Doing What’s Needed

yourLDSneighborhood News for Wednesday, 5 October, 2011


Doing the Best We Can With What We Don’t Know

by Marie Ricks

Are we always sure of what we’re going to do? Do we have doubts about our abilities?

Do we feel trapped sometimes, not knowing where to go or what to do?


I would like to propose that one of  life’s laws is that we are consistently in need of doing that we don’t know how to do and are expected to make some success of it, too.


In my own experience, this has proven true in many season of my life, including when I attended school, as I became employed, when I married, as my children needed parenting, and when I received a new and frightening (at least to me) church calling.


While each situation will bring its own unique challenges, may I suggest some hard-earned lessons that may  benefit  those walking on the path of life?


Learning Curve

There is a period of time after entrance into the new and difficult that is fraught with stress and discomfort.  It comes from at least three sources:  new vocabulary, new relationships, and new discipline.


Let’s use the example of going to school.  No matter the topics you are learning, in a new class there will be discomfort because of the unfamiliar vocabulary and concepts being taught.  In some cases, there will be some familiarity from approaching this topic before, but still there will be terms you don’t know and ideas that are new.


In this case, you will need to slow down and ground yourself by reviewing a dictionary and/or other sources to be able to “talk the talk” of the class.


Second, you will have the tense period where you try to figure out the teacher, and his or her standards of classroom procedure, assignments, and exams.  In this case, it is likely your first assignment and even your first exam will not be your best ones.  This is not because you didn’t study, didn’t read the assignments, and haven’t looked up vocabulary words, but because you don’t yet understand the mentality of the teacher.  The goal here is to survive the first attempt to please the teacher, and learn from what you didn’t do that will please him or her next time.


Third, there will be a new kind of discipline that will enter your life as you learn to listen, comprehend, and learn in shorter and shorter periods of time.  This is necessary because classes always seem to move a bit faster than our initial capacity to grasp the concepts.  The goal here is diligence and repetitive focus on tackling the needs of each class one step at a time, one day at a time.


This learning curve seems to last a long time on your path to competence and is the most frustrating.


Midstream Changes

Another challenge that comes with this life law is that your competence grows and then is challenged by a midstream change.  Again, this comes from three sources:  growth from the outside, growth from the inside, and environmental changes.


Let’s use the example of raising children.  When a child enters your life, no matter his age and the reason he came into your stewardship, there is the initial period of learning to get along, to read each other’s cues, and to nurture sufficiently.


As time passes, you, the child, and your environment will all be modified.  It might be that the child moves into a period of defiance and lying.  It might be that you have discovered you are pregnant again and morning sickness is on the horizon.  It might simply be that the landlord has decided to sell your home and you have thirty days to move.


Such midstream changes throw a wrench into life.  When they are discovered, it is important to adjust as soon as possible to the new scenario.  This is the skill that will allow for an easier transition.


Again, let’s look at our child-raising example.  A child that has begun to lie needs immediate training and correcting.  When will that happen, how often do you plan to reinforce the new principles and what will the consequences be for disobedience?


What about the new pregnancy?  What adjustments will need to come into your routines because of this new dimension?  And, how can you make these adjustments so the most important relationships in your life can be maintained?


Finally, if a move in the works, what preparations will need to happen in your relationships with your family members so they feel safe and secure during the adventure?


Sense of Capacity

While I always yearn for the seasons of my life when I feel a sense of capacity, I’ve lived long enough to know that the top of the mountain has a glorious view, but being there won’t last long.


Let’s use the example of receiving a calling, getting good at it, and then finding ourselves released, and thrust into a new, and often challenging, calling.


When a new calling is issued, there is a period of ineptness.  I’ve learned to be patient with myself during this initial phase of my stewardship.  There will be mistakes, delays, and sometimes hesitation as I become grounded in my responsibilities.


Then there is a season of capacity when I feel comfortable in my calling and more easily able to perform with pacing and security.


However, soon enough there are midstream changes.  Sometimes it is a move upward to new possibilities, like an addition to my visiting teaching route or a move from Relief Society to Primary.  We somehow don’t want things to change when we are comfortable, but still the call comes to cooperate.


Finally, we seem to be finding our pacing and we are able to function at a high level and even train others to have success in their functions under our leadership.  Just when all seems to be working well and we are settled in our roles, our relationships, and our contributions, the capacity peak has been reached and we are thrown again into a season of doing what we don’t know how to do.


So, if we will spend most of our life doing the best we can with what we don’t know, it would be best to be ready.  We must anticipate a season of ineptness as we ground ourselves.  It will be important to plan on midstream changes that will cause upheaval and discontent.  It will be essential not to get too comfortable, for more challenge is inevitably on the horizon.


In the end, this means I must be patient while others function doing the best they can with what they don’t know and hoping they will return the same kindness to me.

Photos used with permission of, plusverde and immrchris.

Marie Ricks is an experienced professional organizer. She loves to conquer clutter and is a nationally recognized author, motivational speaker, and TV/radio guest. An hour with her can improve your skills, giving you 10% more time every day of your life! See for more great help.



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