Photo Courtesy, LDS Media Library
I’ll say it—
It seems as if every returned missionary has the phrase “GIVE ME ADVICE” posted on their foreheads. This is fine until we start receiving conflicting counsel, or we’re given guidance that we don’t necessarily want. I mean, sometimes we’re given suggestions that are legitimately crazy.
But, regardless of what we hear, there are three overarching principles that must be understood.
And, because I love you, I’m about to get real: if we don’t figure the following three things out, we’re going to be absolutely miserable. And, THERE JUST ISN’T ANYBODY THAT HAS TIME FOR THAT.
But, if we allow these principles to become a part of us, we will feel whole, confident, and in control! Which, you know, is pretty great.
So, without further ado, here are the three things returned missionaries cannot afford to misunderstand:
1. You Are In Charge
2 Nephi 2:26 teaches that men and women are “to act for themselves and not to be acted upon.”
Are you acting, or being acted upon?
Often, we confine ourselves with the excuse of, “Well, I don’t act because I don’t know how to act!”
But friends—we must change our mindset.
Instead of thinking, “I don’t know, therefore I can’t do” we must think “I don’t know, therefore I will learn.”
Here are some examples:
|Being acted upon||Acting for yourself|
|“I am so awkward. I can’t get any girl to talk to me. I’ll never get a girlfriend.”||“I am so awkward. Therefore:
1. I am going to pay close attention to how the people around me start up conversations.
2. Then, I’m going to practice starting conversations with my best friend, and ask him to give me feedback.
3. Also, I’m making a goal to talk to three news girls at this party on Friday.”
|“I don’t like Sunday School because the teacher is boring.”||“I don’t like Sunday School because the teacher is boring. So, this week:
1. I’m going to be an active participant and come to class with a question I’d really like answered.
2. I’m going to stop allowing the teacher to be the only provider of answers.
3. During the parts of the lesson that are dragging, I will search for answers on my own.
4. I will seek learning from the True Teacher, the Holy Ghost.”
|“I have no idea what I want to do with my life. I’m going to go watch Netflix.”||“I have no idea what I want to do with my life. So:
1. I’m going to do a study of when I’ve felt most happy and fulfilled within the last year of my life.
2. I’m going to reach out to five people this week that I think might be able to help me to create a life that would have those happy moments daily.
3. Then, I’m going to set up an appointment with my school counselor to see what the education path looks like to help me get that profession/skill set.”
Gosh dang it, we are in charge of our lives! Being proactive in our choices gives us the opportunity to change anything about our circumstances. We’ve done it before in the mission field, and we can do it again!
Be intentional about the things you do.
2. Govern Your Life By The Bigger Picture
When taking charge of our lives, we must think beyond the next day, or even the next month, to allow the bigger picture to govern our choices.
This requires that our vision expands from answering the question, “What do I want to do?” to “Who will I become?”
Decisions that only answer the question, “What do I want to do?” will result in goals like, “I want to read The Book of Mormon everyday,” “I want to run twenty miles this week,” or “I want to get straight A’s this semester.”
|To Do List|
|1. Read The Book of Mormon every day.
2. Run 20 miles this week.
3. Get straight A’s this semester
Unfortunately, what you end up with is a laundry list of tasks to complete. And, though checking off those boxes may be initially satisfying, it ultimately results in a hollow feeling (and in reality, how long do these goals actually last?).
Instead, if your decisions answer the question, “Who will I become?” goals like “I will be diligent,” or “I will be pure,” will surface.
When these objectives (being diligent and pure) govern us, their associated actions become natural because they are fueled by reason!
For example, we will stop reading The Book of Mormon just to read The Book of Mormon, and start reading The Book of Mormon to change into a more diligent and pure human being.
Reading The Book of Mormon then becomes instinctual. Our soul starts to crave and seek light. We feel fulfilled because our decisions actually help us become who we actually want to become!
If our daily actions are going to be meaningful, we must expand our vision from focusing on what we will do to who we will become.
3. Stop Being Nice; Start Being Kind
It is essential that we are kind.
Now, it’s important to recognize that kindness and niceness are not the same.
Did you know there was a difference?
- Kind (adj.): helpful
- Nice (adj.): pleasant or agreeable
If we are being helpful, as the definition of kindness suggests, we are aiding people in living the doctrine of Christ: having faith in Him, repenting, making and keeping covenants with God, receiving the Holy Ghost, and enduring to the end. (Sound familiar? See Preach My Gospel page 1.)
When we are truly kind, or helpful, we bring others unto Christ.
One of my favorite examples of kindness is when Jesus turns over the money tables at the temple.
What He did was socially unacceptable, it made people feel uncomfortable, and it was inconvenient for Him, I’m sure.
It was not a nice thing to do.
But, it was the most appropriate way for Jesus to declare repentance in that moment. His actions were perfectly kind.
Sometimes God will ask you to be kind by turning over money tables, while other times He’ll ask you to bite your tongue. Sometimes, kindness is quitting your job, while other times it is choosing to invest in one of God’s more awkward, difficult children.
Kindness, not niceness, must be prevalent in everything we do.
1. YOU ARE IN CHARGE
2. GOVERN YOUR LIFE BY THE BIGGER PICTURE
3. STOP BEING NICE; START BEING KIND
Kathryn is the founder of www.LifeAfterMission.com, a site providing free instruction to improve social competency, finances, productivity, spirituality, dating, learning abilities, and problem-solving skills. She is a returned missionary from Los Angeles, California and loves all things funfetti-flavored. Visit www.lifeaftermission.com to help you become the returned missionary you’ve always wanted to be…without wasting months (or years) to get there!