Keep things in perspective
What matters most in life?
When all is said and done, what would you like to accomplish with your life? What do you want to complete by the time you are on your deathbed? What do you want people to say at your funeral? Compare that to what you are currently working on right now.
My husband and I recently watched the movie “Click” together, which was a movie I wanted to see since it came out in 2006. While I don’t like how dirty it is and it is around the limit of my threshold (so I don’t know if I’d recommend it to everyone), I love the moral of the story. The man rushes through his life in pursuit of career goals and loses his family in the process.
A really memorable quote from it is (speaking of Lucky the Leprechaun, from Lucky Charms):
He’s always chasing the pot of gold, but when he gets there, at the end of the day, it’s just corn flakes.
Waiting for the end
How often do we wait for things to end? How often do we wish we could skip ahead in our own lives and not appreciate the gems of our lives right now?
Doesn’t it seem foolish to spoil sweet and joyful experiences because we are constantly anticipating the moment when they will end?
Do we listen to beautiful music waiting for the final note to fade before we allow ourselves to truly enjoy it? No. We listen and connect to the variations of melody, rhythm, and harmony throughout the composition.
Do we say our prayers with only the “amen” or the end in mind? Of course not. We pray to be close to our Heavenly Father, to receive His Spirit and feel His love.
We shouldn’t wait to be happy until we reach some future point, only to discover that happiness was already available—all the time! Life is not meant to be appreciated only in retrospect.
The Golden Ticket
Uchtdorf also explains in his famous Forget Me Not talk, a comparison between us and Charlie and the Chocolate Factory. In that story, everyone is trying to get their hands on a golden ticket. They do whatever it takes to get a golden ticket. So if the chocolate bar that they just opened doesn’t have one, it is a disappointment. They no longer enjoy their chocolate because they want that golden ticket, which might never come. They postpone their happiness and refuse to be happy until they reach this end goal.
I bet those golden tickets make the chocolate taste terrible.
We’re often just as silly
It’s easy to laugh at the pursuits of golden tickets from others, but most of these are real and worthy pursuits that mean a lot to people. We all have our own golden tickets. I’ll be happy once I get a better car, a better job, get married, have more money, get in better shape, clean my house, get a promotion, become famous, have a big house, have kids, retire, or whatever it is that you are reaching for.
The pursuit of these goals, however, is not the problem. The problem is when we lose our perspective over them. We can be happy now and enjoy the chocolate now, even if we don’t yet have our golden ticket. No, things don’t come as quickly as you want them to, but life is not a race, meant to be sped through; it’s a journey to be enjoyed.
Disclaimer for working fathers (or the family breadwinner)
Something that bothers me is that spouses (often wives) will complain at their husbands for “working too much” and not spending enough time with the family, while the husband wishes he could spend more time at home, but needs to keep his job to provide.
Both of you, please cut the other some slack! The breadwinner should want to be home when he can, but he still has to hold down a job, so don’t treat him like the job is optional. I’m sure in most cases, that the breadwinner would rather be home than at work, but there is always much to be done at work, and you really can’t understand the pressure unless you are the main source of income for a family.
That being said, when the job is done, I don’t think the guy should linger longer at work or hang out with coworkers as much when he could be home. Let’s try to be understanding with each other.
I really sympathize with workers, because I know the feeling. I love my husband and want to be with him as much as possible, but I have many responsibilities at my work that I have to complete. I have to be available and I have to work a lot of hours. It’s a heart-sinking feeling when I tell Ross that I’ll be home two hours later than expected, or when he has a date planned and I have something come up at work. (Don't get me wrong, I love my job!)
I get both sides of the story, but I’d like both people to try to keep some perspective and be more understanding of each other. Think about it: he is working to take care of you, because he loves you and she wants you to be home with the family, because she loves you. We’re really not working against each other here. It’s hard sometimes for couples, and I get that, but please try to be patient with each other.
Sometimes the ox is in the mire, and we have to be patient and understanding of that. But to quote religious leader, Jeffrey R. Holland, “[I]f the ox is in the mire every [day], then we strongly recommend that you sell the ox or fill the mire.”
That quote once really put things in perspective of me and drove me to change a habit that I didn’t like, but made excuses over. My ox was in the mire regularly, so I filled the mire (in my case).
Covey’s reflective exercise
In Seven Habits of Highly Effective People, Steven Covey recommends we imagine our funeral and think about what we hope people will say at it. What do you want people to remember you for? Who do you want to be there? What do you need to do now in order to become that person that is beloved and accomplished in the things that matter most?
Again, Uchtdorf gives some valuable insights in his talk Of Regrets and Resolutions. He speaks of a nurse who treated the terminally ill and asked them the question, “Do you have any regrets?” These are the common answers she received:
I wish I had spent more time with the people I love.
I wish I had lived up to my potential.
I wish I had let myself be happier.
These valuable insights help us see that the resolutions we should make are to spend more time with people we love, live up to our potential, and be happier.
Spend time with the people you love
Time goes by so quickly. There is never enough. Children don’t stay small for very long, grandparents are only around for a portion of your lives, spouses are more enjoyable the more time you spend with them, and friends come and go all too quickly. Take advantage of the time you have. Don’t waste time you could be playing with the children scrolling through your phone. Don’t ignore your spouse for a movie or video game. Don’t take time with your parents or grandparents for granted. You never know how much time you have.
I lost a dear friend of mine quite suddenly in 2015. Fortunately though, I have a lot of good memories of time spent together to keep. My only regret is I wish I had been more kind.
Time with my Ross is so precious. If we’re in different rooms in our home, it feels like a waste of time, because we aren’t together. Memories I have with him are easily the most precious ones in my life.
In When Calls the Heart, Abigail has a very profound moment of wisdom when talking to her daughter-in-law, Claire. Her son had died and she expressed regret for scolding him when he broke windows, because in the end, those don’t matter. Claire (his widow) had broken Abigail's dishes and messed up a few things, but Abigail said something like: You can break every dish, because you’re family and I love you. (Unfortunately, I can’t find the quote, so this isn’t direct.)
Spending time with parents and grandparents is precious - truly, you don’t know how much time you have with them. I always wished I paid more attention to things they taught me growing up and that I asked more questions about how they did things and learned more from them.
Time with children is precious. I’ll never forget the feelings of holding my baby brothers in my arms or when they were slightly older, putting their little arms around my neck and saying, “I love you.” Those precious times went by too quickly, but I’m grateful for the memories I have of it and I only regret not spending more time with them when they wanted to play and I didn’t.
Live up to your potential
You are capable of so much. Enrich your talents and accomplish great things! I am satisfied with and very grateful for my accomplishments in school, work, and skills. Of course I want to improve, but the more you accomplish with what you have, the more satisfied you are that you did your best in life.
Be happy now
Whatever you’re doing or going through, be happy! Even if things aren’t the best, find things to be happy about. There is so much good in the world, and if you look for it, you’ll find it.
I talked to a woman once who had many kids. She said that she wasn’t able to have kids for the first three years of marriage, even though she wanted them. She was so sad at the thought that she might never have kids. Now she has three times the kids average parents have. She told me she wished she had not wasted those years before being upset about not having kids and just enjoyed that time with her husband.
Things might not be as bad as you think! Think back on a time when you were really upset. With the perspective you have right now, it probably wasn’t quite as bad as you thought at the time. Maybe whatever you think is the end of the world right now won’t look so bad in the future.
Be positive. Be realistic and make plans to fix your problems, but find something to be happy about!
I want you to think about what you would want someone to say at your funeral. Think about the person you want to become and take one step today to become that person.