Now that we’re into February, it’s time to get more realistic about goals. I feel like January is the over-zealous goal setting month. We’re going to accomplish ALL these things. Then February sets in, and we realize that ALL those things are maybe a little too much to expect of ourselves. I congratulate you heartily if you’ve kept all your resolutions from January. I haven’t. So let’s look at a single goal that I think we can all work on and accomplish, year by year, little by little.
As the year turned, it felt like I kept seeing a lot of people post, “2017 was the hardest year of my life!” The older I’ve grown, the more I’ve come to realize that life doesn’t start getting easier as we get older. The older I’ve gotten, the harder my life has gotten. I’ve lost pregnancies, I’ve given birth. I’ve gotten married, I’ve struggled in marriage. I’ve had friends leave the Church, and I’ve grown in my testimony. It often seems to me that the more blessings and “good things” we receive in life, the more challenges we also face. It may be that we face a challenge to come to the great thing ahead. It may be that the hard thing is a blessing in disguise. The thing I recently discovered, and think we should start focusing on, is that the scriptures teach us to be optimistic. Moroni 7:28 states, “They who have faith in him will cleave unto every good thing.” As followers of Christ, we are supposed to cleave to every good thing. In my mind, that certainly means that we’re supposed to be optimists.
Why does it matter that we look for the good in life? What happens when we become optimists instead of pessimists? I’m sure there are plenty of scientific studies that show the power of positive thinking, but let me share my own story. I married an incredibly sporty man. He’ll play any sport, regardless of how much he likes it. I’m nearly the exact opposite of that. I never felt like I was good at sports, and I generally tried, and succeeded, in avoiding them. Well, I believe a marriage should stretch you, and I wanted to do something with my husband that he loved, so I decided to join him in playing BYU intramurals with our ward. I initially was grumpy about it all because I was embarrassed of how bad I was. Eventually, I decided the grumpiness wasn’t helping our marriage or myself during the games. So, I decided to be excited about the games. I looked around and found that our team had some really athletic people, but it had just as many non-athletic people like me. I didn’t need to be embarrassed. When I changed my attitude, I’m not even kidding you, I became better at sports. I was no Mia Ham, but I got markedly better. My husband even noticed. And while I faked my enthusiasm for a while, my enthusiasm eventually became genuine.
Optimism and happiness are traits that make you stand out from the world. You don’t have to be naive to be optimistic. In fact, I would discourage that. However, I would encourage cleaving to the good you see in every situation. Nearly every hard situation has good you can glean from it. When you face something hard in your life, take a step back and figure out what good there is. Has someone hurt you? You have the opportunity to forgive and lean on the Savior. Are you afraid of what is happening in the world? Take time to look at the humanitarian efforts of the Church. Are you unsure about the political climate? Make it an opportunity to learn about politics and add your hand in any way to the causes you support. Sometimes optimism is as simple as an attitude shift; sometimes it will motivate you to action. Either way, as you strive to be optimistic, I know that you will be guided by the Holy Ghost to find the silver linings in life.