These ideas represent important aspects in the journey toward your best life. In fact, we might even say they form a three-step sequential process for navigating the very heart of that journey. It's time to commit to excellence.
Decide what you want
First, you must decide what you want. This seems obvious, but so many simply don't execute here. They simply march ahead in ignorance.
The first of Stephen Covey's seven habits of highly effective people is to begin with the end in mind. Implicit in such a beginning is clearly delineating what your desired outcome is and is not. After all, it's hard to hit a target when you don't know what it is. And if you can't spell it out clearly, then you simply don't know what it is.
Start by writing what you think your best life is, and then step outside yourself and consider whether a stranger would know exactly what you want simply by reading what you wrote. Writing is a perfect tool for this exercise because writing is great for aiding self-reflection.
And the process of writing a clear definition of what you want — what your best life is — allows you to see what you really do and don't know. And it provides an opportunity to clarify when you see you don't know. What does your best life look like, sound like, smell like, taste like, and feel like? Clarity brings power, so get crystal clear on your destination.
Know why you want it
With that clarity, you're ready for the next step. You must understand why you want what you want. And that's perhaps more important than just knowing what you want.
Of course, you have to know what you want before you can address why you want it. But simply knowing what you want is insufficient. For most things worth having (such as your best life), you must pay a price by overcoming obstacles and conquering challenges. Your best life won't come easy, and simply knowing your what won't give you the motivation you need to push through. Knowing your why will.
Again, clarity is power. The more clear you can get on your why, the more power you can obtain to push through when the going gets tough. It also allows for self-reflection. Contemplating the real reason you want something, you might see an easier or more effective means of satisfying that desire or even see it's not worth desiring at all.
Commit yourself to excellence
Once you're clear on your what and your why, the road to your best life should also be clear, at least for the first few steps. All that remains is execution. You must take those next few steps.
But it's not enough simply to go through the motions of doing what needs getting done. To progress towards your best life, you must travel that road well. Otherwise, you'll become disoriented.
It's something like the Liahona. Lehi and his family knew their destination, but when they waned in their commitments, their compass wouldn't point the way, and they quickly became lost. Only when they repented and reoriented themselves to their commitments did their progress resume.
Once you know your what and your why, you too must orient yourself to a commitment to excellence in all you do as you journey to your best life. You can't do anything half baked, because it's your best life, not your half-baked life. It's that commitment to do everything — even the little, seemingly unimportant tasks — with excellence that helps to create your best life.
The road to your best life will never be easy, and it was never meant to be. But when you decide what you want, know clearly why you want it, and then commit yourself to excellence in literally everything you do, you'll not only put yourself on the road to your best life, but you'll make progress towards it as well. And that will bring you more joy in your journey.
But an OK life never rises above mediocrity and won't ever be great or phenomenal. Most settle for mediocrity, but you don't have to accept an OK life. You can be phenomenal. You can live your best life.
To realize the reality you want to have outside of you, you must do the work to change what's inside of you. So stop waiting and start working. Your best life awaits you.
Most people have a limited life because they have limited thinking based on limiting assumptions. And because of how we're all biologically hardwired to operate, those assumptions lead to habits producing the same results most mediocre lives have.
Do you believe you're the victim of choices others make? Do you believe you just aren't good enough to live your dreams? Do you believe your best days are behind you? Do you believe your happiness depends on what happens outside yourself? If so, you're likely not in control of life. Rather, life is in control of you.
But just as you can choose thinking that limits you, you can choose thinking that empowers you. You really can turn your life around because you are a child of the Creator of the universe endowed with His unlimited potential and the wondrous gift of agency. You can and do choose for yourself.
So you can choose to accept responsibility for the choices you've made that have brought you the life you have now. When you do, you begin to own your life. And that's when everything can begin to change for you. You can further that change by deciding what you want, knowing clearly why you want it, and then committing yourself to excellence in literally everything you do.
Get good with you
You need that foundation to effect the changes you want to see outside yourself. Too many people (who usually live limited mediocre lives) think their lives will improve when their external circumstances do. They work directly on external changes, but that's all backwards. To change your life on the outside, you must first change your life on the inside.
That means you must get good with you. You must dig deep enough inside of you to uncover the true root of your problem, the seeds of mediocre thinking sprouting into the mediocre habits producing your mediocre life. You must learn how you were biologically designed to function so you can leverage it instead of continually fighting against it.
We all broadcast an energy to others, and what you have inside determines the quality of that energy. To broadcast an attractive energy, what's inside of you must be attractive. Stop trying to escape singles life and start embracing it and making the most of it. Love yourself but also commit to doing whatever it takes to better yourself. Achieving that balance is the essence of obtaining your best life.
Keep after it
Pursuing that balance won't be easy, because challenges will always threaten your desired transformation. That's why you must continually refresh your thinking and your determination to keep after it.
Believe your best is yet to come, that the blessings you want are real and yours. Let go of trying to manage every detail and just enjoy the ride. Live in the moment, live with intention, and live in possibility while you work for probability. It's balancing the fantastic with the practical.
And the best way I've found to do that is practicing a ridiculous, sickening work ethic. The grind is amply named, and you need to do it every day. Use your agency to choose to keep after it. Never quit. Never surrender. Never stop until you win.
Most people live mediocre lives centered on satisfaction of self because that's what they choose. Those who live phenomenal lives centered on contribution to others have their best life because that's what they choose. Your best life awaits you. When you choose to take control of your life, get good with you, and keep after it, you too can live the phenomenal life that is your best life. And that will bring you more joy in your journey.
Yet far too many of us LDS singles choose bondage. We choose to keep habits of thinking that hold us back. We choose habits of seeing the obstacles instead of the opportunities. We choose habits of living under the oppression of a victim mentality instead of the liberation of a victor mentality. We are in many ways our own worst obstacle. If only we could get out of our own way!
And that’s the irony of it all. We can get out of our own way. We can break free from the bondage of a lesser life because we are free to choose for ourselves. We simply need to make the right choices.
Don’t discount your gift
I know some of you are scoffing at that idea right now. You’re thinking your freedom isn’t like a light switch you just turn on and off at will. Real life, you’re thinking, isn’t like that. There’s so much affecting your life you don’t control.
I used to think that way, back when I didn’t enjoy my life. What I couldn’t see then that I clearly see now is how my choices in how to think brought me the reality I was living. The way of thinking I embraced in those days discounted my gift of agency.
I didn’t see how my habitual choice to focus on the negative created the negative energy I broadcast to others around me. I didn’t see how my habitual choice to look constantly at my obstacles prevented me from seeing my opportunities. I didn’t see how my habitual choice to embrace a victim mentality kept me from living a life of victory.
The truth is your focus determines your reality. When you focus on the negative, you have a negative reality. When you focus on the positive, you have a positive reality. Because you choose your focus, you also choose your reality.
Choose your habits
And here’s more truth: Most of your choices you don’t make consciously. Rather you choose out of habit.
About 97% of everything you do on a day-to-day basis is simply a habit playing itself out. Habits don’t require you to think about what you do when you do it. You can, but you don’t have to. That’s the beauty of habits. They automate sequences of action so you can actually live life.
But your best life is a life lived by intention, one you consciously choose. Because you choose habitually 97% of the time, you choose consciously only 3% of the time. That suggests you can’t live your best life, but you can because you choose your habits.
When you understand how habit works and then make conscious choices to embrace more effective habits — especially in how you think — you really can choose your life because you choose the elements that together create the life you have.
Own your life
The moment I realized that truth was a pivotal turning point in my life when everything changed for me. I had a life I didn’t want because I chose the elements that combined according to natural law to create the reality I had. And it all came back to how I chose to think.
Sure, those choices were by and large habitual. But I chose my habits. In the very least, by choosing not to improve an existing habit, I by default chose not to embrace a better one.
That moment when I consciously chose to own my life turned everything around for me. That’s because I started making choices that were more conducive to the reality I wanted. And that’s a choice you can make as well because you have the same gift of agency.
Don’t depreciate that gift. Choose to own your life. Choose to break yourself free of the habits of thinking producing a reality you don’t want. You don’t have to live that way. You don’t have to settle. When you learn how to leverage your gift of agency to your advantage, you can live a phenomenal life, irrespective of the choices others make. You can make your life extraordinary. 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.
I’m not sure what it was exactly. It’s not like the situation this sister describes is abnormal, extraordinary, or unusual. Confronting loneliness is part of the reality of singleness. I just felt I should address the question posed in this post.
Don’t ask me to compare the loneliness of the never-married versus the divorced versus the widowed. I don’t even know where to begin there, nor am I entirely certain that comparison would provide any real value.
What I do know is that I’ve had my own confrontation with loneliness and overcome it. I know the depths of despair that can enter the heart from prolonged singleness. I’ve been single for over two decades. I also know the pure joy and hope that fill the heart and soul when you change the way you think and adopt a personal ministry. And I know this is true because I’ve lived that joy and am living it now.
Change your thinking
Most of the comments offered in response to this single mother’s question revolved around two approaches: hobbies and renewal activities. They represent two ways of what I see as fundamentally the same approach. And that approach doesn’t address the real issue at hand.
Don’t get me wrong. I’m not against hobbies. And I’m certainly not against participating in regular activities that renew the spirit, heart, mind, and body. In fact, having regular renewal rituals is a great way to live life. We all need to recharge from time to time.
Yet neither of these methods proposed to combat the loneliness we LDS singles encounter solve the problem. They’re simply bandages covering the problem with a seemingly healthy and often pleasurable distraction. Avoiding problems will never solve them. Real solutions always require us to act.
That action starts when we change the way we think. We need to discard the notion that we have to be married or have some significant other in our lives in order to be happy. We need to stop conditioning our happiness on the choices of others. And we need to throw off any vestige of any victim mentality we have and replace it with a victor mentality. We need to own our lives, taking full responsibility for whatever results we do have and recognizing the power of our own choices in delivering to us the life we want.
Adopt your ministry
Attitude without action will never bring you achievement. Some people get fired up with positive thinking, but then their lives don’t change because they didn’t really change, especially in the way they think. Changed thinking always leads to changed action, which in turn always leads to a changed reality.
One of the best actions more effective ways of thinking always lead one to take is to adopt a personal ministry. Your personal ministry is that unique contribution of goodness you make to the world, the cause through which you uplift and bless the lives of others. We’ve discussed before on the program how adopting a personal ministry can help LDS singles overcome their challenges. Here are just three of those reasons:
Turn yourself outward
When you think about it, it’s not hard to understand why a personal ministry offers so much benefit for LDS singles seeking to overcome loneliness and other challenges we LDS singles face. It aligns us with the path the Savior trod by turning ourselves outward towards others.
That’s in stark contrast to the bandage solutions mentioned earlier. Again, I’m not against hobbies and renewal rituals. But focusing exclusively here will turn ourselves inward towards ourselves. That’s why they will never really solve the problem of loneliness. Only by turning ourselves outward can we connect with others in ways that remind us we aren’t ever really alone. Only by turning ourselves outward can we connect with the Savior Who fills us with His love that helps us to know we aren’t ever really alone.
If you feel consumed by loneliness, consider your focus. Your focus will always determines your reality. Change your thinking, adopt a personal ministry, and turn yourself outward. You’ll shift your focus towards others and shift your reality away from your problems and into your possibilities. And that will bring you more joy in your journey.
That one part is completely true. They are torturing themselves. Your focus always determines your reality, so when you focus on what you don’t have, your reality becomes one of lack and emptiness. Because each one of us has agency, we choose our focus. And that means we choose our reality. Indeed, these sisters are torturing themselves. Their wanting serves only to amplify the effect.
Of course, that truth doesn’t excuse married Church members from lacking sensitivity. In recent years, I’ve noticed more married Church members displaying more sensitivity. Nevertheless, not every ward is like that. We still have work to do.
In the meantime, it’s productive for all of us to shift our focus towards what Mother’s Day was intended to celebrate. All of us have a mother who bore us and a mother who raised us. For some those two women are one and the same. But either way, we can each answer this question: “How’s your mother?”
Just as focusing on your lack produces a reality of scarcity, focusing on what you have produces the opposite reality — one filled with abundance and plenty. Your life shifts substantially in the improvement direction when you exchange your expectation for appreciation. It’s all starts with an attitude of gratitude.
So many create disappointment by expecting too much. We want, want, want. And very often what we want, however righteous that desire, centers around something we don’t have. Because our focus always determines our reality, focusing on what we don’t have produces a reality of lack. And the more deeply we want, the more deeply felt that lack becomes.
But exchanging your expectation for appreciation creates something amazing. By constantly expressing gratitude, we can shift our focus towards what we do have. And focusing on what we do have creates a reality of abundance. The more deeply we appreciate, the more deeply felt gratitude becomes. We can bathe in the joy of feeling richly blessed.
Shift your focus
That feeling is completely legitimate because it results from how we’re constructed. Your focus determines your reality. That principle applies to everything, including Mother’s Day. Focus on what you don’t have, and you’ll take no joy in the celebration because your reality will be so full of emptiness you won’t want to celebrate. On the other hand, if you can focus on the good about the day, then you can have a joyful reality you’ll want to celebrate.
I know that can be challenging. As I said before, not every ward displays sensitivity to singles. It’s hard to stay positive when the dream you don’t have but most desire gets highlighted every week at church. I know what it’s like to get constant reminders of what you lack rubbed in your face every week. I know it’s hard.
I also know what hard means. It doesn’t mean impossible. It just means difficult. And difficult can become easy when you partner with the Lord.
The Lord can guide your focus towards the blessings you have today because your mother sacrificed. When you trade your expectation for appreciation, you open yourself to receive more of the joy life has to offer.
And if your relationship with your mother needs work, you can focus on what you can do to improve that relationship. Even good relationships can be improved, so focusing on doing something in that arena is good advice for all of us. Even if your mother has passed on to the other side, you can still find ways to express appreciation and improve your relationship on your end.
So I ask once more, “How’s your mother?” which is really just another way of asking “How’s your focus this Mother’s Day?” Your focus will always determine your reality. So make the positive choice. When you embrace a positive focus, you’ll receive a positive reality. And that will bring you more joy in your journey.
You’ll be hard pressed to achieve that result without adopting a new way of thinking that matches your new landscape. In pre-pandemic times, one might hear of souls going the extra mile of the extra mile, literally working themselves to the bone in the name of service to others. Now with the pandemic in place, some have continued that way of thinking, going that extra mile of the extra mile while sheltering in place and social distancing.
But that old way of thinking that giving all of yourself was somehow a virtue was unhealthy before the pandemic. And it’s still unhealthy now. You can’t help others to climb unless you yourself are standing on higher ground. You can’t nourish others when you yourself need nourishing. Yes, other people and meeting their needs matter. But you matter too.
Strive for balance
That idea falls right in line with following after your bliss. Your best life is the one with the best boundaries for you, boundaries that demarcate a balance between what you should do for others and what you should do for yourself.
And balance is not necessarily about equalizing the proportions those areas occupy in your life. It’s about making sure each area is appropriately sized so that they can sufficiently support the other.
Giving service to others satisfies basic needs we all have for sociality. Supporting others in their times of stress can give us strength in dealing with our own stress. But caring for ourselves requires us to meet all our basic needs. You can hardly say your approach is balanced when you neglect other needs to care exclusively for just one need.
That’s where following after your bliss can help you achieve the balance you need between caring for others and caring for yourself. Many out of balance in the service arena feel guilty if they aren’t continually giving of themselves to others all the time. Their life is unbalanced because their thinking is unbalanced. By following after your dreams and helping others you encounter along that path as you can, you establish a healthy balance between doing for others and doing for you.
Avoid both extremes
Of course, not everyone unbalanced is unbalanced in that way. Some go to the other extreme, focusing so much on themselves that they give little if any thought to others. And they structure their lives accordingly. Just chronicle the activities they regularly embrace in their day, and their excessive focus on themselves becomes obviously apparent.
It’s really easy for singles to fall into this practice, especially if they don’t have any children. And avoiding that practice certainly isn’t helped by living in a pandemic requiring social distancing and sequestering. The healthy focus on caring for self can be mutated into an unhealthy consumption of self.
The solution here is the same. Follow after your bliss and help others you encounter along that path. This approach will help you establish a healthy balance between doing for others and doing for you.
In all our efforts to achieve that healthy balance, we should remember that what constitutes a healthy balance for one person may not be that healthy for another. While we all have the same basic needs, the amounts we need to satisfy those needs can differ greatly.
Pandemic may have changed the landscape, but it has not changed our ability to thrive. When we change our thinking to match the landscape in our lives, we allow ourselves to meet better our current challenges, whatever they might be.
So take a step back and evaluate how you’ve structured your life. How much do you give to others? And how much do you give to yourself? Others matter, yes. But you matter too. Those who know their proper balance between caring for others and caring for themselves set themselves up for success. Pandemic or no, they will thrive on the road to their best life. And that will bring them more joy in their journey.
That said, many of us are still taxing ourselves. We are by nature social creatures, so it’s natural to respond to a crisis by nearing ourselves to others. Yet the current crisis keeps many of us physically apart. And without some plan to provide for needs, that separation is taxing many beyond their capacity.
Focus on ability
We’ve discussed before the basic areas of life, what I call the spirit, the heart, the mind, and the body. Regardless of the names you employ, these areas each have their own needs, which will tax anyone’s reserves when left unmet. And the faith that optimistically inspires us to see beyond the current crisis can guide us to solutions amidst the current crisis.
We achieve that result in large measure by answering this question: “What can I do?” Too many of us, yearning for a return to normal, seek after what we’d like to do had the pandemic not turned the world upside down. But that thinking won’t help us thrive in our new world. We must adapt or die. To thrive in a new reality, we must change our thinking to match the landscape.
For example, before the pandemic hit, I was investigating exercise options. Then the pandemic eliminated the gym as an option. But instead of wallowing in my inability, which would just lead me to inaction and its attendant reality lacking results, I focused on answering “What can I do?” That question led me to using my own body weight for strength training and walking in my neighborhood for cardio. That combined with changes in diet have led to my first real weight loss success in a long time.
Get your plan
In like manner, we can ask “What can I do?” to address any need in life. By focusing our attention on what we can do, we empower ourselves not only to conquer the challenges before us but to do so with a smile-laden gusto. We really can have joy in life regardless of our circumstances.
That power to transcend our troubles resides in agency, God’s gift made meaningful by Jesus Christ. His Atonement makes it possible to triumph over sin and death, obstacles that separate us from God. Without that Atonement, our overcoming any obstacle in this world would have no meaning. We would all unavoidably perish (Alma 34:9).
Of course, such a key component in our eternity did not come about by chance. It was part of a plan provided before this world was. What we see now created temporally God first created spiritually (Moses 3:5). Following that example as we answer the question “What can I do?” will lead us to the plans we need to meet our needs during the coming months.
Rise above the challenge
With so much unknown at present about coronavirus, we can expect the current situation of sequestering and social distancing to last at least through summer. Do you have the plans and the means in place to meet your own needs during that time?
When you fail to plan, you plan to fail. But you don’t have to fail. You have a choice. You have power within that choice to change your attitude and how you think. And when you change how you think, you change your life. You can feel real joy regardless of what negative or pessimistic circumstances surround you.
Don’t tax yourself by failing to plan appropriately for your changed landscape. Ask yourself, “What can I do?” and then partner with the Lord as you answer that question. Those answers can structure a plan for meeting your needs for as long as the crisis lasts. The storm of pandemic may rage on the outside, but you can live with faith, optimism, and confidence on the inside. And that will bring you more joy in your journey.
But you can still own your life. You can still take responsibility for yourself and the results you have in your life. And today is the perfect opportunity to do just that because today is April Fool’s Day. Now, I’ll admit social distancing and sequestering have radically changed the landscape. But a change in landscape should never signal us to surrender positive energy. Now more than ever we should be always up for fun.
Change your habits of thinking
Many people don’t associate staying at home with fun. They think about going out to restaurants, stores, malls, parks, concert venues, and the like. Many of us approach April Fool’s Day the same way, conjuring images of practical jokes played on people and often in front of other people.
But that was yesterday. Today the landscape is different. We need to practice social distancing and sequester ourselves in our homes as much as possible. And those who refuse to change their thinking to match this new landscape will experience untold and unnecessary hardship.
Long time listeners to this program are familiar with these principles in relation to helping LDS singles find joy regardless of their circumstances. For example, many singles who leave YSA land without getting married experience a difficult transition into SA world. Some don’t even transition; they go inactive or leave the Church altogether.
That’s because their YSA thinking doesn’t match the new SA landscape, and they simply respond to their biological hardwiring which encourages them to maintain the status quo. They keep thinking the same way, and that just leads them to leave. But if these singes would change their thinking to match their new landscape, they could experience a greater amount of joy despite their circumstances.
Look for opportunity
We can begin to capture much of the joy we’ve been missing by owning our lives and looking for the opportunity amidst the obstacle. I demonstrated that attitude this morning in my Daily Dose video. Is it cheesy and silly? Absolutely. And that’s OK, because I refused to let my current situation keep me from having a spot of fun.
You too can refuse to allow your current situation to keep you from experiencing joy amidst adversity. You can still celebrate April Fools Day. Will it be the same? Of course not. But joy is still joy, no matter how it comes.
Own your life
Presented with this knowledge, each of us now confronts this question: Will you own your life? Or put another way, will you take responsibility for the results you experience in your life? Will you refuse to allow your circumstances to dictate your attitude and perspective?
I choose to own my life. My circumstances will be what they will be, but they will never dictate my choices. I choose to live with intention, not on autopilot. I choose to produce more than I consume, not just consume. I choose phenomenal, not mediocre. I choose life, not death. I choose faith, not fear. I choose hope, not despair. I choose love, not hate. I choose joy, not sorrow.
And so can you. Decide today you will own your life. Decide that no matter your circumstances you will be always up for fun. Then follow through with that decision by taking advantage however you can of the moments for fun that come your way. And that will bring you more joy in your journey.
Yet a recent experience caused me much reflection on both my own transformation to optimism and how we can all help those singles wont to wallow in their own mire come Friday.
An unexpected experience
Last Saturday, the newest member of my ward was baptized. The service reminded me of my own mission, and I cried as the Spirit brought past sacred experiences to my remembrance.
As I left, I noticed across the parking lot a sister missionary who’d previously been in the ward. She had obviously returned to attend the baptism. Just before her transfer, she and her companion gave me a very special gift. They snuck up to my apartment door and plastered it with paper hearts sharing messages of love, hope, and encouragement.
I never had the chance to thank them, because the very next day transfers came, and elders arrived in place of both sisters. Seeing that sister now in the parking lot, I called out to her and confided that what she and her companion left for me that night before their transfer meant a great deal to me. I then thanked her.
What happened next surprised me. She told me I should be thanked because I’d helped her tremendously. She didn’t go into details — I’m still insanely curious — but then she said something that later drove deep reflection. She said, “You’re awesome.”
A meditated realization
What surprised me was less that she said it (although yes, I wasn’t expecting to hear that from anyone, let alone a sister missionary) or that she was really sincere in saying it (which she was) and more that I found it hard to hear.
That realization caused me much reflection. I’m very comfortable with myself and enjoy my own society immensely. So why wouldn’t I believe I’m awesome? (And why is there an obnoxious song from The Lego Movie playing in my head right now?)
Seriously, why would that message be so hard for me to hear? After some deep reflection, I concluded it was hard for me to hear because I’d grown too accustomed to hearing the exact opposite.
That shouldn’t surprise anyone. Looking back over more than two decades of being a single Latter-day Saint, the vast majority of the messages I received from single LDS ladies were negative. They didn’t affirm my divine worth nor recognize the goodness of a heart that had sacrificed and suffered much. That’s not to say there weren’t those few who gave me positive messages (there were) or that I made my own mistakes worthy of negative messaging (I did). Rather it simply means I heard negative messages so often, especially in the dating arena, I came to believe them.
A more joyful life
I don’t believe them any more. My view today is much more optimistic. But what would my life have been like had I received more positive messages from other single sisters more regularly? And what of the other LDS singles who are now what I once was? What of those who are prone to throw that pity party on Friday because they don’t have a valentine of their own?
If you’re among that crowd, please know you have agency. That means you choose everything for yourself, including what to believe. I struggled for a long time with negative messages until I realized my agency means I get to choose everything for myself, including what to believe. Just because someone else believes something doesn’t mean I must believe it also. I don’t have to believe what I don’t want.
It’s the same for you. When others send you a negative message, don’t believe them! Instead, believe you have great worth (because you do) and God loves you so much He has prepared glorious blessings for you (because He does and He has). Then share that love with others and skip the pity party. Let your messaging reaffirm the worth of every individual. Then you’ll feel your own worth reaffirmed. 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 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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