“How is it possible to do all the things that are asked of us?” Ensign, July 1981, 33
Dolores C. Ritchie, Department of Humanities, Classics, and Comparative Literature, Brigham Young University. Certainly, members of the Church are asked to involve themselves in many activities. We are counseled to exercise, cultivate, store, read, pray, fellowship, research, organize, educate, communicate, listen. … The list seems endless at times—so endless, in fact, that, in spite of the scripture, many of us find ourselves “weary in well-doing.” How, then, do we cope with the overload?
First, we should realize that the injunctions given us are both universal and particular—universal in that these pursuits are worthy of consideration by members of the Church universally; and particular in that they must be responded to by individuals of varying abilities, constraints, and needs.
Our challenge is to decide which of all these possibilities we should focus on right now (keeping in mind that some—like prayer and exercise—are absolutely necessary for our spiritual and physical well-being).
Meeting that challenge is neither simple nor immediate. Each of us must earnestly and honestly evaluate our priorities and our present opportunities for growth and service. Once we have decided what is most important in our lives and what is not so important, we will be able to make wise decisions about how to spend our time. We will also be able to decide how we can best use our unique gifts to bless our own lives and the lives of others.
The scriptures teach us that “to every man is given a gift,” but that not all have the same gifts. (See D&C 46:11.) Some members feel that they must involve themselves in every good effort and work for every gift; but such an attitude will usually result in paralyzing frustration. I like to think that there is a selective process in creating a life and a life’s work that is analagous to creating a beautiful painting. Since trees are so majestic, I must have one in my painting; and who could leave out the mystery of fog, the texture of pearls, the sinewy torso of lion, the luminous emerald green of meadow after rain, the iridescence of goldfish, the vermillion of sky at twilight, the encircling arm of a mother? With so much beauty and goodness, I cannot fail to create a perfect work of art—and all within one frame! “Overload” works no better in life than it does in art.
Zubin Mehta, the brilliant conductor of the New York Philharmonic Orchestra, was once asked how he handled the complex demands on his time and talents. He responded that for him it was necessary to limit his focus to just two areas: his work and his family. Though he enjoyed sports and had many other interests, he found that it was essential, if he were to survive artistically and personally, that he resist fragmenting his energies. Like a composer, he has selected two or three controlling “melodies” and is building, not a symphony, but his life around them.
Too many of us contend with the paradox created when we try to be perfect in all things immediately. For while we seek perfection, we disperse our energies so broadly as to preclude excellence. We must realize that perfection is a matter of selection and focus and must be determined on an individual basis within a broad range of choices. How we work on a particular talent or capacity, and when, is largely a matter of personal, responsible, realistic choice.
Often, our dilemma is in deciding which of all the suggestions we face are in fact requirements to be acted upon by everyone immediately and which are suggestions to be implemented as it is appropriate by each individual as he applies his differences, background, and circumstances. Given that there are choices to be made and that our accountability is associated with them (remember the Parable of the Talents), it behooves each of us to carefully and prayerfully analyze our challenges and opportunities and then be guided by the Spirit in pursuing the activities that are needful now in our lives.