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Balance

I see so many posts on social media and hear so many people say they are burned out, they are done adulting, they are tired of life. How often do we feel that way? We are so busy, but what are we busy doing? Coming and going, school, work, cleaning, exercising, responsibilities, friends, there is so much that pulls us in so many different directions. How do we do it all, how do we accomplish everything we think we need to do? How do we find balance in our lives and joy?

What is balance and can it be achieved? Balance is making things equal, making things sit just right, so that everything is suspended all at the same time, same level. I think of the old fashioned scales that had a vertical point and a horizontal bar sitting atop. Whatever was placed on one side had to be placed on the other so that it would not tip off or over. I think so often we look at life and want that balance. But that is the wrong focus. I recently listened to some wonderful advice from Elder David A. Bednar about balance. You can listen to the his full thoughts here. It’s not quite 3 minutes long and worth the listen.

As I listened, I started to understand. I think that often we get so bogged down in our minds over all the things we’re not doing, that we can’t really focus on the things we are doing. We are fixing dinner, remembering the laundry laying on the floor in the other room, or going to work, trying to figure out how to spend more time with our families. We try to relax spending an evening out with friends, and worry about the activities of the next day the whole time we could be enjoying friends. We need to look to the future, plan for the future, but we need to live in the present. This all got me thinking about how we might get out of the ruts of our own thoughts, and I had a specific experience come to mind.

This one had to do with service. I know, that adds extra time, extra responsibility, extra running and effort, but it is so worth it. I have seen in my own life, as well as the lives of countless people around me the effects of service, not because they were served (I’ve seen those affects too), but because they were willing to serve. One story I will share. I received a call one afternoon, from a friend in my Church, that there was an older couple in the area that needed help getting some wood stacked. My kids were all at school, and I knew that they were going to be tired, hungry, and not really excited about helping. I also knew the things I needed to get done that afternoon, but I decided we could figure that out later and we were going to be willing to help. When the kids got home I told them what we were doing. They grumbled and complained. We stack a lot of wood for service in our area, and they were not thrilled to be doing it again! I told them to deal with it, we were leaving. We got there and discovered we weren’t the only ones there, that made my kids a little less grumpy about it. But as we got going, as the pile started to diminish where the wood had been, and started stacking nicely where it needed to be, attitudes started to change. The kids started having fun, they had several competitions, they worked together as teams, and the whole pile got moved in a fairly short space of time. When we left, they were laughing and happy. They had helped someone they knew couldn’t help themselves and they were all the better for it. I forgot about all the lists of things that needed to be done and enjoyed the laughter, the fun, and especially the work, and a job well done. Did everything that needed to be done that afternoon get done? No, but the really important things did.

In this life we will never achieve true balance. As Elder Bednar says in his message, when we are doing one thing, we are neglecting another, that is just how life is. We need to pick the best things, even when there are good and better things to do. Life is full of lots of good things, and most of our time will be spent doing the good, all be it often mundane, things in life, but doing the best things, as often as possible, helps us see and understand others better, as well as ourselves. We helped haul wood, and the house didn’t get clean that afternoon, maybe the reading wasn’t as productive, or the homework done perfectly. But the spirit of helpfulness, of gratitude for what we have and our abilities to do what we need to do, and help someone else who couldn’t were far more important than the reading log, far more important than a perfect living room that day. There was no true balance that day, there never will be in life. But the benefits of deciding to do what was best far outweighed the “balance.”

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Beginning

That first step is a doozy! How often does it seem like the first step is the hardest. We are super excited for a new project, a new opportunity, to learn something new, or put ourselves out there. But when it comes right down to it, do we ever wonder if we can, if we should, what are the risks, am I really capable of doing what I think I can do? My mom was asking me recently if I remembered rappelling as a youth activity when I was a teenager. I do remember, and as I was thinking about this topic, I thought some of the lessons I learned would relate. I remember the first rappelling trip I ever went on. The cliff wasn’t super big, it probably wasn’t over 50 feet tall. But hiking up to the top, and then looking down, knowing you’re going over that edge. That’s a bit scary. I have never been afraid of heights, they still don’t bother me unless it’s one of my kids hanging over the edge. But there is so much to think about, that you shouldn’t probably think about at a time like that. What if the rope breaks, what if the tree or bolt drilled into the rock fails, what if I can’t control my decent and the belayer isn’t paying attention, do I really want to put my life in the hands of another youth who is belaying me?

Beginning is about quieting all of those voice those fears, and moving ahead. Sometimes we have to move ahead scared, but we still need to take that first step. And really, once we get going, we realize that maybe it wasn’t as bad as we first envisioned. The youth belaying me really did know what they were doing, once I was on the wall and going down, I realized that I wasn’t going to fall, that I was in control, and that it was super fun! I still love to rappel even though I haven’t done it in a while, given the opportunity I would take that first step, every time. It’s never a bad idea to think things through, to have a plan B and maybe even a plan C. We also need to make sure our “safety gear” is all in good condition, whatever that safety gear may entail. But we should never let our fears control what we do, when we do it, or why we choose to do something. Fear is quite often an irrational emotion, rarely based on fact. Even in difficult, heart pounding situations fear should not be a dictating factor. Cool, leveled headed thinking will get us out of most situations that we might find ourselves in.

One thing I’ve found though, is that beginnings aren’t always just at the beginning. I remember several trips down the line, we went down to Snows Canyon near St. George, Utah. We were all super excited to go rappelling and we were more comfortable with the process. But this wall was much bigger, and much more shear. It was somewhere around 200 feet, way different than the 50-100 foot cliffs we had been rappelling off of. I remember looking over the edge and all those questions of concern started flowing. But this time I knew I would do it, but I didn’t want to go first! Instead I hiked down to the bottom, looked at the wall from that angle, watched several people come down, and then came back to the top ready. But, it’s always that first step over the edge that is the scariest. Feet firmly planted on the solid, horizontal ground, and then planted, hopefully solidly, on a completely vertical surface. Going over the edge was scary, but again, once I was on the wall, it was awesome! I went down several more times, and each time got easier.

I guess my thoughts with all this is that everything has a beginning. Sometimes we even have multiple beginnings. And we should never stop having beginnings, because that means we’re progressing. It’s good to look at the whole thing, think about it, but don’t ever let your fears control what you do. In my book I talked about data. You never fail unless you quit. Everything else along the way is just data. But sometimes that data means you have to start again, or move to a different, sometimes bigger mountain. Those beginnings can be just as scary as the first one, but they can be even more amazing when we are willing to take that first step. We all need to have hopes and dreams, but we also need to be working on those hopes and dreams, to be putting in the effort. Sometimes things change as we move on, but often those changes are necessary for something even better. Take that first step though, take that chance at something better. You will never regret trying, and you will grow from the experience, which makes you a new, hopefully better person regardless of the outcome.

What are some new beginnings you are taking, or worried about taking? I encourage you to lean into them, and take that first step. It’s going to be awesome!

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Leadership

I have been given the opportunity to be the Camp Director for my ward at Church. Camping isn’t always my favorite thing in the world, but working with the young women in my Church, there is almost nothing better (Seminary is right up there with it)! I have had the opportunity many times over the years to work with the youth (12 to 18 years old) in my Church, and there has always been a consistent theme when organizing and running the youth programs. The Youth are in charge. Now, they aren’t just out there doing whatever they want, there are guidelines that they need to follow. But they are, in theory, supposed to come up with the ideas, and execute them on their own. However, there’s a reason we as adults are called to help them. They don’t exactly know how to make an activity happen without some direction and help. I have found over the many years of working with the youth, and I think it applies to adults as well, there are some people who are natural leaders and some who prefer to follow.

Each year we rotate between a ward camp, and a stake camp, which encompasses between 6 and 13 wards. Our stake has 7 wards. Our youth leaders are 16 to 18 years old and they meet together on a semi regular basis to discuss things they want to do, how they want it to run, and who they want to be in charge of the various activities. At camp they are in charge of groups of younger girls. We as adults are simply to shadow, and help out when they have questions, or in case of emergency. Sometimes we run one of the activities depending on our skills and knowledge. These planning meetings are a great place to learn how to make an activity run. But, as I sat back this time and watched these girls plan camp, I could see several areas that I realized made a great leader. Some of the youth leaders could really see these things clearly, and some really struggled with it.

The first area I noticed was how well they saw the big picture. How often do we take on a project and don’t have a vision for the whole, we have ideas for here or there, but we aren’t looking at how things fit together. A great leader needs to look at the whole picture, needs to see everything from a higher perspective and see how everything fits in. I have worked on projects with people who had specific assignments, who had great ideas, but they struggled seeing how their decisions affected the entire project. I have watched as young women planned things and they overlapped, and they didn’t mesh. That’s where an adult had to step in and ask how they would work out the problems between the two. That’s one of the reasons we are there, to guide and instruct. I was so impressed to see most of the girls, once the problems were discussed, come up with great ideas as solutions

Another sign of a great leader is being able to articulate what you are trying to say. So often I have seen committees discuss ideas, discuss solutions, get in arguments about the solutions, only to finally see that they were actually coming at the problem from the same angle and meant the same thing, but neither could articulate it as well as they thought. Often we listen to people, not to hear them, but to answer and defend ourselves. That’s where problems arise. But good leaders are good listeners. This camp planning has been interesting to watch as some of the youth leaders really listened to understand, and some of them had to discuss the same issues over and over again before they could understand why decisions were made like they were, and why it was important that the decision was final, and some of them still aren’t in agreement, but are willing to move forward.

A good leader sees others and has compassion. We can’t tailor every activity to every single person in the group, but we can try to see needs and figure out ways to accommodate those needs. This area again created quite a discussion at our meetings as some girls weren’t happy with the sleeping arrangements, but they disregarded the younger girls needs who had never been camping and were leaving home for a 4 day campout without family for the first time in their lives. This one also goes back to seeing the big picture. A good leader takes everything into account rather than just their own perspective, even if they don’t understand or agree with the other persons perspective, they can take it into consideration and be respectful.

A good leader can sift through the “noise” of everything going on around them and do what’s right. I remember sitting in a PTA meeting where there had been an assignment to bring breakfast for the teachers. The menu had been decided, some of the food had already been purchase, and at the last meeting before the breakfast someone suggested a drastic change in menu. A large discussion ensued until the PTA president stopped the discussion and asked the person who suggested the change if they were going to take on the breakfast. The answer was, “Of course not! I just thought this would be better.” We continued on with the original plan. That leader knew what was noise, and what was legitimate and moved forward even though it made someone else mad. Not because she wanted to hurt the other persons feelings, but because it wasn’t a solution to a problem, it was generating problems that didn’t really exist.

My 2nd daughter graduated from High School recently. I generally don’t like graduations, but the speakers at this one were extremely good. One of the speakers said something that really struck me. I didn’t get a direct quote, but this is what I learned from it. Do what’s right and remember the rest is just noise. It made me think about leadership. Leaders often have to make the hard decisions, but one of the qualities of a great leader is the ability to make hard decisions and then live with those decision. Leaders who have listened and are well informed make better decisions. But in the end, a great leader does what’s right, not what’s right for them, but what’s right for everyone, even if not everyone agrees. I watched that at that PTA meeting, I watch it as these camp meetings unfold and these girls are seeing with new eyes the responsibility that is being placed on them.

A good leader shows up for the climb. As I watched these girls learning to lead, there were a few who came to the first couple meetings and haven’t been back. Sometimes I think we don’t go back because we feel like we were not heard, sometimes we don’t agree with the person in charge. But giving up is never the best way to lead. The speaker from the graduation discussed this as well. She said, “Always show up for the climb. Don’t make the choice from the comfort of your bed.” When we choose not to show up, we have no room to complain when things don’t go the way we want. A good leader is there, whether in the front or back, they always show up. These girls who are showing up to every meeting they can make it to, doing their part in between times by finishing their assignments, they are the ones who can feel good about the camp, who can enjoy their time there, and who can really see what it is to put on a very large activity like this. They are also better prepared in their future lives to take on big projects with confidence.

This world is full of followers and sadly, there are many bad leaders. I guess not bad leaders, but their objectives are not the best. We are in desperate need of good leaders, of instilling in our youth great leadership skills, because they are the ones that will be leading in just a very few short years. They are the ones who will be deciding the outcome for all of us older people. Will they look on us with compassion borne from learning to listen to all sides, learning to discuss and then do what’s right, or will they be leaders who are simply invested in their own self interests. They won’t be able to become good leaders without good mentors. Not everyone has the chance to formally mentor the youth, but we can each be a good example of what a good leader is. Our youth need people who they can look up to, who have good values, good morals, and who have the ability to see more than just themselves.

I hope that we are earnestly trying to teach our youth. Passively going through life is not the way to a bright future. Intentional living, intentional choosing, intentionally thinking about what we are doing each and every day. That is what leads to a better life, for each of us personally, and for future generations.

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Overwhelmed

Do you ever start your day, or reach a point in your day, when you just have so much stuff to do that you start to feel overwhelmed? Monday this week, I had a huge list of things I needed to get done, and there was a momentary point that I felt overwhelmed. Sometimes that happens to all of us. I want to share with you some of the things that helped me Monday, and every day when I have a huge amount of things to do, to hopefully help you feel less overwhelmed, and face your days with confidence in yourself and your ability to accomplish everything you need to do.

As I said, it was a momentary point in time. And then there was a quiet whispering in my mind from the spirit that said I could choose to be overwhelmed or I could choose to face the day optimistically. I am grateful for that little tiny reminder, because it set my day back on the right track. My attitude is my responsibility, and no one and nothing can influence it unless I allow it to. When we face the day optimistically, we face the day as a problem solver. When we get discouraged or feel overwhelmed, and don’t correct our thoughts and attitude, we start to spiral down hill, and that leads to more problems rather than solutions. But, just because we are optimistic about our day doesn’t mean it’s going to be the best day ever, it just means that we see the problems and we work on solutions, rather than stopping in our progress and not getting anything done.

After I adjusted my attitude, the next thing I did was to figure out what things were most important. Prioritizing big things in life is super important and you can read my other blog post on Priorities here. But each day also requires a little bit of prioritizing because there are some things more important than others in any given day. The things that were due the soonest became the top priority, followed by the things that were important to work on, but didn’t have fixed due dates, or the due dates were further out. That was followed by the stuff I probably had time to work on, but if I didn’t, could wait another day. But if I have time, I like to get as much stuff done at the beginning of the week so I don’t have so much to worry about toward the end of the week and I have more time to spend with my family. Also, breaking tasks down early on in the game will get the job done without that last minute cramming that often happens when we procrastinate, which I am pretty good at sometimes, but that’s an article for a different day.

Steps, or smaller goals is the next thing I do. Often we see what needs to be done, know what needs to be done first, we have our lists, but it might still feel overwhelming just beginning. But beginning is the first step. I like to break my tasks down into steps, and the simpler the steps are, the better. That way it’s not as overwhelming to start in the first place. Two examples from Monday. First, I had to pay bills. I set aside one day a month to pay everything, which to some may seem like a huge task, but for me it works as I don’t have to remember multiple days a month, which actually simplifies it for me. I break those bills down into several steps. First I pay the bills I need to write checks for. This is the most tedious part for me because it is the most time consuming (we have 2 businesses, and sometimes there are a lot of checks!), so I get it done first. Next is the online bills. These are much quicker than the checks. Last step is to make sure the money in each account is where it needs to be and there is enough for everything. This process takes me about an hour, depending on the month. Second example, I am in charge of a 5K race for our local Library Association. We have been raising money to build a new library (that is now under construction!) and this was a contribution that I could make to assist in that endeavor. This is our 6th annual race, and I have broken down the preparation into really small steps over several months, so everything gets done in order so we have shirts, forms, food, etc. Monday my step for the day was to bring up my signs for the roads, the registration table, etc., and check them out to make sure they are still in good condition. Also, to count my race bibs and make sure I have enough. It took 5 minutes. But with as busy as that day was, I didn’t have time for much more. Small steps.

The last thing, the hard part, doing. This one, for me, is much easier after I have done the things listed above, made my list, prioritize that list, and then broken it down into steps. But sometimes it’s hard to be motivated. This again, is a choice we each make. It’s hard to get up and get moving if we’re tired, if we hurt, if we have no help, etc. But this is the most important thing. I have found that when I am tired, I am less motivated. But I have also found, that when I get up and start moving I am less tired. And when I see things getting done, well that’s some of the best motivation for me that there is. When I really have a hard time getting motivated though, I have a few things I think of/remember. I like to remember how good it’ll feel when I’m done, that’s pretty motivating for me. I also love quotes, especially the ones about doing things, great things, these motivate me. Prayer motivates me. It’s always amazing and a blessing how much the Lord wants to help us, and will give us the energy to get up and start. Past doing is also motivating. If you have done, you have accomplished, it makes it easier the next time to be motivated to get going, because you know that doing so will get you to the end. And when you learn that you can accomplish things, great and small, you become unstoppable. I hope you can find things that will be motivating to you. I will leave you with a motivational quote that I found just today, and hope that if you are feeling overwhelmed, that these steps will help you get up and going, so you can become unstoppable in your life.

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Doubts

Today in Church I listened to several awesome talks, but one phrase stood out to me, I don’t even know if this is exactly how it was worded, but this is what I got out of it: “Don’t let my doubts stall me in my progress forward.” How often do we have an awesome idea, or feel like we should do something specific, maybe we know we need to make a change of direction to make our lives better. But we stop, we don’t move forward because we are afraid, or we are can’t see how to accomplish the big goal. We get comfortable even if it’s not really where we want to be, so we give up before we start.

Doubts don’t just affect big ideas and goals, they can affect every aspect of our lives. But doubts are not good or productive in any way. We should always find out information, ask questions. But when we seek for answers, we should never look for those answers from sources that doubt. We need to make sure we are looking at legitimate sources with real truth. Those sources need to be carefully looked at, and the good pulled out of them. Sometimes they are people close to us, sometimes they are experts in their field. But the worst person to look at is the one that is already doubting, the one that already gave up on the goal.

I have learned in my business to seek out successful people. See what they are doing that I might not be doing. How do they spend their time and where do they put their energy. It is the same with anything we value or what to learn. Don’t ask the person who has given up, find the person who is succeeding. If you want to have more faith, don’t ask the person who has fallen away from your faith. Find the person who is succeeding, the person most at peace. Find out what they are doing in their lives different than you are and try to implement some of those things into your thinking, your habits, your priorities.

Failing is different than doubting. I still refer to Einstein’s invention of the lightbulb. 10,000 times he found out how a light bulb didn’t work. But he didn’t doubt that he would eventually find an answer, he kept persevering through the questions, through the data. I’m sure there were people who thought, even told him he was crazy. But he never gave up. That is what determination can do for us. That determination can increase as we see progress in our lives. I am so grateful for the many, many people through my life who have encouraged me to write down my experiences. I don’t write down a ton, maybe a couple of sentences every evening, but about once every 2 or 3 months I hand write those things down in my journal from my phone. I could print them off and put them in a binder, but I love handwriting them as I get to look back, read about my experiences, and often see the fruits of whatever I was unsure of, but kept pushing through. Sometimes I am reminded of some inspiration that I had forgotten about that propelled me forward to where I was that day, and I am so grateful when it came, and again when I reread about it later. Looking back renews my determination in so many aspects of my life.

I have said this several times here on my blogs, but I’ll say it again, “Average is the enemy of excellence.” When we choose to doubt, when we choose to stop our progress we become average, or worse, mediocre. Even if we don’t accomplish exactly what we set out to do, if we persevered through those doubts then we grew. Growth is one of the most important things we can do in this life. Growth may change the direction we thought we wanted to go, but growth always leads to good, whether that good is simply within us that makes us a better person, or something physical outside of us. That growth makes us more than just average, it starts to elevate us towards excellence. This week I am going to move forward with a piece of inspiration that I had several months ago, kept in the back of my mind because I wasn’t exactly sure how to proceed, but because I didn’t throw the idea out, I have a new direction to go. If it doesn’t work, I will continue forward, having more data to learn from and a new direction to move. I am grateful for the opportunity to continue learning and growing every day. What are you doing to remove doubt from your life and proceed forward in faith?