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.
Of the 15 times he used the words repent or repentance, President Nelson also used the word daily with five of those references. Go back and look if you don’t believe me. One out of every three occurrences is not insignificant. This use of the word daily caught my attention. And in my subsequent pondering, I’ve gained a new understanding and appreciation of repentance. I’ve come to see we really do need to do it daily.
Set the stage
I confess a part of my pondering includes a book from my Sunday afternoon reading — The Infinite Atonement by Tad Callister. As I started reading the book, it became very clear to me Elder Callister didn’t write this book quickly. His final product obviously evidences extensive research, consultation with others, and much revision.
Combining this text with President Nelson’s remarks has proved powerful for me. Elder Callister presents repentance as God’s plan for our self-improvement. The Atonement is not just about making us clean from impurity but also about improving us into something more than we were before, and repentance is how we access that power.
If repentance is how we walk God’s road to self-improvement, how we become more than what we are now, then why would we not want that every day? In that regard, President Nelson’s use of the word daily in connection with repentance seems very natural. Said he,
Let’s all follow the Prophet by doing and being a little better every day.
President Nelson spoke of specific areas in which priesthood holders can seek to improve. These included how we dress and groom our bodies and “how we honor the women in our lives.”
But President Nelson said in that regard, “Take an inventory of how you spend your time and where you devote your energy. That will tell you where your heart is.” Although the Prophet applied this idea to a specific application, I think we could apply it equally to any area of improvement we need in our lives.
Do you remember what we discussed a month ago directly following Conference? We focused on Sister Craven’s remarks about being careful as opposed to being casual. Sister Craven spoke principally of our covenants and the spiritual aspect of our lives. I expanded that focus to include every part of our lives. We get from anything what we give to it. We can’t expect quality results when we give casual attention. To get quality, we must give careful attention.
That’s where President Nelson’s remarks take center stage. We don’t need to be perfect all at once. We just need to do a little better today than we did yesterday. And it’s imperative that we do so, because President Nelson declared,
The good news is that we can all start today to turn our lives around. We each can identify one thing we will do today to be a little better than we were yesterday. It’s in doing the small but appropriate things consistently every day that we achieve tremendous results in anything.
Then at the end of the day, we can ask ourselves, “Did I do a little better today than I did yesterday? Am I a little better today than I was yesterday?” If we can answer “Yes” to those questions, we are on the road of repentance. And that road leads to the covenant path that will take us to our heavenly home.
Let us all follow the Prophet. Let each one of us repent and do it daily. As we do better the little things we need to improve, we will be better in whatever role we have in our lives. We’ll be happier people, and our influence for good in the lives of others will be more effective. And that will bring us more joy in our journey.
We need a new culture
Like it or not, many Latter-day Saints consider being married with kids as the definition of acceptance within their culture. And since we all want to belong, many LDS singles strive to obtain that mark of belonging. So if you define motherhood to require the bearing of children, then you’re limiting your window within which you will feel accepted.
Clearly, the results observed respecting this issue go back to how people think. If only we could all adopt a new culture that grants acceptance from doing one’s best to make and keep every sacred covenant that one can, we wouldn’t be hearing from the single ladies who are really complaining about how they don’t fit in under the guise of complaining about whatever presentation they saw in church.
That’s easier said than done, but no single woman need wait for the culture to change in order to change the way she thinks about what it means to be a mother. In fact, we should all change how we think about that because we are biologically hardwired to get our sense of normal from the people around us. Single women can more easily adopt a more effective definition of mother when everyone around them does the same.
We need a new definition
And what is this new definition of motherhood everyone should adopt? Being a mother simply means consistently recognizing and then meeting needs in others. That’s something every woman can do, whether single or married.
Think about it in terms of your own mother. If you’re like me and were blessed to have a mother who loved you and always worked every day to show she cared, isn’t that what we best remember about our mothers? Isn’t that what we most treasure about the memories of our mothers, that this woman consistently recognized our needs and worked to satisfy them?
Now if you didn’t have a mother like I had, I’m sorry, but you should still be able to see the point. You don’t need to give birth to children to recognize a need within them and then work to satisfy it. And women are uniquely endowed with a natural ability to do just that, whether or not they’ve given birth to children or not.
We need a new approach
It’s high time we all embraced a broader approach to motherhood. I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again. Your focus determines your reality. When you focus on what you lack, your reality becomes filled with lack. That breeds discouragement and despair. But when you focus on what you have and on what you can do, your reality becomes filled with possibility and opportunity. That breeds optimism and hope.
Let’s help single women everywhere by defining motherhood in terms of what all women can do and not just those who have given birth to children or even those who are legally responsible for raising children. Let’s define motherhood as consistently recognizing and meeting needs in others. This is a definition that fits all women based on what they can control (their actions) and not what they can’t (their life circumstances).
When we adopt a broader view of motherhood, we make every woman a mother who strives to serve others in ways that meet their needs. We show greater sensitivity towards those whose life circumstances aren’t what they desire. And we better support them in feeling loved and supported themselves. And that will bring us all more joy in our 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.
I’ve been thinking recently about what I do here — this program, the blog, and everything connected to it. I’ve had such hopes and plans for helping LDS singles everywhere live better, more joyful lives. I still do.
Bit by bit, it’s all coming together. I’ve come so far since that very first blog post on 12/12/12. I’ve come so far from that first blog post on this website, the post in which I declared my desire for real in my life. I’ve come so far from providing audio clip readings of my posts. And I’ve got farther yet to go before I’m done.
These accomplishments and dreams inspire me. Yet my mind turns to those who could have such accomplishments and dreams but don’t. They don’t believe they’re meant for anything extraordinary. They don’t see how anything approaching greatness could ever involve them. The future they see holds no promise, no hope, and no joy.
If that describes you, I hope you listen closely to the program today. I have a special message just for you. And it’s this: Don’t you dare give up on yourself.
Choose your joy
I know the depths of depression, the darkness that can envelope a soul in despair so devoid of hope that one wonders how life could ever be joyful for any but the luckiest among us. But I also know that vision doesn’t have to represent anyone’s reality. You can choose your joy.
Once, my sense of “logic” would find such statements repugnant, not to mention incomprehensible. What I see now that I didn’t see then are the faulty assumptions underneath that thinking. Just because others believe something doesn’t make it true. Nor does it mean you have to believe it. You can believe what you want to believe.
And you can believe that what you believe and how you think will ultimately determine your reality. That’s how our brains are biologically hardwired. You can choose to think more effectively, to give yourself messages filled with positive energy, to put controls around your emotions, to choose your joy. You can choose your reality.
Let your light shine
Because you can choose your reality, you can choose to be a victim, or you can choose to be a victor. You can choose to wallow within your own self-absorption. Or you can choose to look outside yourself to how you can bless the lives of others.
Think of what that means. We all posses the awesome potential for bringing goodness into the world, for making a real difference in the lives of others. That means you have that potential. You can inspire others to shine their lights bringing goodness into the lives of others when you shine your light bringing goodness into their lives.
But what would happen if you choose not to shine your light, not to make your contribution of goodness into the world? Would others falter because they never had the light you could shine? Would someone surrender to negativity because he or she didn’t have quite enough reserves to resist, reserves that would have been sufficient with your contribution?
The Master taught, “Let your light so shine before men, that they may see your good works, and glorify your Father which is in heaven” (Matthew 5:16). What distance between God and individual men and women will not be shortened when you choose not to make your contribution?
Partner with Him
That’s why you should never dare to give up on yourself. It’s not about you; it’s about all of us. So when you give up on yourself, you’re giving up on the people who stand to benefit from the contribution you could make, a contribution only you can make. When you give up on yourself, you give up on all of the rest of us.
When many of us look our meager offerings, we wonder how so much could ever hang in the balance. How could our contribution ever be so important? The Lord’s disciples thought this way when they saw they had only five loaves and two fishes (see Matthew 14:17). How could so little feed so many? And yet in the hands of the Master it did. Likewise, the Master can work miracles in the lives of others as you follow His direction to give your contribution.
Don’t you dare give up on yourself! When life looks bleak, partner with the Lord. He will heal you so you believe in yourself and your contribution. He will lead you to those who need your contribution. And His hands will transform your contribution into miracles in their lives. You can bask in their love for you and for the Lord when you make that contribution you can make. And that will bring more joy in your journey.
Not paying attention to the news for the last couple of years has made a huge difference in my life. For years I wanted to keep apprised of current events and so read regularly from various sources. But the overwhelming negative slant so many stories took painted a picture of an increasingly depressing world. And it didn’t take long for that depression to weigh me down.
The first step towards correcting an overflowing bathtub is to turn off the water. And that’s what I did with the media. Yet I still wanted to know what was going on in the world. How else could I be a responsible citizen? Thus began the yo-yo days of switching between feasts and famine of media news in my life.
But the yo-yo approach wasn’t sustainable. In the end, I chose to eliminate most media news from my life, largely because of its overwhelming negativity. I couldn’t see how I could live a positive life when I regularly drank from the fountains of negativity, so I said enough with the negative in my life. And as I said before, it’s made a huge difference.
Improve your thinking
One of the first things I noticed after I eliminated that negative source from my life was an improvement in my thinking. It’s hard to believe your world will be heavenly when every day you’re hearing about how the world around you is going to hell in a handbasket.
Once I eliminated the negativity, it became easier to believe in the possibilities of my future. I found it easier to believe in myself and my ability to achieve my potential, that I could make the needed changes to allow the blessings the Lord wants to give me — blessings I want in my life — to come to me.
Understanding that doesn’t take an Einstein. I’ve been saying for years that your focus determines your reality. When you regularly entertain sources of negativity, it’s hard for your focus to be anything but negative. And when you focus on the negative, your reality (otherwise known as your life) becomes filled with negativity.
Of course, the reverse is also true. When you eliminate the negative from your life, it’s easier to focus on the positive. And when you focus on the positive, your reality becomes filled with positivity.
Improve your self-talk
The changes I experienced in my thinking then bled into my self-talk. The messages I constantly gave myself became more positive. It didn’t happen overnight, but slowly the negative became positive.
I’ve discussed self-talk many times before on the blog as well as this program. It’s hard to believe in possibilities when you constantly tell yourself they don’t exist — or worse, that it doesn’t matter whether or not they exist because you’re just not worthy or good enough to have them. If you repeat a lie long enough, you’ll start to believe it.
But you’ll also believe the truth when you repeat your encounters with it long enough. Again, your focus becomes your reality. The more you focus on the positive, the easier giving yourself positive messages becomes. And the more you give yourself positive messages, the easier it is to focus on the positive. This self-perpetuating cycle provides a strong foundation for a positive reality so long you keep it going.
Improve your feeling
In an upcoming book I’ve been writing, I cite this statistic: Around 95% of how we feel comes from our self-talk. That’s an amazing statistic because it means we choose how we feel.
That idea may sound like pig swallow to some, but consider this for a moment. Most of what you feel comes from the messages you give yourself, messages you choose to give yourself. You choose your focus. You choose how to think and what to think. You choose all these factors feeding into how you ultimately feel. That means you can and do choose how you feel.
It then follows that when you choose positivity, you’ll feel positivity. Thinking positive lays the groundwork for positive self-talk, which then colors your emotional state with positive energy. All this focus on the positive can’t help but produce a positive reality. And here’s the best part: It all happens with zero change in your circumstances.
When you look within yourself and say you’ve had enough with the negative, you can begin to make lasting positive changes in your life. You can remove from your life the sources of negative energy that make it harder for you to have a positive reality. When you do, you’ll start to see improvements in your thinking, your self-talk, and your emotions. 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.
In Western culture we adore people supposedly born with unique talent. Of course, we should congratulate those who have talent. The problem comes when we think those at the top have been born with “it.” That type of thinking leads to so much failure.
We think like this more often than we might realize. Ever heard someone say “I’m just not good at math”? People learn math all the time, and yet some persist in thinking they're “just not math people,” whatever that means. This thinking reflects the fixed mindset, the idea that you either have “it” — the something wonderful you need to succeed — or you don’t.
The fixed mindset has everyone climbing all over each other trying to prove how great they are. They seek to validate their own sense of self-worth in a game of comparisons. Unless you can prove you're better than someone else — that you have “it” — the world teaches you aren’t validated.
The fixed mindset also encourages you to do everything on your own. If you need help, you obviously don’t have “it”. If you’ve ever wondered why some find it hard to accept service from others, it may be because they don’t want to appear like they don’t have “it”.
This one cultural influence frustrates many LDS singles as they try to create families. For example, suppose you have some bad experiences with dating. (OK, so maybe you don’t have to suppose.) Is your normal response to give up because you think you don’t have “it”?
It’s very easy to think, if we weren’t born with whatever wonderful something it is we believe we need to have to succeed, then why even try? After all, it’s obvious you don’t have “it” if you aren’t as wonderful as someone else. So why torture yourself by proving what you fear, that you're unable to have your righteous desires? After all, you just don’t have “it”.
But you don’t need to think that way. Replace the idea of “it” with the idea that talent can be learned. You can then see service from others as an opportunity to learn something new and to improve upon yourself. That makes it easier to embrace.
Learn and grow
No talent of any kind is innate. Learning line upon line is part of the experience we came to mortality to have. Even people who think they aren't “math people” can learn math. I see it every semester with the math classes I teach. Talent can be learned.
And because it is learned, you need to see failure as a chance to improve yourself. Remember that your focus determines your reality. For example, it’s easy to think you're somehow defective because you can’t get a date. And as long as you focus on how “defective” you are, your reality will feel to confirm just that.
But when you focus instead on your efforts, your failure to get a date doesn’t mean something is wrong with you but rather with your effort. Ask yourself, “Why was it exactly that my effort to get a date failed?” and then keep following that trail until you find real answers.
Look to the Lord
Ultimately the Savior has already accepted you. He would not have suffered all He did if you were not worth redeeming. That means you don’t have to prove or validate yourself or even compare yourself with anyone else. You’re already accepted.
And His acceptance is the only one that matters. When you accept that truth, you free yourself from feeling you must have a significant other in order to be accepted. You can more easily be real in your interactions with other people. You don’t have to pretend you're something you really aren’t. That freedom makes life so much more enjoyable.
If you don’t feel that freedom now, then pray for it. The Lord will guide you to embrace your true worth. After all, He knows you're worth it. He’ll help you to feel His love for you if you but ask. When that happens, you’ll realize more fully your own worth. You’ll know more fully that you’re already accepted. And that will bring you more joy in your journey.
It’s natural to think life would be better if only we had something we don’t now have. We think, I'll be happy when ______ . You can fill in the blank.
And many do. Some think they’ll be happy when they get a new job or a new house. Some marrieds fill that blank with a new baby. Many singles fill that blank with getting married.
These thoughts are natural, and that’s why they ultimately don’t lead to happiness. Happiness never comes from following the inclinations of the natural man or woman. Those inclinations turn your focus inward on yourself.
But true happiness requires you to turn your focus outward on others and contributing to make their lives better. The more of yourself you give in that endeavor, the happier you become. And because you can always contribute to others in some way, you don’t have to wait for happiness.
Avoid the “happiness” trap
Often we place too many conditions on our happiness. By thinking we can’t be happy unless we possess something — be it some material object, social status, or notable achievement — we equate happiness with possessing that something.
And that’s the first part of the trap. As long as you don’t possess whatever that something is, you’ll be unhappy. And because true happiness comes from what you give rather than possess, fulfillment will always elude you.
The second part of the trap comes by thinking you must possess your something because your life plan says it’s “right.” After all, how can you be happy when your life isn’t what you want it to be?
Many singles get caught in this second part of the trap. Thinking you need to have that special someone to be happy is self-defeating. If you’re not happy now, you’re not likely to attract that special someone. People generally don’t want to spend ten minutes let alone their entire life with negative emotions like unhappiness.
Not getting what you think you need to be happy then just feeds the cycle to continue. And releasing your wanting will be hard so long as your life plan tells you it’s “right” to keep wanting it, further reinforcing the cycle.
Find your freedom
But you don’t have to be trapped. You can free yourself by changing your thinking. Quit waiting for some condition to be met. Start understanding the true source of happiness, and start making more effective choices.
Happiness comes from giving your all to the right things. Long-time audience members know the right things are more than just keeping the standards. Of course those standards are right for everyone. But the right things also include your unique contribution to improve the lives of others.
And you can’t just do your right things and expect to be happy. It's what you bring to what you do while doing the right things that produces happiness. It’s how much of yourself you give willingly to doing your right things.
If just doing the right thing would make you happy, everyone at church would be just peachy. After all, church attendance is a right thing. But you can’t just go through the motions to become happy. You must give your all to the right things. That’s why those who contribute while attending church are always happy. They’re giving their all to their right things.
Likewise, simply acting out your part during the marriage ceremony won’t make you happy, however "right" that marriage may be. What will make you happy is bringing your all to that union. Happiness comes from giving your all to the things that are right for you.
Be happy now
Here’s the best part about this definition of happiness. You don’t need to wait to be happy. In His tender mercies, the Lord has placed within your reach the things that are right for you now. You can choose to change your thinking so that you can see your right things all around you. And you can choose to give your all in embracing those right things.
When it comes to being happy, you don’t need to wait. You don’t need a change in your situation. You need a change in your thinking and then you just need to choose to be happy.
Don’t sacrifice the joy of today by focusing on a future that always seems elusive. Focus instead on the contribution you can make today. You can be happy now if you align your thinking and your actions with the true source of happiness. When you give your all to contribute to others in the way that’s right for you, you’ll feel that happiness come into your own life. And that will bring you more joy in your journey.
Howdy! I'm Lance, host of Joy in the Journey Radio. I've been blogging about LDS singles life since 2012, and 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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