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.
For over two centuries, Americans have celebrated freedom on Independence Day. And yet most Americans don’t call the holiday by its name. To them, it’s the Fourth of July. That wording may seem innocent enough, but is it?
I sincerely hope many think about their freedom and the price paid to purchase it. But it seems like more and more people have their minds elsewhere. Far too many see the day as a time off from work when they grill their favorite meats and shoot fireworks in their neighborhoods late into the night. In short, they celebrate the freedom to party. There’s more to freedom than that.
Many LDS singles live similar lives of dissonance. Mortality is intended to be a time of growth and progress along a more eternal journey. Yet many LDS singles aren’t growing or progressing towards eternal blessings. Like that hamster down at the pet store running endlessly inside its own wheel, many LDS singles are constantly doing, doing, doing, but not really getting anywhere.
Does that describe your life right now? Then declare your own independence. It starts when you exercise the power God gave you — the power of agency.
Decide enough is enough
Here’s the first step: Decide enough is enough. Yes, it really is that simple. Often we want complicated because that strokes the ego. It’s OK we can’t figure it out if it’s complicated. But not figuring out simple makes us look like idiots. No one wants to look like an idiot.
Once you accept it really is that simple and then own your life by accepting responsibility for whatever your life currently is, you can more easily embrace the path that leads to success. And that path begins for you when you decide enough is enough.
Are you frustrated with constantly trying to do the right thing but never succeeding at having righteous blessings? Tired of always doing but never making any progress? Disgusted with being stuck in a life far beneath your dreams? Know this: You have the power to change. It all starts when you decide enough is enough.
Commit yourself to greatness
Once you’ve decided to change, the next step is to commit yourself to that change. This is where many people falter. Everyone wants a better life, and many have decided to pursue that better life. But most don’t have the commitment to do what is necessary to achieve that better life.
Committing means accepting nothing but the one result outlined in your commitment, and that means cutting off all possible avenues of “escape” — every road except the one leading to success. That’s the key to commitment. You must cut from your life everything preventing you from fulfilling your commitment.
That’s why most say they want change but don’t commit. They don’t remove from their environment the temptations that dissuade them from success. They don’t remove from their social circles the false friends that accept lives of mediocrity. And they don’t step out of their own way when they feel the enticement of the many fun but futile activities that don’t make anyone’s life any better.
The result? They don’t follow through on their decision to change. They don’t get the prize.
And that’s why many LDS singles stay single longer than they need to be. Afraid of their own greatness, they commit to the lesser life they have instead of doing whatever is necessary to have the life they could have. That’ll be really hard to hear if you haven’t yet owned your life. But all who have owned their life readily see the truth of it.
Execute with passion
Whatever you commit to do, you need to be all in. You need to give everything you have to following through on your decision and keeping your commitment. Whatever it takes, that’s what you do.
What books do you need to read? What knowledge or skills do you need to acquire? What mentors do you need? What support systems will help you keep your commitment? Whatever it is, go after it. Within the bounds of righteousness, do what you need to do to get the knowledge and skills you need.
Then with knowledge and skills in place, execute with passion. Give your all. Only when you give your all to the right things for you will you find true happiness in your life.
You need not be imprisoned by fear, ignorance, or mediocrity. You can free yourself from a life lacking progress. You can declare your independence. When you decide enough is enough, commit yourself to greatness, and then execute with passion, you’ll see life unfolding for you in ways you never imagined. And that will bring you more joy in your journey.
Everyone dreams of living a better life, yet we all respond to those dreams differently. Some while away the days not doing much to move closer to those dreams. Others are doing something, only they’re stuck. Try as they might, they just can’t seem to succeed. Either way, it seems like everyone needs a miracle for their dreams to come true.
And then there’s those I call patient fools. They believe the absence of the miracle they need means it must not be the right time. And so they patiently wait, expecting their miracle to deliver their dreams when the time becomes right.
For many LDS singles, that miracle is finding an eternal companion. Some dream about the day it will happen but never take action to move towards it. Others take action but can’t seem to make any progress. Still others simply wait, thinking the time is somehow not yet right.
Whatever miracle you want in your life, that miracle won’t happen by itself. Someone needs to act, and that someone is you! If you truly want it, you can make your miracle happen.
Dreams inspire us with a vision of possibility. They animate the imagination and stir something within the soul. Yet no dream enters reality on its own. We must take action!
The world didn’t just appear out of nowhere. Under the direction of our Creator, heavenly workers took action. Those workers then returned to report their labors. The miracle that is Earth did not happen all at once but step by step as action was taken.
In like manner, your dreams will never happen unless you take action. Yes, taking action introduces change, and with change comes new challenges and new concerns. But only through action will your dreams become reality.
And you can respond to those challenges and concerns with faith. Partner with the Lord. By returning to Him every day to report the actions you’ve taken, you can receive counsel and direction regarding your next steps. When you take those steps and then return and report again, you can counsel with Him regarding the next steps. By walking consistently in faith, you can make your miracle happen.
Take the right action
Many of us aren’t just sitting on the sidelines of life twiddling our thumbs. No, we’re out there taking action. The problem is we don’t seem to be going anywhere.
The pursuit for eternal companionship leaves many LDS singles feeling like that hamster down at the local pet store. That hamster takes action, exerting tons of energy to run faster and go farther. But in the end, running inside a wheel doesn’t move the hamster that far.
Likewise, many LDS singles exert tons of energy running between conferences and other activities. But in the end, they don’t move very far.
If this describes you, stop running inside a wheel, and start doing the right things for you. You must take action, but not just any action will produce your miracle. You must take the right action. You must do what’s right for you.
I’ve talked before about how the right things are more than just the standards for being active LDS. They include owning your life, opening yourself to possibilities, partnering with the Lord, and embracing a personal ministry by which you bring goodness into the world. Each of these right actions contribute to making your miracle happen.
Take the right action now
Some LDS singles have trouble accepting that truth. They live under the myth that their blessings will come if they just live a righteous life. They’re fine waiting until the “right” time for their miracle when it will just happen.
These patient fools have grown comfortable in their complacency. They fool themselves into thinking their patience is rooted in faith. But faith is a principle of action. Patience truly rooted in faith is not passive, but active!
Patient fools also fool themselves into thinking the time for their miracle isn’t right just because it hasn’t happened yet. I’ve previously described how many LDS singles use the concept of timing as a crutch. Yes, the Lord has a timetable, but just because something hasn’t happened doesn’t mean the time isn’t right for it to happen. The time can be as right as rain, but miracles require action to happen.
If you truly want it, you can make your miracle happen when you take the required action now. Own your life. Embrace a personal ministry. Partner with the Lord. Counsel with Him regarding your next steps. Work hard and be open to possibility. Then return and report to Him. When you make the right things for you a lifestyle, you can make your miracle happen. And that will bring you more joy in your journey.
This is a common plight among singles groups everywhere, especially in areas where Latter-day Saints form a small proportion of the population. There is a solution to this dilemma, but it’s not very common.
First, we need to ask ourselves, “What exactly are we trying to accomplish? How are we defining success?” Once we have that definition, we need to evaluate it, because our definition of success may not be the one we need to have.
With the right definition of success in play, your next steps are developing a vision and then aligning everyone with that vision. Many singles programs falter because they have the wrong vision or no vision at all. And you can’t rally anyone around a vision that either doesn’t work or doesn’t exist.
How do these steps typically play out? Let’s examine that.
Define your success
I’ve got a few years experience as both a ward and stake single adult rep, so I’ve sat in plenty of those meetings where activities and singles issues are discussed. I’ve also shared experiences with numerous singles groups leaders at conferences.
One pattern I’ve found is the typical definition of success. Most singles leaders define success by attendance; the more people who come, the more successful the activity. But what’s really going on here? Does a bigger number really mean more success?
In my experience, bigger numbers are simply a bigger stroke to the ego of those who organized and sponsored the activity. That doesn’t really help anyone live a better life.
If we can put our egos aside, we can more easily recognize that the Savior focused on only one number: the number one. He was always concerned about the individual. In fact, most of the stories we have of Him ministering to others involves His interaction with an individual person.
If we define success in terms of touching or improving the life of at least one individual, then it doesn’t matter how many people attend. Success will always be within our grasp. And paradoxically, it lays the foundation for explosive growth in the numbers.
Develop your vision
In Proverbs 29:18 we read, “Where there is no vision, the people perish.” That’s just as true for singles groups as it is for anyone else.
Typically, LDS singles attend activities with one of two visions — the dating forum or the activity club. I’ve spoken about each of these at length in previous posts, but here’s a brief review.
The dating forum perspective sees singles activities solely as a means to find an eternal companion. If they don’t see anyone they want to date, people don’t attend. Then there’s the activity club. This is the group that’s tired of dating and just wants to have fun with friends.
The problem with both of these approaches is their inward focus. Singles with either of these perspectives invariably focus on serving themselves. Contrast that with the more effective approach of the support network — attending activities with the purpose of supporting other singles. That outward focus aligns much better with the path of discipleship our Savior marked.
When everyone adopts the attitude of the support network, people feel they’re part of something bigger than themselves. They have a contribution to make that can improve the life of someone else. And losing themselves in service, they find themselves enjoying life a lot more.
Build the network
What I’m describing won’t happen overnight. That’s because it’s not some quick-fix, fly-by-night fairy dust. This is a real solution that really works.
While I lived on the East Coast, our activity attendance increased by 10X in one year. But more important than that, our exchanges with each other were more real. We were genuinely concerned about each other, despite coming from different generations and backgrounds. Our activities weren’t about completing a calendar or checking a box on a to-do list. Rather our activities were about supporting LDS singles.
That’s the driver behind real growth — love. People respond to love. Feeling loved is one of our most deeply seated needs as individual children of God. When you love the people into a support network, they’ll join you.
The dating forum and the activity club make very poor primary drivers behind participation. We best help ourselves and everyone else when we discard our individual agendas for attending singles activities.
People have needs. When we align what we do with meeting the needs of the people, we’ll find the true success that the Savior marked. And that will bring more joy in our journey.
Howdy! I'm Lance, host of Joy in the Journey Radio. I've been blogging about LDS singles life since 2012, and now I produce a weekly radio show to help LDS singles have more joy in their journey and bring all Latter-day Saints together. Let's engage a conversation that will increase the faith of LDS singles and bring singles and marrieds together in a true unity of the faith.
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