My wife started piano lessons at age 7 and has been a ward organist since age 16. Please don’t tell anybody, but sometimes while playing prelude music, she looks over the congregation to see who is coming in or someone will come up and talk to her while she is playing and she rarely misses a note. But if she does, she keeps on playing.
During our mission in West Africa, my wife was teaching several young men and young women to play the keyboard. Three of the young men started playing hymns during sacrament meeting. Did they do it perfectly? No. But she has taught them if they make a mistake, keep on playing.
How many of you have played basketball or football? Maybe you have heard of LeBron James, Steph Curry, or James Harden. How long did it take them to develop their skills as basketball players? Even after all these years, do they make all their shots? On a good night, they might make 40-50% of their shots. But they keep on playing. How about Lionel Messi or Cristiano Ronaldo … do all of their shots produce a goal? But they keep on playing.
There may be times in our life when it is difficult to see the end from where we are now. In missionary work, 18 or 24 months might seem like a long time. For the mother of a newborn, how soon will my baby sleep through the night? For students, how much longer until this semester is over? Whatever our challenge, what would it be like to focus on one week at a time and one day at a time? Then we can focus on our missionary purpose, motherhood, work goals, church service, and so on, and “keep on playing.” We can be like the early pioneers. They knew the route from Nauvoo to the Salt Lake Valley, and they simply concentrated on crossing this creek or climbing over this ridge or getting to the next stop or even to the next tree or the next bush. And they kept moving forward without worrying about the length of the entire journey. Then at night, they set up camp, had dinner, and danced!
Adjusting to Missionary Life suggests the following to help make things manageable:
- Take one step at a time. Identify the immediate problem and take one step at a time to solve it. Remind yourself, “All I have to do right now is ____.” For example, “All I have to do right now is wait for the bus.” or “All I have to do right now is find this address.”
- Plan positively. Each night plan for a positive, productive morning so you will feel more like facing it. Review your plan with the Lord in prayer. Write down promptings or ideas that come to mind as you pray, and prepare to act on them. Daily planning can allow your mind to more fully relax as you go to sleep.
- Break down big or difficult tasks into smaller pieces. If they still feel too hard, break them down more. Then act. If you wait to “feel like” working before starting, you may wait a long time. Get started, and motivation will follow.
- Don’t overwhelm yourself with too many personal goals at once. Set one or two personal goals at a time (like being more cheerful or less messy). Don’t expect perfection; include a plan for how you will get back on track when you have a bad day. Remind yourself often of why you want to change.
- Pace yourself. Vary the work you do, and don’t work too long at just one activity. Remind yourself: All I have to do right now is ______.
- Look for and welcome support, suggestions, and encouragement from others. Support and encourage others as well.
- Unwind and relax during the last hour of the day. Write in a journal, have a light snack like milk or fruit, listen to appropriate music, talk to your companion/spouse/family/friends, or practice relaxation skills.
May the Lord bless us as we continue to serve together in this great latter-day work of gathering Israel on both sides of the veil.
[Note: The ideas and suggestions contained in these articles are not intended as a substitute for consultation with a qualified mental health professional. In addition, if you are experiencing thoughts of self-harm or suicide, please seek medical or mental health assistance immediately. In the U.S., call or text 988 to reach the 988 Suicide & Crisis Lifeline, available 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. Or use the Lifeline Chat at 988lifeline.org/chat/. Services are free and confidential.]