“The compounding effect of daily disciplines, with purpose and real intent, can make a big difference in all areas of your life,” said Brother Randall L. Ridd, second counselor in the Young Men general presidency, during the first Worldwide Devotional for Young Adults. “It can mean the difference between struggling through an ordinary life or being immensely successful and filling the measure of your creation.”
The devotional, formerly known as a Church Educational System devotional, originated from the BYU-Idaho Center in Rexburg, Idaho, and was broadcast via satellite throughout the world on Jan. 11.
“You have more choices and more opportunities than ever before,” Brother Ridd said. “Like so many things in life, this is both a blessing and a curse. Too many choices, and the fear of making bad decisions, often lead to ‘decision paralysis,’ which is one of the challenges of your generation. It is more difficult to focus than ever!”
Using the ever-changing technology as an example, Brother Ridd spoke of how quickly the newest version of something becomes obsolete.
“Too many people are afraid to commit to anything because they question whether a better option is right around the corner,” he said. “So they wait — and end up choosing nothing. In this passive state, they are easy targets for distraction.”
The antidote for that passive state is living with purpose and real intent, he taught.
Brother Ridd asked listeners to imagine they are in a lifeboat on the ocean, with nothing but rolling waves in every direction, as far as the eye can see.
“The boat is equipped with oars, but which direction would you row?” he asked. He then asked listeners to imagine they caught a glimpse of land, giving them a direction they must go.
“Does seeing land give you both motivation and purpose?” he asked. “People who don’t maintain a clear sense of purpose are drifters. Drifters allow the tides of the world to decide where they are going.”
Because of the gospel, individuals can focus on fulfilling their purpose, rather than spending their entire life trying to discover their purpose, Brother Ridd said.
Brother Ridd shared his own experience of when he was a young man who was trying to decide if he was going to go on a mission. At the time he was enrolled in school, had a good scholarship, had a girlfriend and a good job, was in the Army and thought it was too late because he was a little older than other missionaries. One of the surgeons at the hospital where he worked as a tech invited Brother Ridd to lunch and spoke to him about serving a mission — something the doctor had done after he finished medical school.
While still looking at his own reasons for not going, he prayed and prayed to receive the answer to not go. It was then that the thought came to him, “What does the Lord want you to do?” At that time he had to decide if he was going to do what he wanted to do, or what the Lord wanted him to do.
“That is a question we would all do well to ask ourselves often,” he said. “What a great pattern for each of us to establish early in our lives. Many times we have the attitude of ‘I’ll go where you want me to go and do what you want me to do, dear Lord — as long as it is where I want to go and what I want to do.’ ”
Through knowing the purpose of life individuals are able to become like their Heavenly Father.
“Living with ‘real intent’ means understanding the ‘why’ and being aware of the motives behind your actions,” he said. “Socrates said, ‘An unexamined life is not worth living.’ Ponder how you spend your time and ask yourself regularly, ‘why?’ This will help you develop the ability to see beyond the moment. It’s far better to look ahead and ask yourself, ‘why would I do that?’ than to look back and say, ‘why, oh, why did I do that?’ If the only reason why, is that God wants you to, that’s reason enough.”
Avoiding distractions – the importance of focus
“So many times we get distracted with how we should have acted,” he said. “Distractions rob you of time that could have been invested in doing good. The ability to focus helps us avoid distractions.”
Sharing a video of a basketball being tossed, Brother Ridd asked viewers to count the number of passes one of the teams makes. By focusing on one thing, viewers were able to miss many of the distractions placed in the video.
“Our focus in life is so important,” he said. “As the test demonstrates, we typically find what we are looking for. Or, as the scriptures put it, ‘seek and ye shall find’ (Luke 11:9). If we are so focused on the things of the world, we can miss a whole spiritual world that is all around us. We may not be able to recognize the spiritual promptings that the Holy Ghost is anxious to give us to direct our lives and to bless others. Conversely, if we focus on the things of the Spirit we’re less likely to be sidetracked by the temptations and distractions of the Lord.”
The power of small things
The idea that small, simple, but purposeful acts can have dramatic consequences is supported all throughout the scriptures. There is great power in the compounding effect of little things done each day, he taught.
“Small and simple things that are at work in your life right now — working either for you or against you,” he said. “Just as the Lord uses things to build you up, Satan uses them to distract you and lead you slowly, almost imperceptibly, off the path.”
Brother Ridd shared three small and simple ways to “look to God” that help individuals maintain their focus on their eternal focus.
“None of them will surprise you – you’ve heard them many times before,” he said. “But I testify that doing these things consistently and with ‘real intent’ not only makes a difference, it makes all the difference.”
If an individual understands the why behind simple disciplines they would make all three of the suggestions — taking the sacrament, praying and studying the scriptures — a top priority in their life, he said.
He invited listeners to participate in a worldwide conversation via social media through responding to questions, "Can you do it?" "Will it work?" and "Is it worth it?" and encouraged them to use #ldsdevo in their response.
“Prophets past and present have pleaded with us to do small and simple things like praying and studying the scriptures,” he said. “So why doesn’t everyone do them? Perhaps one reason is that we don’t necessarily see dramatic negative consequences if we miss a day or two — just as your teeth don’t all decay and fall out the first time you don't brush. Most of the consequences, positive and negative, will come later, over time. But they will come.”
It is through living a deliberate, focused life that individuals will find success and become more like their Heavenly Father.
“Start now. Live a purposeful life. Put the power of the compounding of daily disciplines in place in the important areas of your life. I promise that in a year from now, you will either be glad you started today, or you will wish you had.”
[email protected] @marianne_holman