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I have followed in some fabulous footsteps. Haven’t we all? The auxiliary president everyone adored, the one who personally visited every person on the roll every month (or seemed to!), the gifted teacher, the person who brought phenomenal treats, the talented artist who made incredible posters, the executive who ran perfect meetings, someone who really set the bar high.
Whether you’re succeeding a popular bishop, an extraordinary chorister, or a teacher who never left a dry eye in the class, at some point you will be asked to step into a role that this person virtually defined. In fact, it may happen to you repeatedly.
So how do we cope with feeling intimidated, inept, and unprepared? Here are 12 ways to get back on the horse and believe in our abilities:
First, recognize those doubts and their source. See the adversary’s tactics to discourage you. Christ would never want us to sink into despair, but Satan is there with a ready push. He’s the one brimming with all those “you can never be as good” messages. Shove them away.
Second, remember that callings really do come from the Lord. Bishoprics pray for revelation about the right person for each job, and if this one was extended to you, there’s a good reason. You may not know the reason for months—but it’s there and it’s real. Have faith that the Lord knows how to run his organization. And what a relief, right? If this were a church devised by man, we could have all kinds of reasons to second-guess decisions and choices. But this one is run by Jesus Christ, and I think he has pretty good credentials.
Third, expect to stumble and feel your way. It’s a new assignment, you’re human. We are all learning. Remember Elder Jeffrey R. Holland’s quote, “Imperfect people are all God has ever had to work with.” And he works great miracles through this imperfect family of his.
Fourth, realize that humility is a good thing. It makes us try harder. Far worse would be overconfidence or arrogance as we approach a calling. Staying humble and teachable will invite the Holy Ghost to partner with us in our efforts. If we can bring the Spirit to others, that’s huge.
Fifth, value your own talents. Yes, stay humble, but don’t engage in self put-downs, or discount what you bring to the table. Heavenly Father has blessed each of us with an individual skill set unlike anyone else’s. These talents are to be appreciated, not dismissed. Make an honest evaluation of the abilities you do have, and you’ll see ways you can use them in this new calling.
Sixth, stop comparing “your out-takes with someone else’s highlights reel,” as the saying goes. The urge to make comparisons comes straight from Satan’s playbook. Catch yourself when you start envying or despairing, and put a stop to it. I know someone who worried that their predecessor was outgoing and charming, while they felt introverted and quiet. They saw this as a personal weakness, until someone confided that they appreciated “someone less flashy, who really listens.” Suddenly they realized that there are people who will love your completely different approach.
And speaking of what others think, Number Seven is to stop worrying about pleasing the crowd. Our purpose is to please God, to do our job the way He wants us to. A group of teenagers might flutter around the “cool” teacher who relaxes the rules, but the Lord will appreciate the courageous leader who holds firm to His standards, seeking truth over popularity. Redefine success as doing the right thing, not as being recognized by mankind.
Eighth, remember the purpose of our callings is to serve others, but also to grow as individuals. Each calling helps us develop abilities we didn’t have before. The Lord doesn’t want to fill every position with someone who already has it down; he wants us. He wants to teach us to seek his help, to turn to him, to develop faith, to develop new capabilities. A lush, growing garden is not filled only with mature plants, but seedlings and sprouts, taking their turn as well. Always remember Neal A. Maxwell’s quote, ““God does not begin by asking us about our ability, but only about our availability, and if we then prove our dependability, he will increase our capability.”
Ninth, don’t feel you must constantly overachieve. Peer pressure isn’t only something exerted upon teens; it lasts a lifetime. And often, when surrounded by people who greatly exceed their assignments, we feel forced to compete. It can be exhausting. Let God lead the way. Not Pinterest, not Etsy, not your sister-in-law who sleeps three hours a night.
Tenth, stick with the handbook. Refer often to your duties, and you will be safe from criticism. Don’t feel you have to maintain a tradition of your predecessor, if it doesn’t work for you and isn’t part of your job description. Sometimes we add a little too much frosting to the cake.
Eleventh, buckle down. I’ve often said that hard work solves most of life’s dilemmas, and it certainly helps when tackling a new calling. Give it the effort you’d give an assignment in your workplace. When we give our calling our best efforts, we can consecrate it to the Lord, and feel calmness rather than worry. We know he will bless us for trying so hard.
Twelfth, pray. Pray for the talents and skills you lack, pray for those over whom you have stewardship, pray about your plans, pray for inspiration. Enlist the Lord as your teammate (could you possibly find a better one?) and then proceed with confidence.
Remember, this is YOUR calling, not theirs. Just as you don’t want your new home to be forever referred to as “The Johnson’s house” (unless your name is Johnson), you mustn’t create your own shadows, inventing ghosts that haunt you in your new digs. This is your new calling, to fulfill your way.
Watch the music video of Hilton’s song, What Makes a Woman, from her new musical, The Best Medicine (with music by Jerry Williams). Her books and YouTube Mom videos are available on her website, here. Hilton currently serves as a Relief Society President.