THOUGHTS FROM A CHINESE DISH
In late 2017, I went to China with a delegation of Utah business leaders. At least twice a day during the two weeks we were there, business and political leaders threw huge banquet lunches and dinners for us with the finest foods China has to offer. I have never experienced the "red carpet" treatment like this in any other setting.
At one of these dinners, I saw this orange fish shaped thing coming around the table. It looked made of gelatin. I had no idea what it was and hesitated about trying it. After all, it could be made of fish guts or something. But, as often happens in China, the Chinese business man sitting next to me grabbed the serving spoon and plopped a big helping of this fish shaped thing on my plate. He said, "You will like." Not wanting to be rude, I took a bite . . . and smiled. My host said, "mango pudding." It was delicious.
I was single at the time I took this trip to China. I think trying the fish shaped dish was a little like dating someone new. I saw something unfamiliar and I was leery of it. It could be anything. It could be something unappealing. What if it made me sick? But it didn't. It was mango pudding and it was amazing.
Dating a new person can be a little scary. Jon Harris
has kept us updated on his budding relationship. Remember how nervous he was about getting together and having the first kiss? It seems like that turned out to be mango pudding too. The thing is, you don't know until you pick up a spoon and give it a try.
has compared dating to Bertie Bott's every flavor beans in the Harry Potter novels. You don't know what you have until you try it. Occasionally she got a vomit flavored "date" experience, but most of the time they turned out to be pleasant.
We all tend to gravitate to what is familiar. Our brains tell us it is safer than something unknown. But this doesn't always serve us. It's what keeps people stuck in abusive marriages. It often causes them to find a similar partner the next time. I'm not suggesting that you seek different for difference sake. But be open to trying out a lot of different flavors until you find your favorite. Don't pre-judge it or be too vigilant for "red flags." (I promise, your brain knows how to invent them and conjure up fear from the most innocuous things.)
When you a dating opportunity arises that feels unfamiliar, think "mango pudding."
Do you want to intentionally transform your life for the better? When it comes to the mind, everything beyond verifiable fact is perspective. The stories we tell have the power to influence our emotions, energy, behaviors, and ultimately our outcomes. We often choose our stories unconsciously and begin to believe our perspective as if it is fact and don’t even question it. Yet there is another option. We can choose our stories consciously to create intentional transformation. Our emotions, energy, behaviors, and outcomes can shift when we choose different stories. We are creators. It all begins with the thoughts we choose to focus on.
We have developed a LILY Coaching Model that we believe will be very helpful in our coaching practice. It provides a framework we as humans each need to do in order to create our best life. The acronym for our model is FSEEBO – so remember to “Forget SEEBO!” Forget the stories that don’t serve you, so you can forget the emotion/energy that doesn’t elevate you, and as a result you will forget each behavior/outcome that doesn’t benefit you! Doing this important thought work with firm intention, over time, will lead you to more purposefully create your life and find greater joy in your journey.
Here’s the breakdown:
Facts – verifiable (every thought beyond the facts is OPTIONAL)
Stories – our own perceptions and adaptations of the facts, the thoughts we choose to subscribe to and focus on
Emotions – the result of our stories, greatly influenced by our thoughts in the moment and in accumulation
Energy – the vibration we approach our day with and the world around us, also influenced by our thoughts/stories
Behaviors – naturally follow stories/emotions/energy, unless we use will-power to counteract it, which isn't sustainable
Outcomes – what our lives look like, as a result of our behaviors, which are influenced by our emotions/energy, and ultimately from our stories – the thoughts we attach to about the facts of our life experience.
Enjoy a more in depth discussion on LILY Pod Episode 11: Our F-SEEBO Model
Listen to "Our F-SEEBO Model" podcast on LILY Pod as many times as it takes to really get it down. Take notes and make a commitment to do this work in your own life. You can do a lot of this work yourself. Yet we all have blind spots so it is very helpful to meet with a coach and get personal assistance. We are happy to support you along the way! Let us know if you’d like a FREE coaching consultation by emailing us at loveinlateryears.com.
ON THOUGHTS AND ADVERSITY
In 1 Nephi 17:1, Nephi described the adversity he and his family went through as they traveled in the wilderness after their exodus: "And we did travel and wade through much affliction in the wilderness; and our women did bear children in the wilderness."
Yet his prevailing thoughts were overwhelmingly positive and hopeful. Immediately following these words, Nephi exclaims:
"And so great were the blessings of the Lord upon us, that while we did live upon raw meat in the wilderness, our women did give plenty of suck for their children, and were strong, yea, even like unto the men; and they began to bear their journeyings without murmurings. And thus we see that the commandments of God must be fulfilled. And if it so be that the children of men keep the commandments of God he doth nourish them, and strengthen them, and provide means whereby they can accomplish the thing which he has commanded them; wherefore, he did provide means for us while we did sojourn in the wilderness."
(1Nephi 17:2-3.) It is amazing that Nephi was so positive under these conditions, while Laman and Lemuel murmured in dissatisfaction and misery. This scriptural passage fits the promise given by President Monson that, "The Lord shapes the back to bear the burden placed upon it." As a single parent, you may have felt the miracle of receiving unnatural strength to bear the burdens of parenthood alone. You may have been given miracles that allow you to feed your children better than you thought you could while being both mother and father in some ways. Your ”wilderness" is no less real than the one Lehi's family wandered in.
The truth is, most of you mid-singles are survivors. You have figured out how to survive trials and trauma. Your bigger problem, in many cases, is figuring out how to thrive and be happy. And make no mistake, they are entirely different skill sets.
Your brain is wired for survival. It stays on alert for danger. It does not distinguish between physical and emotional peril. In fact, it desperately wants acceptance and belonging. In primitive times, being rejected by your tribe would probably mean starvation and vulnerability to predators and the elements. Your brain knows this and intuitively responds with fear when you are rejected by someone you may have offered love (or to possibly create love). This survival instinct is very powerful, and it has a tendency to override our happiness. It often keeps us survivors stuck in anxiety. Happiness depends, in no small degree, on being able to switch off that survival instinct in situations that do not truly require it. If you are like me, you may have found that all of your prior success in life was based on fear. I think I got through law school and motivated myself to study by fearing failure. That is one example. There are thousands. If you try to find a deeper and more healthy source of motivation, it can feel like giving up your security blanket. You may cling to your anxiety and pain even harder for awhile.
Nephi demonstrated this skill when he focused on the blessings of the Lord, and showed faith in Him to take care of his family in the wilderness. The result was that he could relax into his situation, celebrate the blessings of the Lord, and create inner peace that his older brothers could not. Nephi demonstrates this positive quality again in the same chapter, stating, "notwithstanding we had suffered many afflictions and much difficulty, yea, even so much that we cannot write them all, we were exceedingly rejoiced when we came to the seashore; and we called the place Bountiful, because of its much fruit.” (1Nephi 17:6.) He "exceedingly rejoiced" notwithstanding great afflictions.
We often hear people say things like, " I am not a pessimist. I am a realist." They will then go on to paint a very gloomy picture of life or their circumstances -- not even realizing that most of it is interpretation rather than fact, and it's just a story they are telling themselves.
What kind of stories do mid-singles tell themselves?
"There are no good men out there."
"Women are all drama queens and crazy."
"Dating is hard and it's not worth the struggle."
"No one finds me attractive."
"I am past my prime and not beautiful / handsome anymore."
"Men are only after one thing."
"All women want is a guy with money."
"Being a single parent is hard because you're totally on your own."
"I have no time to take care of myself, because my whole life is about other people."
We could go on, but this is enough to illustrate the point. Are these Nephi kinds of words, or Laman and Lemuel kinds of words? Do these beliefs lead to happiness or to misery?
Let's try on some different beliefs:
"God has a loving plan for me, and everything I've suffered is taking me to a better place."
"My losses have prepared me for a better love."
"I have many friends in my life, and there are plenty of other people who are willing to be my friends and lend mutual love and support."
"There are many good single men in the church."
"There is an abundance of amazing women in the church."
"Most people want to love and be loved, aside from material things."
"Sex is a beautiful and holy part of married life, and I eagerly await the arrival of this gift."
"I owe it to myself and my children to take good care of myself, and to show love and compassion to myself as a child of God."
Which of these thoughts is more elevating? Which is more calculated to lead to happiness and peace? Do you feel more peace when you believe that you are on your own in a cruel world, or when you believe that a loving God has a plan for you, and you are surrounded by friends who love and support you? You might even ask yourself which of these sets of beliefs is more in harmony with how the gospel sees us as children of God with the potential to become like Him. Nephi understood that gratitude for God's blessings, and seeing them as abundant, created more joy and light.
As mid-singles, many of you have learned to survive. You have already won that medal. You have learned to survive by feeling anxious and fearful, and trying to solve everything that is wrong. Now, move into the light and learn better how to be happy and thrive by shifting your thoughts from fear and lack to abundance, joy, and love.
17th century English poet Robert Herrick penned these immortal words about a very mortal subject:
Gather ye rose-buds while ye may,
Old Time is still a-flying;
And this same flower that smiles today
Tomorrow will be dying.
The glorious lamp of heaven, the sun,
The higher he’s a-getting,
The sooner will his race be run,
And nearer he’s to setting.
That age is best which is the first,
When youth and blood are warmer;
But being spent, the worse, and worst
Times still succeed the former.
Then be not coy, but use your time,
And while ye may, go marry;
For having lost but once your prime,
You may forever tarry.
(Robert Herrick,To the Virgins to Make Much of Time.) One of the great advantages of middle-age is that you are old enough to know but young enough to do. The great disadvantage of middle-age is being painfully aware of how fleeting it is. Childhood felt like one eternal summer. Youth passed more quickly but still seemed to go on for a good long while. Middle age snuck up on me. I don't believe there was one day when I woke up and just realized, "Okay, I am no longer a young man. I am now middle-aged."
So what rosebuds will you gather while you still have time? What kind of memories will you make with your children if you have them? What contribution will you make to the world?
Will you follow Herrick's advice, "Then be not coy, but use your time, And while ye may, go marry"? (I think a lot of us are pretty "coy" when the subject of marriage arises. Nothing makes a middle aged single feel more vulnerable.) When Cathy and I were married I was 50 years old -- which is three years younger than I am now. I don't lament that I didn't meet her when I was a newly returned missionary. (She was only 9 anyway.) I am glad that we have an eternity because we started a little late. With an eternal perspective, starting at 50 isn't much different from 21.
On the other hand, however old you are today, you are younger than you will ever be again. It is ok if you went through some trauma and don't feel ready to get married yet -- as long as you know what you want long-term, and don't become complacent about it.
We started Love in Later Years in part to encourage you to live the second half of your life with more enthusiasm than the first half. We want you to rediscover the belief that marriage and family life can be joyful and rewarding. So take that trip to Disneyland with your kids, take those art classes you always wanted to take when it never seemed practical, get that college degree, start that business, and pluck up the courage to ask that beautiful or handsome friend to have dinner with you.
We often talk about the trials that inevitably come in every human life. But life is to be lived, not merely endured. So gather your rosebuds and live it well.
A smile creates high vibrational energy and high vibration leads to smiling easily and effortlessly. It has a synergistic effect. We can share that energy with others just by holding it within ourselves, by focusing on the good in our lives and in the world no matter our circumstances. Gratitude boosts joy and is a great catalyst for natural happy smiles!
As humans, we tend to be hard on ourselves. It's easy to see where we fall short and get overwhelmed by all the things we have left on our to-do lists. We have found that by intentionally recognizing and celebrating what we do well each day, we can celebrate our "wins." It's therapeutic to the soul and leads to more smiles, inside and out. Cheers to intentionally cultivating happy high-vibrational thoughts!