Now I find myself at another crossroads. My father has surgery tomorrow to remove his returned skin cancer. My brother might visit this weekend, which may be the last time we see each other for awhile since I’m preparing to begin a new job on the East Coast. And yet with all these changes about me, one thing remains unchanged. I’m still not a father.
Pondering on a prophet
I remember sitting in the stake center as a young man watching President Ezra Taft Benson address the single men of the Church in General Conference. As he declared that the time would come when those who ignored fatherhood would feel and know their loss, I remember thinking to myself, That won’t be me! I’m going to follow the prophet.
As time passed, however, that commitment challenged me. Sure, I could’ve married one of numerous desperate LDS women. But they interested themselves more in being a wife and mother than in being my companion because that was the only identity they could accept for themselves. My conscience couldn’t accept joining with someone who saw me as filler material, a means to their own end.
Now my mind ponders that prophetic counsel I heard so many years ago as a young man. Am I any closer to compliance? Or have I allowed other pursuits to lull me into a more comfortable place where I substitute the greater growth from fatherhood with the lesser growth of other pursuits?
Searching for balance
Clearly, we single LDS men must walk a fine line. Obsession with marriage will drive us increasingly crazy while driving away quality candidates. At the same time, we can’t become so absorbed in the activities we use to stay that obsession that we don’t progress towards a happy and healthy marriage. We need balance.
Note I said happy and healthy. We’re not interchangeable parts. Compatibility is important. At the same time, compatibility is not a litmus test. The success of any union depends more on the choices of the participants than on any intrinsic characteristics. Again, we need balance.
I think about that balance as I ponder my father’s surgery tomorrow. That surgery isn’t all that different from the previous one, which he survived just fine. Yet when he announced the return of his cancer, my father encouraged my siblings and I to consider what would be done to help Mother should he pass away soon. I find myself balancing his fear against my optimism that everything will work out for the best.
Declaring mighty faith
The faith inviting me to live in that realization encourages me onward with optimism. No, I’m not a father . . . yet. I don’t know how the Lord will bless me, but I know He loves me and will support me as He always has. That knowledge sustains me as I walk by faith through mortality.
I’m also not the same person now I once was. Sure, I’m just as single now as when I came home from my mission, but I’m not the same man that stepped off that plane bringing me home. In more ways than not, I’m a much better man. And as I strive to be phenomenal in every aspect of my life, I’ll become more and more irresistible to that woman with whom the Lord intends to bless me.
I’m still not a father. But that won’t be true forever. The Lord will not abandon me. Nor will He abandon any of you. So if Father’s Day has brought you to serious reflection, be the victor and not the victim. Partner with the Lord, and let Him lead you along. Your path ahead is glorious. When you see with eyes of faith, you’ll recognize the brightness of that light. You’ll capture the optimism born of hope in that bright future. And that will bring you more joy in your journey.
Get on the learning train
We’ve discussed before the need to quit life on autopilot and live life intentionally. Refusing to break out of the same old routines will keep your life in that same old routine. To have something you never had, you have to do something you never did.
That’s where learning a new skill can help you live your best life. Doing something new intentionally breaks you out of the same old routine. You’re reaching for a new experience you can use to help make a new life — your best life!
As we’ve already mentioned, to have your best life, you need other people. When you learn something new, you have something you can use to involve those other people in your life and influence them to decide in your favor.
Imagine two people, one who’s content with staying the same and another who’s busy learning a new skill. Who do you want to get to know more about? Certainly not the one content with staying the same. That person will just influence you to stay the same, and that means not living your best life. However, the one busy learning a new skill offers hope that life can be better than what it has been, that the changes you want to have your best life are possible.
Including learning something new in your conversations with other people will not only give you something interesting to talk about but also makes you more interesting to others, enabling you to forge more effective connections with them that will influence them to decide in your favor. Learning something new in a class environment can also be the means for meeting the new people you need to have your best life.
Select your skill
What new skill should you learn? With no limit on what you could choose, the options are endless. But the best skill you can learn is always the one you need to learn right now.
This is where partnering with the Lord comes in. He can help you understand what you should do. We’ve discussed before how the Lord is anxious to assist us as we journey towards our best life.
That said, He may see wisdom in letting you decide for yourself. In that event, just follow your heart. What have you always wanted to do? Perhaps it’s to play a musical instrument. Or maybe you want to speak a foreign language. Maybe you want to have more confidence in conversations. Perhaps you’d like to learn how to cook something new. Or maybe it’s to draw or swim or sew. Select something you want to try and go for it!
Get after it now
Once you’ve made your choice, don’t delay! Start today! Start right now to do something that will move you in that direction of learning your new skill.
Starting now, even if your action is minuscule, sets you up for success. Results come from one thing and one thing only — action. So when you delay taking action, you delay receiving results. The more you do that, the easier it gets to delay more and more.
But when you take action, no matter how small, you set yourself on the path of action. That makes it easier for you to take more action. The more you do that, the easier it gets to take more and more action, until at last you have your results.
So don’t wait. Try something new today. You’ll get out of life on autopilot and embrace the enthusiasm and vigor from living with intention. You’ll be better able to influence for good other people in your life as well as to bring into your life those others who you need for your best life. And that will bring you more joy in your journey.
Take a lesson from a farmer
Many don’t believe that. They assume life is the collection of circumstances outside their control. But that’s why many people aren’t all that happy.
Your focus determines your reality. Because you can choose what you focus on, you can choose your reality. True, most don’t choose their circumstances, but that never stopped anyone who lived joyfully from living joyfully. These people lived their best life because they made different choices with the same circumstances.
Some of us should take a lesson from a farmer. Farmers don’t choose their circumstances. They have the soil and the water that’s available. Their seeds for planting are whatever they are. The weather will be whatever it will be. So much of what’s needful for the harvest is outside their control. Yet with hard work in what they can control, they produce bountiful harvests year after year.
In like manner, we haven’t chosen many of the circumstances of our lives. What we have is what we have, and it’s often all we have. But if we work hard in what we can control, we can produce harvests of truly joyful living year after year. This is what I call your best life.
Embrace what you control
I can hear many of you now. What exactly can we control? Here’s my answer: Standards, attitude, approach.
It starts with standards. You’ll never design your best life without knowing what’s acceptable and what’s not. The best delineations between what you’ll tolerate and what you won’t are made after partnering with the Lord to get good with you. Once you know and accept who you really are and what your personal ministry should be, you can best draw that line between what you’ll accept in your life and what you won’t. The more clear you make that definition, the more able you’ll be to live the life you intend.
Once you know exactly what you want, you need resolve to do whatever it takes to get it (within the realm of covenant living, of course). You need the attitude of the victor and not the victim. That attitude will fire your imagination to design a life you’ll truly enjoy and pull you through to that fulfilling end when the road there gets tough.
Of course, attitude without action will never bring you achievement. To live a life you design, you must take action. Working smart as well as working hard requires attention to one’s approach. Too often we think what we seek must come in one specific way. But much of life is not path-dependent; there’s often more than one road leading to the top of the mountain. And sometimes the road that’s best for us to travel is not the one we expect.
Get clear and get going
With these three elements in place — standards, attitude, and approach — you can decide what you want your life to be and feel the joy that comes from working to make it happen. Usually that means taking small steps every single day to inch yourself closer to the life you dream.
That’s where many of us fall short. We don’t do the little things everyday that can near us to our best life. Then, after a larger block of time has passed, we can’t help but notice we’re left standing on the pier because our ship has long since sailed.
That’s where being clear about your standards, attitude, and approach holds its best value. Once you’re crystal clear on those elements, what you need to do everyday will be obvious. Performing those seemingly small and insignificant actions everyday will collect to create the very significant life you design for yourself.
So what are you waiting for? Get clear, and then get going. None of this happens overnight. But as you move closer to the life you design for yourself, you’ll feel the joy that comes from making progress. And that will bring you more joy in your journey.
Put your pieces together
As I reflect back on my life, I can’t accurately pinpoint any one trigger that brought me a phenomenal attitude. The change seems more a process than an event. That said, I can identify some key elements in my transformation.
Without question, developing a more solid relationship with God has been pivotal. You can’t have true joy in your life if you’re not good with you, which means you must know who you are. And that requires knowing who your Heavenly Father is.
When you come to understand who you really are as His child, you’ll realize your power to choose your reality. We do that when we select our thoughts, our self-talk, and our focus, because these produce our reality. When I realized how these elements worked in me, I felt empowered to take control. I could stop settling for mediocrity and start insisting on phenomenal.
Get some attitude
That’s when a new attitude emerged within me. I’ll no longer settle for anything less than a phenomenal life. I won’t settle for giving anything less than my absolute best. No longer will I accept failure or unhappiness or anything less than my best as my normal, and I’ll never give up on myself ever again.
I want phenomenal success. I want phenomenal fulfillment, phenomenal results, and phenomenal relationships. I want phenomenal for myself!
I can’t settle for anything less, because that’s giving up, and giving up is just plain flat out wrong. God gave me my gifts and talents not only to better myself but to better the world. When I refuse to let my light shine, others won’t have the improvement they might have had in their lives.
That’s why I insist on phenomenal in my life. It’s not about me. Giving up on myself and failing to achieve my potential means giving up on those who stand to benefit from that achievement. But when I strive to move closer towards my greatness, I automatically provide positive influence to everyone around me.
And so I can’t accept mediocrity. I’ll never be perfect, I’ll always fall flat on my face, but to quit trying to live my purpose, to fulfill my personal ministry, and to achieve greatness in my life is unacceptable. There are just too many people who would suffer, most of whom I’ve never met and likely never will. But it’s because of them I can’t accept anything less than my absolute best as my normal. I will never settle for anything other than phenomenal.
Make it happen
I have only one life to live. This is it for me. I’ll never get another opportunity to live this life. God gave my unique combination of gifts, opportunities, and personality to me and me only. So this is it. It’s do or die, greatness or bust, phenomenal or nothing. I must make it happen.
And that’s another key element in my transformation. The day I realized my life wouldn’t improve until I owned it was life changing. All the energy I’d wasted wishing my circumstances were better I should have spent wishing I were better. Instead of wishing for less problems, I should have wished for more skills. Instead of wishing the result I wanted would just come to me, I should have been working to make it happen.
Of course, I struggle where everyone else struggles — with the natural man. We’re all our own worst enemy. But working hard is the cost of entry to anything worthwhile. And so I put my shoulder to this wheel because I know people’s lives will suffer if I stop.
The best part is I’m not the only one. What’s possible for me is possible for you. If you want this transformation for you, you can have it. Embrace true foundational principles, do the work you need to do, and you’ll improve your life. And when you truly surrender yourself to that process, you too will have phenomenal. And that will bring you more joy in your journey.
Sister Craven begins by describing a sign she once saw advertising happiness for only $15. Of course, the sign was deceptive. The trinkets and souvenirs offered in exchange for that $15 could never bring the true happiness each of us yearns to have.
Sister Craven’s experience describes how many of us are similarly deceived. A casual approach to spirituality may seem inviting and even appropriate. But only by being careful with our covenants and obeying them with exactness can we hope to yield the true joy we seek.
Sister Craven explains,
What a magnificent insight! Sister Craven continues,
The amount of joy we receive from covenant living is in direct proportion to the care and attention we give in living those covenants with exactness. We can unleash true power in our spiritual lives when we reject a casual approach for a careful one.
I remember on my mission hearing my leaders advocate obedience with exactness. What fascinated me as I heard Sister Craven repeat that idea was the thought of expanding that attention to every aspect of our lives. If being careful with our spiritual lives can yield great power, how much more power would being that careful with every aspect of our lives bring?
What would happen if we were just as careful with those who matter most to us? Think for a minute about the people who mean the most to you. Of course, others will always have their own agency, but how much more enjoyable would those relationships be if we exercised great care in the details of those relationships?
And what would happen if we exercised great care with our mind? If we were more insistent on having certain standards for the books we read, the music we listen to, the movies we watch, and the other forms of media that we consume, how much more pure, powerful joy would sweep into our lives? What if we were more careful with improving ourselves — taking a class, learning a new skill, or improving some aspect of our character? What increase in joy would come from that?
How much more power could we procure if we were truly careful with our body? Too many of us are quite casual when it comes to diet and exercise. Too many of us aren’t very careful with personal finances. Too many of us take a casual approach to our careers by allowing the here and now demands of our job to overwhelm any notion of career direction. How much better would we feel about ourselves and our lives if we exercised greater care towards our body?
Act with order and diligence
If you stop to think about all this for a moment, you may conclude as I did. Exercising great care in any one area is work. When you extend that work to every area of your life, the task can quickly feel overwhelming.
The Apostle Paul counseled, “Let all things be done decently and in order” (1 Corinthians 14:40). King Benjamin taught his people similarly. “And see that all these things are done in wisdom and order; for it is not requisite that a man should run faster than he has strength. And again, it is expedient that he should be diligent, that thereby he might win the prize; therefore, all things must be done in order” (Mosiah 4:27).
In other words, we don’t need to be perfect today. But we do need to exercise care by doing something every day to move towards personal improvement. As we exchange our casual approaches to every aspect of life for more careful ones, we will reap a harvest of joy and power from the seeds we have sown daily. And that will bring us more joy in our journey.
Our LDS culture hands each of us a life plan describing how life is supposed to go. We go on a mission, do college, start the career, and somewhere in that mix get married. Then we live happily ever after with our eternal companion.
But the lives of many LDS singles differ greatly from that story. Some haven’t married, others divorce, and still others lose a spouse to death. Whatever the reason, those who find themselves single when they don’t want to be consider that happily-ever-after story nothing more than a fairy tale.
And LDS singles deal with the shock of that unexpected life chapter in multiple ways. Some enter paralysis, unable to move outside of their newly found rut. Some despair, thinking all hope is lost for them. Others question themselves, wondering what sin they committed to deserve losing the blessings they were promised. Other responses run the spectrum of possibilities.
Yet no matter the reason or the response, one truth continues to shine brightly. Just because your life hasn’t turned out the way you anticipated doesn’t mean all is lost. There is always hope because there is always Christ. And we take the first step to grasping that hope when we ditch the plan our culture has been feeding us.
Get a better map
Whatever your destination, you need an accurate map. A map that doesn’t match your current landscape will do nothing more than obstruct and frustrate you. It’ll never help you find your way. And that won’t change until you get a better map.
That’s why most LDS singles need to ditch the life plan our culture feeds us. It doesn’t represent their current landscape. Perhaps it was fine for where they were, but it’s not a good map for where they are right now. Want to move forward with your life? Get a better map!
That better map will one you create after you partner with the Lord. President Ezra Taft Benson taught that Christ can make more out of our lives than we can on our own. He has the better map we need. When we turn to Him, He’ll guide the next steps of our journey.
Let go of the past
Still, some among us insist on keeping that defunct life plan despite its mismatch with their current landscape. Accordingly, they feel stuck, unable to move, because they can never live that plan. Try as they might, they can’t travel back in time to make different choices. We all must play the hand we’re dealt.
While in college, I had the possibility of conforming to the life plan. But that ship has long since sailed. So any insistence on my part to hold on to this life plan is insanity. I’d be grasping at lost opportunities that’ll never be anywhere but in the past. And no one can move forward until they let go of the past.
Why would any of us fight against reason and keep ourselves immobile by holding on to the past? Reasons will vary with the individual, but many singles associate belonging with conforming to that cultural life plan. The need to belong is a basic human need, and so they don’t want to accept the possibility that need won’t ever be met.
Follow His plan
And that’s the lie from our culture that we shouldn’t believe. When the mark of belonging is being married with kids, you’ll never feel like you belong while you’re single. Singles by definition aren’t married, which means by definition they don’t belong.
But you don’t have to believe that. You don’t have to believe what’s handed to you. You can adopt your own mark of belonging, one centered on Christ and your desire to be true to the covenants you’ve made with Him. And adopting a personal ministry can help you do just that.
When you partner with the Lord and surrender yourself completely to the personal ministry He shows you, you’ll look forward to the goodness you can contribute into the lives of others. The better map you need for your journey involves a personal ministry. And the Lord can use your focus on others through the vehicle of a personal ministry to help you let go of the past, embrace the joy to be found in facing forward, and make more out of your life than you can alone.
So ditch the plan our LDS culture feeds us about life and partner with the Lord. He’ll heal you and help you to move forward. He’ll show you the next steps you need to take. And He’ll guide you in your personal ministry as you focus on contributing goodness into the lives of others. And that will bring you more joy in your journey.
If you’re like most people, whatever New Years resolution you made hasn’t stuck with you. Or more accurately, you haven’t stuck with it. By now, most will have given up on the changes they resolved to make just two weeks prior. They’re just too comfortable with the same old same old.
When our sincere efforts to change fail, what can we say to ourselves that will encourage us to keep trying and at the same time allow us to maintain a level of integrity with ourselves? We can tell ourselves we haven’t succeeded yet. This statement recognizes we still have more to do — more we can do — while at the same time being truthful.
Of course, the most important word in that statement is yet. There’s magic in that word yet. It speaks of possibility and opportunity. It invites us to keep doing what we need to do for success to come to us. When we allow that word yet to motivate us to keep on keeping on, we unleash the power of yet in our lives.
Believe in possibility
I’ve said it before, and I’ll say it again. Your focus becomes your reality. When you focus on what you haven’t done, you embrace a reality of inability, one in which you become frustrated at your lack of progress. But when you focus on what you can do, then you embrace a reality of possibility, one in which action enables you to feel a sense of movement towards success.
That’s the magic behind the word yet. Yet invites us to focus on what we can do by reminding us of possibility and the opportunity we have each moment to try again. Only when we believe in possibility will we take the action needed to produce results that lead to success.
Conversely, when we disbelieve in possibility, when we believe the changes we want to make are impossible, then we give up on our dreams. We quit trying to go after them. We effectively give up on ourselves.
Be reasonable with yourself
We should never give up on ourselves. Nor should we demand too much too soon. Some things take time to realize. That’s why we asked in life just to make measurable progress in reasonable time.
That’s the key word: reasonable. We all have different talents and different backgrounds, so we all progress at different rates. What’s reasonable for one may not be reasonable for another. And yet (pun intended) too many of us spend too much time looking at others assuming that, because we haven’t made the progress in our lives others have made in theirs, we’re somehow deficient or defective.
Again, the word yet can work magic here. By reminding ourselves that we haven’t progressed as far as someone else yet, we give ourselves permission to believe in what can be. And that can provide hope that tomorrow can be different than today or yesterday.
We’re all different enough that no one-size-fits-all life plan will truly work for everyone. Why then do we cling to any one-size-fits-all life plan? Why can’t we embrace our own personalized life plan, one we create after partnering with the Lord? As long as we keep trying, the Lord will recognize our efforts, even though we haven’t progressed as far as we would like yet.
I’m still working on all the goals I established for myself two weeks ago. I’m making terrible progress. In fact, my effort is so pathetic I’m not even sure I cam claim to have made anything that could reasonably be labeled as progress.
But I’m not discouraged — not in the least. I know the power of yet. When I tell myself I haven’t achieved my goals yet, I remember that as long as I get back up every time I get knocked down or fall flat on my face or my butt, eventually I will succeed. As long as I keep trying, I know it’s OK I’m not yet where I want to be because I’m on my way there.
And that’s the power that yet can have in each of our lives. When we seize the opportunity we have every moment to begin again and continue towards our goals and dreams, we accept the invitation in the word yet to believe in possibility and do what we can. That movement will inspire us with hope and encouragement to keep on keeping on. And that will bring us more joy in our journey.
In the most recent General Conference, Elder Jack Gerard of the Seventy spoke of the importance of priorities in life. His remarks, entitled “Now Is The Time,” encourage all of us to place our priorities upon what matters most in life — our relationship with our Heavenly Father and His Son Jesus Christ. Whether or not you have goals for the new year, now is the time to consider whether the priorities you really do have are the ones you really should have.
Set the right priorities
Elder Gerard begins with an account of chest pains he experienced while traveling. After arriving at the airport, he sought help at a local hospital, wondering if he would reach his final destination. A doctor ran multiple tests and then declared him safe to continue his travels.
Elder Gerard returned to the airport and resumed his journey. As the plane approached his final destination, Elder Gerard learned an ambulance would be waiting to take him to the hospital. The doctor had misdiagnosed his condition, which was much more serious than previously supposed.
After he learned the new diagnosis and that not many patients survive that condition, Elder Gerard’s perspective suddenly shifted. He described his experience with these words:
Indeed, now is the time to consider our direction. Stephen Covey often used the analogy of a ladder when speaking about priorities. He described a man who exerted much effort to climb a ladder leaning against a wall. When he got to the top, what he saw behind the wall made one truth painfully obvious; his ladder was leaning against the wrong wall.
It should sound silly to talk about priorities after many of us have made our goals, because priorities rightfully come before goals. We need to establish our direction before we establish what we want to accomplish. Otherwise, we’ll likely find the ladder we climb has been leaning against the wrong wall.
Daily life in our modern world contains so many distractions we can spend our lives wandering aimlessly without any sense of direction or purpose. We need to take time to reflect upon our direction. Unless we do, we’ll easily become “like a wave of the sea, driven with the wind and tossed” (James 1:6).
Do the things of greatest eternal importance have the highest priority in your life? If not, it’s never too late to start again. Now is the time to consider your direction.
Elder Gerard reminds us that
It’s so easy to coast and let the waves of day-to-day living just wash over us! But that complacency will never deliver your best life. You get your best life by living intentionally, and living with intention requires awareness of what you’re doing and more importantly why. That means having priorities and a plan of action that supports those priorities.
How else do we ensure our ladder is not leaning against the wrong wall? Priorities determine direction, and direction determines destination.
Rise above distraction
During his remarks, Elder Gerard asked this very practical question: “How do we rise above the distractions of this world and stay fixed on the vision of eternity before us?” He then extolled Christ as the standard by which to judge what’s best and declared “understanding our divine origins is essential to our eternal progress and can free us from the distractions of this life.”
Ultimately, the best way to know what our real priorities should be is to evaluate ourselves and our lives without distraction. That’s where temple attendance can be so refreshing. In the house of the Lord, we can separate ourselves from the distractions of the world. Remembering our divine origins and why we’re here can bring clarity to an otherwise muddled view.
If you wonder whether your ladder is leaning against the wrong wall, now is the time to consider what changes you need to make. If you didn’t make any goals for the new year, then by default you decided to let the waves of life carry you where they may. Now is the time for you to own your life and establish the priorities that will determine your direction and ultimately your destination. When you do, you’ll find yourself moving forward more confidently. And that will bring you more joy in your journey.
You must believe
People make resolutions with the best of intentions. In fact, those good intentions drive us to create the resolution. We see something we want in our lives, or maybe something we want out of our lives, and we resolve to change.
But the road to hell is paved with good intentions, so good intentions alone are insufficient to achieve greatness. Good intentions reflect good desires, and as such they make a good start. But you must also believe in the change you want for yourself.
If you don't believe, you won't receive. Without believing that what you want for yourself is possible, you won't even try. You’ll quit before you start. And you’re guaranteed not to achieve anything if you don’t try.
But you must believe in more than possibility. You must believe what you want for yourself is probable. And you must believe in yourself and your ability to make what you want more probable. That’s of course easier to do when you partner with the Lord. “I can do all things through Christ which strengtheneth me” (Philippians 4:13).
You must plan
Once you believe the attainment of your desires is not only possible but also probable, you must take action, starting with a plan. What steps will you take to achieve your desires?
How we achieve our goals may not happen exactly the way we envision. In fact, they very often don't. But a good plan provides concrete action you can take. It gives permission and direction to be busy doing. And that's essential, because results come from one thing and one thing only — action.
The best plans provide specific actions you can take. Clearly defined, simple tasks conform well to how the brain is hardwired. Our brains are hardwired not to think but to execute clear, simple instructions. When you break your plans down to that level, you align yourself with how you’re built. And that significantly improves your probability of success.
The best plans also consider environment. Your brain is hardwired to determine normal by assessing your surroundings. Let’s say you want to lose weight. If the people usually around you have some pounds to shed themselves, then your brain will think being at that weight is normal, and it will be harder for you to lose weight because most of us don't want to be abnormal; we want to fit in and belong to the group. You must also consider potential distractions in your environment. Again, if you want to lose weight, make sure your food stores don't contain anything that will work against you.
Finally, the best plans consider psychology. Many who are overweight use emotional eating to compensate for something they lack. They use the pleasures of eating to feed their emotional needs (pun intended). If you try to lose weight without addressing deeply seated psychological influences, it's more probable you won't succeed. Your plan must include healthy ways to address your emotional needs that can support you in achieving your goals.
You must act
With a good plan in place, the only thing left is to do. Results come from one thing and only one thing — action. Action plus attitude equals achievement.
Your past attempts ending in failure can provide lessons for success. A failed attempt doesn't mean you’re a failure; it just means your approach is a failure. Direction determines destination, so make a slight change in your approach — in the direction you take — and you can arrive at an entirely new destination. Anything you can imagine you can have. Anything you can dream you can live.
A new year is now upon us, and with it comes new opportunity to improve upon ourselves and to live our best life. When we believe, plan, and act, we can achieve anything. Now is the time for you to rise up and claim your best life. When you do, you give others permission to rise up and claim their best life. That makes life better for everyone. And that will bring you more joy in your journey.
Last week I talked about my mother's suicide attempt. I also talked about some of the reflections that event inspired. I've searched for the big-picture view not only of what's happening but also of my life up to this point.
And what I see fills me with awe. Obviously I see the trial of my mother's suicide attempt and her subsequent hospitalization. But I also see that trial as the latest episode in a series of trials. And I remember the experience we gain from trials is one of the reasons why we’re here in mortality.
I could start listing what I've endured, but it wouldn't mean much because we all have trials in life. As much as we might feel our particular trial makes us special, it doesn’t. Everyone has trials. And everyone can learn from those experiences. When I realize what I've learned from my trials, I can't help but be grateful for trials.
Essential to happiness
How could I be the man I am today without the trials I've experienced? It's impossible. I’d never have the depth of compassion I have for LDS singles were I not single myself for so long. I’d never have positive energy ruling my life if I hadn’t experienced the self-inflicted negative energy so many LDS singles experience. And I’d never feel the confidence I feel in my future without overcoming the despair of hopelessness.
I could go on, but the point remains. Everything positive about us, anything indicating growth in us, and anything proving we’re better today than we were yesterday is possible because of trials. Without trials, there’s no opposition. Without opposition, there’s no growth. Without growth, we can’t be our best. If we can’t be our best, we can't be happy. And if we can't be happy, then what else is there?
Of course, I'm not actively looking for trials. I've lived long enough to know trouble never has trouble finding each of us eventually. And yes, sometimes trials have negative impacts that overwhelm in the moment. But every obstacle also comes with opportunity — the opportunity to yield something positive from the experience. It's that possibility for the positive for which I'm grateful.
Dependent on the right perspective
As I look back on the trials I've experienced in life, I recognize that the possibility for the positive creates a space necessary for growth and personal enrichment. Life has a way of beating everyone down. And the only way getting beat down could ever be positive is if that action shapes us into something better.
But that only happens if we choose a perspective that allows that to happen. The existence of the opportunity to yield something positive will mean nothing unless we take advantage of that opportunity. We do that by choosing to be positive.
That brings us to gratitude, because gratitude is always the first choice in creating a positive life from whatever trials we each experience. Gratitude breeds appreciation, and appreciation opens the door to faith, hope, and charity. Appreciating what we have leads us to believe we can be further blessed. That gives us hope we will be further blessed and inspires us to bless the lives of others.
But just as gratitude feeds a mentality of abundance, the lack of gratitude feeds a mentality of scarcity. We don't want to share what we have with others out of fear there won't be enough for ourselves. We begin to believe there are no further blessings, and therefore there’s no hope tomorrow can be better than today. In the end, we become very insular and absorbed in self.
Foundational for a new tradition
That's why I'm grateful for trials. It's the School of Hard Knocks that beats me down enough to learn what I need to learn in order to grow. Without the challenges that trials provide, I wouldn't be nearly as motivated to seek after the solutions that transform me into a better man.
Tomorrow is Thanksgiving, and if your day will include any traditional performance, you're likely to mention or at least think about what you're grateful for. That list, no matter how long, usually includes obvious blessings like friends, family, good food, and a warm place to sleep at night, just to name a few.
But this year, can we also be thankful for the trials that have shaped us into something more than we were before? Can we be grateful for lessons learned the hard way and for growth that would come to us in no other way? We’re more open to further blessings when we’re grateful for the trials that provide opportunities for positive growth and enrichment. Being grateful for trials can help us accept that truth. 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 now I produce a weekly radio show to help LDS singles have more joy in their journey and bring all Latter-day Saints together. Let's engage a conversation that will increase the faith of LDS singles and bring singles and marrieds together in a true unity of the faith.
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