The lesson here is clear. You boost your power to achieve your goals — and therein change your life — when you write them down.
Learn the ritual
This wasn't the first time I came across this story. And yet this time something clicked inside me. I came to a realization that had somehow escaped me before. I say somehow because it's staring me in my face, leaving me at a loss to explain why I didn't see it before.
But I'm glad I saw it now, because it led me to a new daily ritual that's improving the quality of my life and giving me more motivation and momentum to dedicate myself more completely to the accomplishment of my goals.
What is this new daily ritual? Before I begin my tasks for the day or even turn on my computer to review my tasks, I open a notebook and write down each of my goals for the year. Everything here is old school. I take a pen in my hand and physically transcribe onto paper each of the goals I made back in January.
Gain your power
I have goals for my personal life and each of my business endeavors — 36 all told. Since I'm writing each word by hand, it takes me about 20-30 minutes to complete this exercise. That's a sizable chunk out of my day, but I'm starting to see some sizeable return on my investment.
Each moment I spend writing each goal, I'm not just copying words. I'm considering the gap between where I am and where I want to go. Starting my work for the day with a realization of what I need to be done is empowering, especially when paired with the motivation stemming from the grandeur of my goals (yes, I can't help but dream big).
Starting my workday with that motivation drives me to do more with my day. The act of physically forming letters in a set arrangement on paper is a metaphor for completing the tasks in real life that together form the set arrangements known as goals. It's a form of spiritual creation that precedes the physical creation. That's how God created all things (D&C 29:31-32). How can you follow the same pattern and not gain some semblance of the power He wields?
Wield your power
I've embraced this new ritual for only a few days now, so I haven't practiced it long enough to become a habit. But I do feel stirrings of power within me, a taste of the great potential this practice will unleash.
That real power isn't just checking items off a to-do list. It goes beyond completing tasks or even accomplishing goals. The real power is having our tasks transform us into something more than we were before. We're human beings, after all, not human doings. We live our best life not because we do more but because we are more.
It's never too late to start a new way of living. You can feel empowered every day to effect change in yourself, accomplish great goals, and attain your best life. To start feeling that power in your life, decide to start living that way and follow through with the simple yet powerful practice of writing down your goals at the start of each day.
So what are you waiting for? Start right now by collecting the tools you'll need to write out your goals. Then tomorrow morning use your tools to practice your first iteration of a new habit. You may not feel much effect after just one session, and you probably won't. But with diligence and persistence in this practice day after day, it won't be long before you start feeling a growing effect within you. Keep on keeping on with that, and you'll empower yourself to accomplish anything. And that will bring you more joy in your journey.
Of course, Nephi is a key clue indicating direct applicability to singles. After all, Nephi was a stud of a single adult. Many of the epic faith-promoting stories about him — "I will go and do," for instance, or retrieving the plates from Jerusalem, or the vision of the tree of life — were realized while Nephi was a faithful single adult.
What inspiration has lit the world from that valiant example! We LDS singles can foster a similar influence for good if we will do as Nephi did and look to the Savior.
Look to Him
That's exactly where Elder McCune's remarks went. Addressing the general Church membership and not just the singles, Elder McCune admonishes all of us to exercise faith despite our challenges. As we look to the Savior in those moments, we can feel the love and peace only He can offer.
Elder McCune shares a family experience after his son encountered a life-threatening accident to his brain. In an almost empty hospital, all Elder McCune and his family could do was kneel and pour out their hearts to God. "In the midst of this confusing and painful moment," Elder McCune recounts, "we were filled with our Heavenly Father’s love and peace."
Elder McCune continues,
Many LDS singles sometimes wonder whether the challenges of singles life will ever end. To those with such thoughts, I invite you to look to the Savior and walk in faith.
Follow His servants
Walking by faith isn't easy. Especially in these times when the pandemic has turned the world upside down, many seem intent on walking in fear. We who have the light of the gospel can inspire faith with a focus on the Savior. And we LDS singles can play that part in our day just as Nephi did in his.
Already in my new calling, I've participated in discussions regarding the return to weekly Sunday church services. Many of the Saints have concerns — and rightly so — about the risks of infection. Yet the Brethren have asked local leaders to accelerate the return to regular worship services.
Keep in mind the Church is greatly exceeding what local state and county officials recommend. Yet even with that, many members resist the idea of meeting together. Far be it from me to judge others in these trying times. I certainly don't blame anyone for wanting to stay away.
Yet I would invite these same people I hesitate to judge to look to the Savior and follow His servants in faith. Elder McCune spoke of the support we can find in focusing on and following the Savior.
Nephi was able to do difficult things because he focused on the Savior and walked in faith. As we focus on the Savior and walk in faith, so can we.
Walk in faith
Elder McCune concluded his remarks by addressing the enticements some may experience to leave the spiritual safety of the Church. He first mentions loved ones "who are questioning truth." We don't want to abandon the gospel but also don't want our families torn apart.
I can't really speak from personal experience here, but I do like how Elder McCune responded. He advocated looking to the Savior and remaining faithful to Him and His gospel. It's hard to lift someone to higher ground from below. As Elder McCune declared, "If our true desire is to rescue those we love, we ourselves must stay firmly with Christ by embracing His Church and the fulness of His gospel."
He then addressed those who think we don't really need the Church.
I too bear witness that we singles Latter-day Saints can do difficult things when we look to the Savior, focus on following Him, and walk in faith. It's not easy, but it was never meant to be, because it was meant to be worthwhile. When we look to Him, the Savior's peace and love can fill our souls. And that will bring us more joy in our 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.
Interpret others more appropriately
The first lesson took me years to learn. But once I got it, what a difference it made! After all, how you think about yourself largely contributes to how you portray yourself to others.
Most people believe the actions of others reflect their identity. When someone summarily dismisses you, it’s easy to believe it’s because you don’t have any value. Those who believe this fallacy can easily disparage themselves into depression.
But what others say or do doesn’t reflect your identity but rather your effort. If people are passing you by, it’s not because you don’t have value but rather because you don’t offer value. Offering is a choice, one we all can make. Focusing on what you can do rather than on what you lack always produces a more positive reality.
True, not everyone will respond positively to your offering. Some simply won’t see any value in it. But that just means they’re visually impaired. What will you do to help them see? Again, focusing on what you can do produces a more positive reality.
See as God sees
Perhaps the most important choice you can make to help others see your value is to learn to see as God sees. I’ve been learning this lesson over many years, and I’m still learning. But what I have learned so far has improved my life tremendously.
What do you think God sees when He looks at you? We’ve all heard“the worth of souls is great in the sight of God” (D&C 18:10). But why is that? What does He really see when He looks at you?
He sees potential. His sight isn’t confined to the moment, as our sight often is. He sees not just what we are today or even what we were yesterday but we can be tomorrow. Too often, especially when we’re discouraged, we aren’t looking forward to our potential but rather behind to what we were. We tell ourselves so often the lie about our past determining our future that we believe it. If only we could see as God sees!
That’s not likely to happen without partnering with the Lord. When you let Him guide your feet, He can also guide your eyes. We see a marvelous example in Enoch, who initially didn’t see very much in himself (Moses 6:31). But the Lord helped him to see more clearly (Moses 6:35-36), and the result was mountains moved and rivers turned from their course (Moses 7:13). Just as He helped Enoch see his potential, the Lord will help you see yours when you partner with Him.
Loving yourself will also help you see that potential. You know yourself better than most people, so they’ll simply take their cues about you from you. If you’re discouraged about yourself, then most people will follow that lead.
Conversely, if you’re care about you, then most people will follow that lead. When you demonstrate through your actions that you’re worth something, most people will also think you’re worth something and act accordingly. Again, people respond not to who you are but rather to what you do. And you choose what you do.
So choose to learn the lessons that reveal your true beauty. Learn to interpret others more appropriately, see yourself as God sees you, and love yourself. In learning those lessons, you’ll come to see you really are beautiful. You’ll release yourself from an unnecessary burden of despair and depression. You’ll feel more hopeful and optimistic about your future. And that will bring you more joy in your journey.
Many LDS singles feel bereft of hope when they don’t see any obvious opportunities for the eternal marriage they desire. Fundamentally, their lack of hope doesn’t differ from anyone else struggling to realize righteous desires. For example, infertility plagues many righteous married couples desiring biological children.
Yet in all cases hope abounds. If you can’t see the way forward, please consider this question: Are you operating out of your memory or your imagination? Your focus becomes your reality, so when you focus on the failures you’ve known, your reality becomes filled with more of those failures. But when you focus on the success you can imagine, your reality becomes filled with possibility.
We all can access redemption in every sense of the word because of Christ and His glorious Atonement. No matter how dark or bleak your circumstances may appear, you always have reason to hope. There is always hope because there is always Christ.
How do you feel this great truth when all around you seems dismal? Almost all of us believe very readily in miracles that Christ performed among a people most of us don’t know in a land far away which most of us haven’t seen. Yet when it comes to believing in miracles performed in our own lives and in our own backyard, we respond more slowly. We need to start believing Christ.
What do you do when things you don't want to happen do in fact happen? Knowing God has apportioned a time when all wrongs will be righted makes patience easier. Knowing a just God won’t wait to right our wrongs when the time to right them is right also encourages patience. There is always hope because there is always Christ.
Still, longing can pain the heart in the present moment. Because your focus determines your reality, focusing on your pains always yields a reality of pain. Focus instead on the Savior so that He becomes your reality. Believe Him when He said, “Come unto me . . . and I will give you rest” (Matthew 11:28). His strength can give you strength.
Understand the journey
Christ never taught that all of His promised blessings would be distributed like a buffet lunch — first come are first served and everyone else will just have to wait. He wants all to enjoy all of His promised blessings. That means you.
Because you're unique in personality and demeanor, so also are the gifts you've been given to help you achieve your full potential. Just as in the parable of the talents, all who improve upon what they've been given, whatever that original amount may be, will receive the joy of the Lord. That joy can fill you now as well as in times to come. There is always hope because there is always Christ.
Yes, Christ wants all to enjoy all of His promised blessings. Yet some saints, because of where they are in their life journey, may not be ready for some of those blessings. So if you're yearning for that special someone and wonder why you don't have the blessing you desire, consider that you might not be ready. Or maybe your companion isn’t ready. Or perhaps the time is right for both of you and you simply need to get busy doing the right things. In any case, Christ can help you take the proper next step. There is always hope because there is always Christ.
Expand your vision
If you operate out of your memory, then you're seeing with no more than your physical eyes. That means ultimately you'll have no hope, because you don’t physically see the means to achieve your desires. Even here, there is always hope because there is always Christ.
Christ can help you operate our of your imagination, which means seeing with spiritual eyes. He can help you to see what’s there but not seen with physical eyes. What you want may be right in front of you, but because of how you think, you might not recognize it. Expand your definition of an opportunity, and you’ll see paths you couldn’t see before.
Christ can also help you to see what’s not now in existence because it has yet to be created. What you desire may be something He creates for you. Or maybe you need to create it for yourself. In all cases, Christ will help you to do whatever is needful for you to receive all of the blessings He desires to give to you. There is always hope because there is always Christ.
Don’t ever stop living for the righteous blessings you desire. And don’t ever lose hope. No matter your situation, there’s always something you can do to move forward. There is always hope because there is always Christ. When you feel that hope, you’ll have the comfort of knowing the Savior is right by your side to help you along. And that will bring you more joy in your journey.
I’ve read James’s famous discourse about faith and works many times. It’s an absolute classic. If you haven’t read it, check out James 2:14-26.
This classic discourse on faith and works has always been one of my favorites. Yet in one reading not too long ago a new interpretation of these verses came to me. I saw them as I had never seen them before. And this new interpretation makes an absolutely classic discourse even more classic.
What did I see? Many singles leaders, especially those serving on stake committees, confine their responsibilities to planning activities. They believe filling blank spaces in a calendar is the extent of their responsibility. If any of the singles they claim to be serving have legitimate needs, these leaders believe that the Lord will somehow provide for them. Their job is just to provide a program.
Yet simply filling blanks in a calendar is very much like faith without works. They’re both dead.
“What doth it profit?”
I love how James opens his remarks about faith and works. He describes someone without clothes and starving who is told to be “warm and filled” yet not given clothes or food. Then James asks, “What doth it profit?”
Obviously, nothing. And that same answer remains when the same question is posited about the attitude of many single leaders who think their only job is to plan activities. OK, you planned all these great activities. Now, what does that mean to the single adult who grieves over the death of a loved one? Or how about that newly divorced single who still feels the death of a marriage that was thought to last forever? What about the LDS single struggling with issues of identity after losing a job?
Just calendaring events isn’t going to mean anything to any LDS singles who have real needs in the real world. So what does it profit that you planned all these activities? Just as well wishes will never clothe and feed naked, starving people, so filling blanks in a calendar will never by itself meet the needs of LDS singles.
“Justified by works”
Yes, you can shew me thy faith without thy works, and I will shew thee my faith by my works” (James 2:18) Action is what brings real change into the lives of people. And action comes through works, not just faith.
True, faith in its pure and true form will lead to action. But faith without action means nothing. To meet the needs of the people, we must act. You can show me your faith that the Lord will provide for the needs of LDS singles without you lifting even one finger to act in that direction, and in return I will show you my faith that the Lord will provide for the needs of LDS singles by working myself to meet what needs I can.
I love the example James provides in Abraham. He produced works in offering his only son Isaac upon the altar, works motivated by faith. And through those works, his faith was perfected.
In like manner, singles leaders who focus mainly on filling a calendar see singles activities as an end in themselves. But the truth is just the reverse; activities are the means to the end of meeting the needs of the people. Activities provide the platform from which leaders and individual LDS singles can minister to the singles in their midst. And in so doing, their faith becomes perfected through their works.
“The body without the spirit is dead”
James provides the perfect ending to his classic discourse on faith and works with a simple analogy involving the body and the spirit. The body dies once the spirit departs. In like manner, faith dies once the works that should attend it cease.
Also in like manner, singles groups can feel absent of life when leaders focus primarily on filling blanks in a calendar. These leaders often wonder why attendance is so small and what can be done to turn things around. We talked last week how to turn ailing singles programs around, but a key part of that transformation is the necessity for leaders to adopt the attitude we are discussing here and now.
You must do more than just fill a calendar. You must fill your hearts with compassion and extend your hands to those you serve. You must focus on using the activities you plan as a means to the end of ministering to them and helping to meet their needs. When you do, you’ll inject life into your singles groups and light into your own life. And that will bring you more joy in your journey.
After church on Sunday, a member of the stake high council asked me if I were going to attend the singles activity later that day. I confided that I haven't been attending because I don't feel welcome. Why should I dress up in a stuffy shirt and tie to sit on benches that aren't that comfortable only to be all alone? I can wear a T-shirt and sweat pants on my couch and be just as alone but far more comfy. So why go?
In the ensuing conversation, I learned that he recognized the people hold the perspective of the dating forum. I then shared with him some of what I’ve shared about the dating forum and the activity club many times in this forum. We quickly came to agreement there, but then he simply repeated his invitation without any resolve to change anything. I said I’d think about it. Of course, I didn't go.
I did think about that conversation, though, during the following days. Those thoughts led to an important realization: Clearly we see the problem in how singles view activities, but the problem will never be solved unless we take action. But exactly what action is anyone supposed to take? I’ve done this before and so know what to do. But do my local leaders? Based on the conversation I had Sunday, it doesn’t seem so.
What can be done to turn around a local singles group so that people choose the support network over the dating forum and the activities club? That's the very question I’m going to answer right now.
Get buy-in from leadership
The first thing you need to do is get buy-in from leadership. Nothing happens in this church unless leadership is on board. So you've got to get the vision of the support network yourself. And then you must sell that vision to leadership.
And by leadership, I mean both married and single members serving in leadership positions. Everyone from the stake presidency to the high council to the bishopric to any singles leaders serving on both stake and ward levels must adopt the vision of the support network. Anyone who thinks their responsibility is just to calendar activities doesn’t have the vision. You've got to work with them until they adopt the support network.
You’ll know they have the vision when they start playing their part in the support network. Those attending activities will actively greet and welcome everyone they can. They'll talk to people, helping them feel somebody cares enough to be interested in them. They'll also look for those sitting by themselves, offering to sit with them or inviting them to join a larger group seated together.
Get buy-in from the people
Once leadership is on board, you’ve got to secure buy-in from the people. That means you instill the vision of the support network in every single adult so that they do the same things leaders do — connecting with people and helping them feel supported.
Too often we think those in leadership positions do things no one else does. In some respects that's true, but more often than not, leadership is something everyone should display. Leadership is a choice, not a position.
And leadership in spreading the vision of the support network is something every single adult should practice. Otherwise, you'll never have the support network. The arrangement of everybody helping everybody happens only when everyone reaches out to everyone. It can't be just those in leadership positions. Everyone has a part to play because everyone matters.
Accept nothing less than glory
Support networks take time to build because you must change the way people think. And because we’re hardwired to follow habit, you're going to meet some resistance both from leaders who think their job is to do nothing more than plan activities and from singles who think in terms of the dating forum or the activities club.
That's why part of leadership’s role is to instill the vision of the support network in everyone. You must tell people directly what you're trying to accomplish. You must show them what can happen when everyone gets on board with the vision. And you must invite them one by one to play their part in making that vision reality.
It won't be easy, and it will take time. But it is possible. I know because I’ve done it. So be patient. Keep working. Love the people. Accept nothing less than glory, and in time you’ll see the support network start to take hold. You'll see people reaching out to each other. You'll see the needs of people being met. You’ll see that you can turn it around. And you'll feel more of the Savior's love for one another. And that will bring you more joy in your journey.
Sometimes your dreams can seem so far away as to be unreachable. So much remains to be done, and so much of that lies outside your control, that you wonder how you’ll ever arrive. How could the blessings you desire ever be yours?
Very often there’s a real difference between how things feel and how things really are. Sure, nothing worth having comes easy. But sometimes the obstacles before you can seem bigger than they really are. Only by stepping out of your comfort zone and rising to your challenges do you see how big they really are.
And that's when you find what you thought was insurmountable really is doable. You just have to get started and take it one step at a time. By consistently doing the small things that move you further in your journey, you can conquer any challenge set before you. You can go the distance.
What drives those who achieve phenomenal results in life, those who make their dreams reality? It’s vision. Vision is different than sight. Sight depends on what you see with your physical eyes. But vision depends on what you see with your spiritual eyes — the eye of faith.
You begin by seeing yourself in a different way. As we’ve frequently discussed, that requires you to think in new and different ways. If you surround yourself with negativity, if your self talk is consistently negative, you'll find it hard to believe in possibility. You'll find it hard to believe that your life could be any different than how it has been. Only when your self talk is consistently positive and you surround yourself with positive energy will you be thinking in ways that allow you to see a brighter tomorrow for yourself.
But just seeing yourself differently isn’t enough. You must believe that vision can become reality and that it can be yours — because the truth is that can! Such belief comes from faith — faith that you’re a child of God and that he loves you, faith that He wants you to succeed, faith that He’ll help you realize your dream and become everything you’re capable of becoming.
When you have a vision of what you can become, that vision can drive you to do incredible things. But you must make the conscious choice to do what is necessary every day to move yourself closer to the realization of your vision. You must adopt a habit of consistently doing what is necessary.
The so-called little things in life are really the big things. It's the small actions performed every day that move us closer, inch by inch, to the reality our vision shows us. Observed in one moment of time, those little actions may seem insignificant. But collectively over time, those small actions done every day can comprise a considerable sum.
That's why you need the determination to do what’s necessary every day. Never surrender. Results come from action and nothing else. When you fail to act, you don’t make the small contribution that over time adds up to a considerable sum. Only by denying the natural man or woman who wants you to coast, to be satisfied with a life beneath the reality your vision shows you can you overcome mediocrity and achieve your fullest potential and the phenomenal life you dream of having. You must be determined never to surrender.
But that determination can turn to frustration unless you begin to see the opportunities amid your obstacles. Every obstacle comes with at least one opportunity. Most people, however, never see that opportunity because they're too prone to look only at the obstacle.
As I’ve said many times, your focus determines your reality. If all you see is the obstacle in front of you, then your reality will be one of obstruction. But when you focus on seeking out the opportunity that comes with every obstacle, your reality will be one of opportunity. And as the Savior once taught, “Seek, and ye shall find” (Matthew 7:7).
Only by gaining the vision of what your life can be and then resolutely moving towards it, though you move only inches a day, will your dreams ever become reality. But that's what walking by faith is all about. It's not living life based on what you see with your physical eyes. It's living life based on what you see with your spiritual eyes.
When you walk by faith, taking each step with vision and determination to do what’s necessary and find the opportunity, you’ll have the satisfaction of knowing your dreams will one day be your reality because you choose to go the distance. And that will bring you more joy in your journey.
Last week I addressed how habits can keep LDS singles back from enjoying the eternal blessings they seek. At the end of the day, results are what matter. And whatever results we have come from the choices we consistently make. Our results come from our habits.
Habit is so individualized that no one can detail every habit holding people back. But I can describe some less-effective habits many LDS singles have in common. We talked about some of them on the program last week.
In thinking about that program this past week, I recognize one habit many LDS singles have that deserves special attention. Too many of us want perfection to waltz into our lives and set comfortably in our laps. We look at people as they are now, and we act on the assumption that what we see now is what will always be.
But the truth is that people will always change over time. The question then is in what direction. Will that change be positive or negative? Direction, not position, determines what results we’ll get in the future. If we truly want to think about the long game of eternity, we should value direction over position.
Get to know people
This may seem incredibly simplistic. You might even be thinking to yourself this isn’t a problem you have. But such is the nature of habit that very often what we do and what we think we do don’t match.
A common manifestation of this habit appears when we judge others by their external appearance. Just because someone is fat or otherwise physically unattractive doesn't mean that person will always be that way. And yet isn't that what we think when we see people like that?
With just a single point on a graph, you can’t tell where the next point on a line will be because the line could be oriented in any direction. But with other points to mark the way, forecasting a future point on a line becomes easier.
Likewise, you can't tell from a single conversation or other encounter what direction someone has. You can tell only their position. But after multiple encounters, it's much easier to determine someone's direction.
Those multiple encounters are like multiple points on a graph revealing the patterns that evidence what habits someone has. And understanding their habits allows you to forecast more accurately what results they’ll have – and also what results you’ll have if you both intertwine your lives together. To value direction over position means getting to know people well enough to ascertain their direction.
Accept the risks
Some don’t want to spend that time. Maybe they accept that people will change, but given someone’s present position they don’t want to deal with the inconvenience that change will bring. In this age of instant everything, we want the results we want to appear now. Spending extra time with people to get to know who they really are doesn't jibe with that culture.
But it does mesh well with a Christ-centered culture. Christ was the ultimate example of that love called charity. When we surrender to love and take the time to get to know who people really are, we follow in the path marked by the Master.
Why don't we make more effective choices more often? The best answer is the simplest; we have less effective choices encoded in our habits. We've adopted the habit of not surrendering to love, of staying safe within our own comfort zones, and of avoiding the risk of pain or other difficulty in our lives.
Yet the only true safety lies in taking risks. You can’t have the greatest happiness without risking having the greatest sadness. You can’t have the greatest comfort without risking having the greatest hassle. Greatness simply cannot come without risk.
Put aside the agendas
When we put aside our own agendas and get to know people for who they really are, we not only surrender to love but also invite into our lives the love we seek. When we value direction over position, we declare with our actions that we value the fundamental nature of people more than what appears superficially today.
When we value position over direction, we send the message that we love people only if they meet certain conditions. But when we value direction over position, we send the message that we love people unconditionally because we don’t insist that people be a certain way today. We recognize we’re all imperfect today and on the same journey towards perfection tomorrow.
Value love for others over love for self. Value people over personal agenda. Value direction over position. When you do, you'll find your dating journey more enjoyable. And that will bring you more joy in your journey.
Last week, I invited LDS singles everywhere who currently feel stuck in their lives to declare their independence from a life of mediocrity. I also described a three-step process to help them get on track to their best life — make a decision to change, commit to that change, and then execute.
But it's not enough just to be on the right track. You can start down that road toward your best life, but you won't get very far if you can't change with the changes life will bring you. To correct the set of your sail as the winds blow this way and that, you must develop self-awareness.
Self-awareness is a skill and like any other skill can be learned. Also like any other skill, the more you practice it, the better you get. You start to develop that skill when you wake up out of life on autopilot and live your life by conscious choice.
Don’t be a zombie
If you think self-awareness isn’t a part of the solution you need to live your best life, think again. You’ll never have your best life (or anything else you might call greatness) by accident. You must intend to have it and act with that intention.
That means making conscious choices instead of living on autopilot, which has you making choices out of habit. When you fail to practice the self-awareness skills that can take you outside yourself, you’ll simply be playing out whatever habit you have because that’s how you’re designed to operate.
Your brain is hardwired to follow instructions. And the instructions it follows best are the ones encoded in habit, because having a habit is also hardwired into your brain. It doesn’t matter whether the habit is good or bad, helps you or hurts you, or brings you success or failure. Whatever habit you have is the default you’ll turn to when you don’t make a conscious choice.
Because you have habits for practically everything you do, and you’re hardwired to follow the instructions encoded in those habits, it’s easy to live life just going through the motions. And indeed, this is how most people live. They walk through life like zombies!
But it doesn’t have to be that way. If you feel like a zombie as the years of your life tick on by, then here’s some free advice: Stop being a zombie! Wake up!
Step into the light
Many people walking through life like zombies don’t even realize what’s happening. That’s why it’s called life on autopilot. They’re so caught up in their own lives that they don’t see their habits playing automatically in the background. And when their habits keep bringing them the results they’ve always had — results they don’t want — they feel stuck in frustration that seems unending.
Only when you step outside yourself can you get a clear view of the way out of that dead end perspective. Developing self-awareness skills allows you to step outside yourself. It’s very much like stepping out of the dark and into the light.
Once you understand your habit-based operational design, it’s easier to step outside yourself to evaluate the details of those habits. You can also better see how your habits have brought you your results — the life you’ve known up to now. At this point, if you own your life, it won’t be hard at all to accept the changes you need to make in you to get better results.
Find your exercise
Of course, you can find many different approaches to developing self-awareness so you can see more clearly the changes you need to make in you. Many of these approaches rely on seeking answers to questions through reflection and/or writing.
Some of my favorite exercises for improving self-awareness involve other people. The whole point of developing self-awareness is so you can step outside yourself to see more clearly. Other people are by definition already outside yourself. Getting feedback from these, especially friends who provide honest yet constructive criticism, can help you make improvements light years ahead of the ones you could make without their help.
Meditation is another self-awareness exercise gaining popularity and one that I’ve started recently. The main benefits I’ve seen so far from my practice are lower stress levels during the day and better sleep at night. The best part is that it takes only ten minutes just before bed. In exchange for these disproportionately positive returns, I’ll gladly stay up an extra ten minutes.
Whatever approach you decide to take, developing self-awareness skills can help you leave a life on autopilot for an intentional life lived through conscious choices. By acting with more intention from conscious choices, you can more easily live your best life. And that will bring you more joy in your journey.
Howdy! I'm Lance, host of Joy in the Journey Radio. I've been blogging about LDS singles life since 2012, and since 2018 I've been producing a weekly 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.
Joy in the Journey Radio offers many free resources to help LDS singles everywhere, but it certainly isn't free! Help Joy in the Journey Radio in its mission to improve the lives of LDS singles by donating today.
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