Many LDS singles find themselves similarly situated. They can feel themselves abused by the vicissitudes of life, be they setbacks in society or disappointments in dating or disillusionment in the death of a loved one or the lingering loneliness of living alone or the ever present responsibility of raising children alone. Many yearn to break free and live independent of their challenges.
If you feel this way, know that you can break free. You’ll have to work through a war of your own just as the Founding Fathers had to work through theirs, but in the end you can stand tall having given birth to a new you you’ve defended and championed. With Independence Day approaching, you can celebrate your independence and let today be the first day of a new you.
Envision your new you
Believe it or not, there’s a new you inside of you waiting to be set free. That new you can help you feel more joyful and alive than ever before. But it won’t ever happen if you don’t believe it’s there.
That’s the first thing tripping up most LDS singles wanting to change their lives. They refuse to believe. They persist in holding faulty assumptions that hold them back. They insist the future can’t be different than their past, or they just aren’t good enough, or all the good ones are gone, or whatever else their brain can use to convince them to maintain the status quo.
In short, they don’t change how they think. They continue whatever habits they presently have that deliver their present reality. Even when they learn how their biological hardwiring is designed to maintain their status quo, they don’t translate that knowledge into action. They don’t change how they think.
That doesn’t have to be you. There is a new you inside of you, but you’ll never birth that new you into your real life until you change your way of thinking.
Defend your new you
When you change how you think, it’s easier to change your actions and with them the results you get in life. But that’s just the first step. Like the Founding Fathers who didn’t get a new nation simply by declaring it, you must fight to defend your new you.
Your first and most formidable enemy will be yourself. Your brain is naturally hardwired to maintain a status quo. And your brain does this by operating out of habit. The current habits are consistent with your current results, so unless you embrace different habits, you’ll never get different results.
Your second and not quite as formidable but still threatening enemy is other people. We’re all biologically hardwired to get our sense of normal from those around us. And we all want to be normal. So when you embrace a new you, you threaten other people’s sense of normal. They intuitively feel the need to change themselves just to be normal, and most don’t want to do the work that involves. They find it easier to bring you down so they can feel normal just as they are.
Champion your new you
Defending your new you is no small task. It’s a constant daily fight. And it’s a fight that you’ll eventually lose unless you champion the new you.
You must celebrate your victories, no matter how small. You must surround yourself with people who are acting in accordance with the changes you want to see in yourself, people who’ll celebrate your victories with you and encourage you to achieve and become even more. You must cheer the self-improvement lifestyle that will maintain your new you.
This Independence Day, celebrate your independence. Let today be the first day of a new you. Envision and believe in that new you. Defend that new you, and champion it. You’ll find resistance along that path, but you’ll also find the satisfaction that comes from progressing towards the fulness of your potential. And that will bring you more joy in your journey.
The gospel has the answers
I freely admit my ignorance. I’ve never been married or a parent, so I don’t fully understand the challenges of single parenting. But I do understand singleness and recognize several principles Brother Romney shared that apply to all LDS singles, regardless of age or circumstance.
First, and perhaps most importantly, the restored gospel holds the solutions to life’s problems. You’ll see many of those solutions only after adopting the perspectives the restored gospel encourages. Far too many LDS singles think a solution will eliminate their problem so they can live more comfortably. Often real solutions instead allow you to leverage your problems so you can grow and become more than you were before.
Brother Romney brought out that perspective beautifully. The hope, joy, and strength which he found as a single father came from “small, simple things” like family prayer, expressions of encouragement, magnifying callings, and seeking direction from inspired leaders. Our Heavenly Father has a plan of happiness for you. That plan might not resemble the one you’d make, but His plan will best help you attain maximum happiness.
You’re not in it alone
In his article, Brother Romney raised an excellent question: “I was a father trying to raise daughters on my own. . . . How could I help them prepare to become women?” This variation on the more common theme of “How can I meet the challenge when I don’t seem fit for it?” has troubled many LDS singles.
Yet the answer again lies in perspective. No matter your situation, you’re in this alone only if you want to be. Brother Romney found many resources of support for his situation, including family members, neighbors, and ministering brothers and Church leaders. We all have more resources than we think we do. We just need to apply the Savior’s teaching: “Ask, and it shall be given you; seek, and ye shall find; knock, and it shall be opened unto you” (Matthew 7:7).
Brother Romney rightly mentions that “not everyone will experience this same level of support.” Wards are people, and people are all at different points of progression along the eternal path. Some just haven’t yet progressed that far.
Notwithstanding, the Lord won’t leave you comfortless. He’s provided people around you, sometimes in and sometimes out of the Church, who’ll help in some way. You just need ask, seek, and knock. As Brother Romney acknowledges, “until we let others know the gaps we see . . . those individuals may not understand how they can help.” The squeaky wheel does indeed get the grease.
The Lord knows you intimately
Ultimately, the Lord won’t abandon you. He loves you too much to do that. Not only will He walk by your side, the Lord will provide a strength to persevere only He can provide.
The same Lord Who’s assembled a plan for your maximum happiness, restored His gospel offering needed perspective, and provided resources to support you is also intimately aware of you. He knows what you need in the moment you need it.
He knows how overwhelming your specific combination of challenges and circumstances can feel. He submitted Himself to all things “that he may know according to the flesh how to succor his people according to their infirmities” (Alma 7:12). Through the enabling power of His Atonement, Christ can help you do what you otherwise could not.
No matter the challenge, whether it be raising daughters as a single dad, raising sons as a single mother, or simply finding joy in LDS singles life, you can partner with the Lord and leverage your challenges to grow and become something more than you were before. When you do, you’ll grow so much you’ll transcend your challenges. What once seemed overwhelming will be no more than an afterthought. And all along the way, you’ll feel the strength of the Lord abiding with you. And that will bring you more joy in your journey.
See the situation
The story begins with Phil Connors, the weatherman for Channel 9 News in Pittsburgh. The man is clearly full of himself, so it’s no surprise no one really likes him, not even himself. He’s a rather disgruntled man who thinks covering the Groundhog Day Festival is beneath him.
So imagine his shock when he wakes up thinking it’s February 3rd only to find out it’s February 2nd again. The bewilderment continues as each morning he wakes up to find that somehow in his sleep he went back in time by one day. He keeps living the same day over and over again.
His first reaction is denial. This can’t be happening to me! Denial drives resistance, but no matter how he fights against his situation, the next morning is always February 2nd again. His denial then turns into despair. This report he gives at the festival summarizes his condition rather well.
That day ended in suicide, but it doesn’t end him. In despair, Phil keeps trying to kill himself in different ways trying unsuccessfully to escape his never-ending cycle.
Note the pivot
And then one of those February 2nd days becomes a pivot day when everything changes. Phil doesn’t escape the never-ending cycle, but he does find a new perspective on his situation. And what changed everything was Rita.
Rita is Phil’s producer. She’s also the apple of his eye. Previously he spent God knows how many successive February 2nd days trying to get into her pants. But on his pivot day, Phil approaches Rita with a different agenda. Instead of trying to satiate his lust, he sincerely cries for help. (Why do I have a Rick Astley song in my head right now?) Rita helps him and in the process begins to fall for him.
Of course, that disappears when everything resets the next morning. But Phil remains changed, and he starts spending his February 2nd days improving upon himself, working to become a better, more quality person. He takes up reading all kinds of books. He learns to play the piano. He takes up ice sculpting! Not only do his efforts make him a better person, they make his life more interesting.
And the proof is in this report. It’s the same day, same festival, but a completely different Phil.
Once he stopped trying to escape his situation and embraced it, Phil was able to tap into the joy life has to offer every single day. In the end, he escapes the cycle and gets the girl.
Take a lesson
The allegory here to LDS singles is so clear I wonder why I didn’t see it earlier. How many of us singles are in denial? No, I can’t be single. This can’t be happening to me! And no matter what we do to fight it, we seem caught in a never-ending cycle of singleness from which we cannot escape.
But if we’d stop trying to escape from it and start embracing it, we could turn everything around. We could start looking inside ourselves and working to become better, more quality people. We can do things to make our lives more interesting. We could tap into the joy God wants us to have every single day.
And we could help other singles to have their pivot day. Just as Rita helped turn things around for Phil, we can reach out to one another. Instead of looking only to satiate our own agendas when we interact with each other, we could help each other live better lives.
When we take a lesson from Groundhog Day, we can make the most of what seems to be a never-ending cycle of singleness. By embracing our situation instead of trying to escape from it, we can live our best life and help others to do the same. And that will bring us more joy in our journey.
I’ve felt free like I haven’t felt in quite some time. I still have lots to do, and I still don’t know how I’m going to accomplish it all. But I feel as though I have more than enough time to do everything needful, even though I did the math and know the numbers don’t fit. It’s a great blessing from the Lord, and I realize my choice to chase purpose, not proof, paved the way for my blessings.
Commit to purpose
Part of the difficulty I wrestled last week was feeling I needed to do more than time would allow. Meeting with my advisor helped resolve that by providing some clarity around exactly what effort was needed. And I felt the Lord’s guiding and supporting hand.
But the floodgates of feeling truly free and empowered opened only after I committed to my purpose. Don’t get me wrong. I committed to my PhD program back when I gave up my employment, got rid of two thirds of my belongings, moved the remaining third clear across the country, and accepted a lower standard of living — all to pursue a step towards my dream job.
But I hadn’t committed myself completely. I was busy with so many different things, all of them valuable but not all of them conducive to my commitment. Complete commitment is always reflected in completely prioritized time pursuing it.
Once I made that complete commitment in how I would spend my time, that’s when freedom swept over me. That’s when I felt I had the time I needed to do what was needed. That’s when I felt I could truly achieve my potential.
Align with happiness
Too many never do that. Even if they have a purpose they say they pursue, they aren’t really chasing after it. Instead, they chase after proof.
By proof, I mean evidence they’re accepted. They devote more time and energy to acquiring validation and belonging than to any life purpose. And by going off the path of their purpose, they go off the path of their potential.
We all have a deep-seated need for acceptance. We all want to belong, and we all want to be loved. There’s nothing wrong with those desires. But there is something wrong with not prioritizing your potential.
And here’s what’s wrong with it. You’re leaving happiness on the table. You think you’re chasing happiness, but you’ll never capture it by seeking to have something. Happiness isn’t about having; it’s about giving. Happiness is giving your all to all the right things for you. And one of those right things is achieving your potential.
Pursue your potential
Let’s look at an example. What do typical LDS singles do with their time, especially the time they aren’t compelled to do anything? Many spend their so-called “free time” consuming content or soaking in social media, looking for love and belonging, pursuing proof not purpose.
Happiness doesn’t come from having that special someone or having social media likes or indeed having anything. Happiness isn’t about having; it’s about giving. That’s why pursuing your potential is linked to happiness. The more of your potential you achieve, the more you have to give and the more happy you can be.
And you maximize your happiness by committing completely to your purpose, a commitment you demonstrate with the time you devote to that commitment. So take a look at how you spend your time and make adjustments where needed. Chase purpose, not proof. You’ll find yourself feeling more free and more connected with the Lord. And that will bring you more joy in your journey.
Conference provides a great opportunity to reflect and recommit ourselves to a better path. But truth be told, every single day holds the same opportunity. Each day provides a new opportunity to consider your ways and act to change your life.
Consider your time
We all have the same 24 hours each day, but we all choose to spend it differently. And how you spend your time reveals what you value most in life.
Me? I’ve always been a big fan of sleep. There’s no way it’s overrated. It’s fantastic! But you can pursue many things to excess, and sleep is no exception. I’m sure we’re all familiar with the admonition in D&C 88:124 to “arise early.” I’m actually still working on that.
But I’ve found, when I can do it, an early start radically changes the entire day. I’m way more productive, producing more value more easily. I feel more focused and energized throughout the day. And at the end of the day, I’m just more satisfied with myself.
I don’t get those benefits if I prioritize personal playtime and consuming content, and neither will you. If you want your best life, you need to answer these questions: Do you devote more time to worthy causes or frivolous pursuits? Are you the captain of your life’s ship, or do you just float wherever the waves of life take you?
Consider the consequences
Speaking of sleep, what does “retire to thy bed early” mean? I think we each must find our own way. For myself, the sooner I get to sleep, the easier it is to beat the sun up. My body simply takes what sleep it needs, so staying up late doesn’t help me “arise early.” And if I don’t get up early, I won’t get the resultant benefits.
In fact, getting up late usually means getting the exact opposite. I get tons more desire to play and waste the day. If I do manage to drag myself into some productive pursuit, I’m anything but focused. My mind goes all over the map. At the end of the day, I’m left with nothing but the shame of having wasted the day.
On my mission, I heard an African story. Every morning a gazelle awakens. He knows his best chance of escaping the tiger hunting him is to get as much of a head start as he can. But every morning that tiger also awakens. He knows his best chance of eating that day depends on catching the gazelle before he starts running. Thus, it doesn’t matter whether you’re a gazelle or a tiger. When the sun comes up, you had better be running.
Consider your needs
Your sleep schedule is just one of many ways you should consider. We should all reflect on what we need to get where we each want to go and then consider getting what we don’t have but need. Sometimes that means gaining new knowledge. Sometimes that means acquiring a new tool. Sometimes that means having the right people in your life. Your Heavenly Father, the Lord, and the Spirit are indispensable members of that support team. Don’t forget to include them in your plans for success.
In the end, you won’t get the most out of life unless you live intentionally. Only by choosing your activities with intention can you get the most juice for your squeeze. And the best intention for your time includes your own personal ministry by which you contribute to making the world a better place.
So consider your ways. Are you making the most of every day? Are you living with intention? I can’t say I always have. But I can say I’ve experienced real joy in living when I’ve consciously chosen how to spend my time to achieve worthy goals. And I’m grateful to be reminded of the opportunity each day brings to consider my ways and make changes where necessary.
If you haven’t considered your ways recently, do so now. You’ll open the door to feeling more satisfied with yourself each and every day. And that will bring you more joy in your journey.
I’m thankful President Oaks publicly declared those ideas. I’m also thankful he focused on eternal principles throughout his remarks, especially the principle of moral agency. The Constitution certainly isn’t perfect, but it does support that society most free to exercise agency. Thus, we should all be defending our Constitution, despite its flaws and limitations.
Understand the threats to agency
President Oaks began his remarks by establishing his authority. A former clerk to the chief justice of the US Supreme Court, law professor, and justice on the Utah Supreme Court, he’s certainly more than amply qualified to have a platform.
But the qualification he listed last and “most important” intrigued me most. He’s been an Apostle of Jesus Christ for 37 years. As President Oaks described, that means he’s “responsible to study the meaning of the divinely inspired United States Constitution to the work of His restored Church.”
Here he segues into a discussion of moral agency. God inspired the Founding Fathers to assemble a system of government that would maximize the exercise of moral agency. And as we know, agency is key in our Heavenly Father’s eternal plan for His children. Defending the Constitution therefore promotes God’s plan of happiness.
President Oaks then mentioned some of the threats to the undergirding principles of the Constitution. Said he,
The threats to the Constitution, and by extension to our Heavenly Father’s plan, are very real and very much growing.
Learn and perform your duty
So can we do about it? What should we do to defend the Constitution? President Oaks provides some answers. I love how he starts by encouraging optimism, declaring “we should trust in the Lord and be positive about this nation’s future.”
Founded in faith and positive thinking, we should pray for leaders in all nations and then seek to exercise a righteous influence civilly, peacefully, and legally. Also, in these divisive times, “we should seek to moderate and unify.”
These days, everyone loves to talk about their rights and what they’re entitled to receive. But few speak of their duties and what they should give. It’s people performing their duties that make the rights of all available. That’s why I applaud President Oaks in listing three duties every good citizen has.
That power-packed list reveals more I need to do to support the Constitution. And I love how President Oaks reiterated King Benjamin’s counsel not to do everything at once (Mosiah 4:27). We all have different seasons in life, and the combination of actions appropriate in one season may not be appropriate in another.
Get busy doing your part
Let’s truly celebrate Independence Day by defending our Constitution. Perhaps the best place for you to start is where I’m starting — by reading and becoming more familiar with the actual document itself. Or perhaps you need to consider running for a position in an upcoming election. Or maybe you need to call or email an elected official about a current issue.
What you do today may not be what you do tomorrow, but we should always be doing something. The threats to the Constitution President Oaks described have grown precisely because far too many of us have been doing nothing in civic life. We’ve been busy focusing on our careers, our loved ones, and our own lives, and enough responsible people have been so absorbed in that busyness that we’ve allowed irresponsible people to hold office.
The Constitution has imperfections, but one thing it does right is give ultimate power to the people. Let’s celebrate the birth of our nation by learning about and then committing to safeguard that power. And the best way to safeguard it is to exercise it civilly, peacefully, and legally. When we persist in so doing, we can enjoy the fruits of freedom to exercise the moral agency essential to God’s plan and preserve that gift for the next generation. And that will bring us more joy in our journey.
The major challenge for me wasn’t the test itself. For me, it was keeping up with everything else. I still had to attend class, submit homework, prepare for exams, and complete all other responsibilities. Overwhelmed, I turned to the Lord for help. The resulting experience has prompted me to wonder if I really understand what it means to partner with the Lord.
I’ve discussed partnering with the Lord before. The essential idea has always been to embrace the Lord as a partner for your life. No matter how good you are, He can make more out of your life than you can. So it just makes sense to counsel with Him and receive guidance as you make your way through mortality.
Yet my qualifying exam showed me an aspect I’d not before considered. As I collected journal articles related to my assigned topic, I began writing summaries of the articles so I could compare and identify any trends as well as gaps in the current research. But the shear quantity of content to summarize so overwhelmed me that by Day 5 it looked like I wouldn’t meet deadline. How could I write a research proposal when I hadn’t even read enough to know what research gaps existed?
Not knowing where to stand, I went to my knees and pleaded with the Lord for help. I’ve offered such pleadings before, but this time was different. This time I surrendered myself completely to God, declaring a sense of dependency upon Him I truly felt inside. I could succeed only with Him. I needed Him to reveal what I should write and to guide me in finding the supporting material for that proposal among all the many articles I had collected.
That sense of dependency took what I thought partnering with the Lord was to another level. I felt it so strongly tears freely accompanied my cries for help. I truly believed what I declared — without Him to support me, I would surely fail.
I remained on my knees after concluding my prayer, listening for His voice as I wiped the tears from my face. At length I arose and returned to my desk, ready to begin working. I didn’t know what to do, but I was willing to do.
It was in that moment ideas began flooding into my mind. I began to understand the direction I should take. As I acted on those ideas, more ideas came. Though the hour was late, I felt a resurgence of strength and energy fill me, allowing me to keep working on implementing the ideas coming to me.
Before long, I had a rough outline. I worked all the next day to finish and then submit the written proposal. I had a similar experience with the presentation, both in preparing and delivering it. Soon afterwards, I received notice I passed the exam.
That same experience played out as I fulfilled my other responsibilities. I continued praying with that same sense of dependency. Not only were my prayers answered, but I began to feel closer to the Lord than I’ve ever felt.
Pondering upon these experiences has led me to realize more what partnering with the Lord really means. It means feeling so dependent upon Him you must have His contribution to succeed. It means laying bare all you have, feel, think, and can see as evidence making the case for your dependency upon Him. And it means rising to your feet after falling to your knees and walking forward in faith He will provide according to your need.
Though my experience was directed towards my studies, I recognize how this same process can apply to every area of life. Don’t wait to feel the security and support the Lord is eager to give the willing. Partner with the Lord anew, and take your relationship with Him to another level. You’ll receive what you need to move forward, and you’ll feel closer to Him than you ever have. And that will bring you more joy in your journey.
That said, my experience still excites me because it gives me great hope the culture of the larger Latter-day Saint community will soon eliminate what has traditionally provided the greatest challenge in LDS singles life. Just as we know rain will fall when we see storm clouds gather, we can see the cultural signs around us indicating a change is gonna come.
How it’s been
I’ve long spoken on this platform about the challenges LDS singles have traditionally faced. For those who may be new to the audience, the bulk of those challenges stem from our family-centered culture.
Traditionally, LDS culture has centered on family. That means the marker of belonging to that culture is being married with kids, because that’s what having a family has traditionally meant. Because everyone has a deeply seated need to belong to a larger group, LDS singles have struggled to belong when the marker of belonging is something they by definition don’t have.
That’s why for years I’ve called for a change in the culture to one centered on Christ. The marker of belonging in that culture would be discipleship. Such a culture would both support the family while being inclusive of those who are different. No matter your background or your situation, you can work to make and keep sacred covenants that everyone else in the LDS community makes. You can be a disciple. You can belong.
A new hope
I kept affirming my message of cultural change despite the appearance of little if any move in that direction. But that all changed in 2018. That’s when I saw my first glimmer of hope.
That’s because that’s when the Brethren unveiled the ministering initiative. My heart jumped for joy while I physically jumped on my couch at hearing the announcement. I saw then a shift in perspective to see inquiring after the needs of others not as a duty, which is what home and visiting teaching had largely become, but as an opportunity to build the kingdom and grow in discipleship.
That’s exactly in line with the vision I’ve always proposed for the most successful singles groups. They focus on bringing everyone together and making everyone feel they belong. They know it doesn’t matter what people’s background or circumstances are, and they proclaim that knowledge in the way they act and treat others.
Seeing this shift announced in General Conference brought me a new hope that the change I had been talking about for years could be on the edge of unfolding into reality.
The future’s bright
That’s why I was so excited when I saw what appeared at the time to be a change in the home page of the Church website. The layout and content were all focused on Christ as the center. And they combined together to create a unequivocal message of belonging no matter your background or circumstances.
I’ve always believed our Church leaders on the global level have been aware of the singles. Many of the failings LDS singles have cited have root in local leaders who either haven’t understood how to minister effectively to singles or have been so busy with other priorities that ministering to singles simply didn’t happen.
But all of that will be history. Change is gonna come! We can look forward to the future with hope and optimism in a brighter and better day. Our Lord truly knows us and our circumstances. He’ll inspire His disciples to move in a more positive direction while at the same time exercising the compassion of patience in respecting their agency to implement those changes.
Let us also exercise the compassion of patience in respecting the agency of our leaders, both global and local, while also helping them to improve in their ministering efforts towards us and other LDS singles. As we do, we’ll make the ground more fertile for the changes that will come. And that will bring us more joy in our journey.
How it works
Here’s how the 40 days work. Every day, the schedule lists a portion of the Sermon on the Mount to study for that day. That might be a single verse or several verses.
The schedule provides the section as recorded in Matthew and 3 Nephi as well as other relevant references for comparison. The end result is a foundation of scriptures to compare at the start of the daily practice. You read, compare, examine, and reflect.
Then you commit to applying during the course of that day what you’ve learned. You go through your day, completing your commitment. At the end of the day, you “return and report” by reflecting on your experience and writing about how it changed you.
Then the next day, you repeat the process with a new verse or section of verses as detailed in the schedule. You do this for 39 days. On Day #40, you reflect upon and write about your experience as a whole.
The next level
I can’t speak highly enough of how this tradition has helped me draw closer to my Savior and become more truly His. It’s not just study. It’s a continual process of learn, do, and reflect that creates a journey similar to an ever expanding spiral staircase.
I’ve always shared this tradition with others. But this year my growth requires me to invite others to walk each of the 40 days with me. By walking as a group together, we can strengthen and support each other.
To that end, I’m announcing some changes for Joy in the Journey Radio. First, I’ll provide for free the schedule for the 40-day journey. Look to the end of the monologue blog post.
Second, to help those who want an extra aid, I’ll provide a workbook as a guide for walking through each of the 40 days. Everything you need for each step of each day will be there, including side-by-side scripture comparisons, space for writing, and suggested commitments for application. Because Amazon provides the best way to provide this workbook in the most useful format, you’ll have to buy it. But I’ll keep the price as low as Amazon will allow.
Third, I’m going to devote the Joy in the Journey Radio Facebook page to this tradition. During each of the 40 days, I’ll post the relevant scriptures along with something extra like my commitment for that day or some thoughts about the verse(s) for that day. Others can then share what they learned or experienced, allowing everyone to be strengthened by each other’s journey. And as always, joining and participating in the Facebook group is free.
Let’s walk together
I’m not sure how I’ll manage this group in addition to all of my other responsibilities. My calling and my schooling by themselves take significant time. But I feel strongly I need to pursue this, and so I step out with faith the Lord will provide for me.
Day #1 is November 22, so don’t delay getting involved, especially if you want the workbook to guide you along. Get the schedule and join the Facebook page. You’ll see what I call the holy trinity of holidays (Thanksgiving, Christmas, and New Year’s Day) in a whole new light. And deepening your discipleship is a great way to end the current year and begin a new one.
For all of us, 2020 has been an absolutely crazy year. So come join me in adopting a new tradition. Let’s end 2020 together by engaging a journey that will deepen our discipleship, bring us closer to the Savior, and help us feel more of His love as we strengthen and support each other. And that will bring us more joy in our journey.
That's the place where many of us live, or rather the place where many of us exist as the walking dead, wandering zombies in lives on autopilot. We want a better life, we want to change for the better, and many of us sincerely intend both to do better and to become better. Yet the smallest good deed is always better than the grandest intention.
Don't just dream
Why such resistance to embracing positive change? We keep dreaming but never doing. Why is that?
It's not because we're lazy, at least not for most of us. We're biologically hardwired to operate out of habit. That means we're naturally designed to maintain a status quo, and that means resisting change because change by definition doesn't maintain a status quo.
Dreams, on the other hand, don't threaten the status quo, because dreams don't really change anything. Dreaming doesn't require any change in habits, so your natural design can continue business as usual while you dream to your heart's content.
And so, many of us dream and dream. And the life we have in return is the same and the same. Then when we recognize some undesired feature of this same but actual life, the only response many give is to complain and dream of a different life.
But only when you consciously choose to act against your biological design to operate out of habit and step towards your dreams will they ever begin to come true. Results come from one thing and one thing only — action. To get a result you've never had, you've got to do things you've never done. You must act!
Have a little faith
And the best part is it doesn't take a lot to get a lot. Goodness has such inherent power that a little can go a long way. Seemingly small actions can produce powerful results.
Nephi once wrote, "And thus we see that by small means the Lord can bring about great things" (1 Nephi 16:29). He was speaking about the Liahona, the small compass that guided him and his company to the promised land. Alma later spoke to his son Helaman about that compass, saying, "because those miracles were worked by small means it did show unto them marvelous works" (Alma 37:41). By exercising a little faith, the spindles pointed the way those early sojourners should go.
But because the action needed was small, it was also easy to forget. As Alma explained,
It works both ways. Seemingly small actions can produce powerful results.
With as long as I've been single, I've attended literally thousands of singles activities, but the small handful of treasured memories I have of those that actually made a difference in my life are of the small acts of kindness that others extended towards me. Those seemingly small acts produced a powerful result in me that I still carry with me.
Get to work
Each of us could confess to having similar moments in our lives. Seemingly small acts of goodness someone else extended to us have touched us, lifted us, strengthened us, and encouraged us when we needed it. We all can and should pay that forward.
For me, that's the best aspect of these actions. They're so small anyone can do them. You don't need to be terribly gifted in anything. In fact, you already have all the gifts you need to wield the power within seemingly small actions — the gifts of agency and time. When you choose to fill your time with the seemingly small actions that can make a difference in the lives of others and your own, you can effect real change in your life.
So what are you waiting for? Stop wishing and start working. The smallest good deed is always better than the grandest intention. Only action produces results. When you take the seemingly small actions to share goodness with others or to improve yourself, you move yourself closer to making your dreams reality. And with continued, consistent effort over time, you'll begin to see yourself moving closer to your dreams. 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 and podcast to help LDS singles have more joy in their journey and bring all Latter-day Saints together. Let's engage a conversation that will increase the faith of LDS singles and bring singles and marrieds together in a true unity of the faith.
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