they play the turtle in a shell. These people will never know the love they dream about because they’re acting contrary to the nature of what they want.
You can’t have the amazing love we all dream about having without trust. And trust wouldn’t need to exist unless there was something to lose. Without opening yourself to be vulnerable, there’s no need for trust. And without trust, there’s no way to have the deep love we all want in life.
Everything else worthwhile in life — the elements comprising your best life — operate on the same principle. To achieve success, you must be willing to risk failure and all its attendant heartache, pain, and other assorted problems. You must pay the price to get your ticket to the show.
And what a difference it makes when you do. You can embrace a new you. When you step outside your comfort zone and risk failure, you can experience the growth that will set you on the path to your best life. And that will bring you more joy in your journey.
Howdy! I'm Lance, host of Joy in the Journey Radio. I've been blogging about LDS singles life since 2012, and since 2018 I've been producing a weekly Internet radio show 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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