Lessons from the Trail: Desire and Effort


Last week the marriage counselor gave LG and I a big challenge that we’ve been trying to acheive. LG is to be in charge and do everything that I normally do and I am supposed to learn how to quit being in charge and follow LG in a support role. When she gave us the assignment last week I lamented, “You don’t understand, I don’t do well when things go wrong. You just upped the possibility of things going awry by about 400%.” She understands perfectly. She’s good at what she does. She wants to help me learn to let go and stop trying to control everything and she also wants to help LG to conquer his fear of screwing up which I have exacerbated for 16 years.

She explained, “Alice, you will be fine. Just remember you can’t judge people by outcome, you have to judge solely on the principles of desire and effort.”  “If LeGrand goes to the store and brings home all the wrong stuff, just know it isn’t the end of the world. He can fix it. He can return whatever was too expensive. When he gets home with not even one thing that was on the list, you can be happy because he has the desire to partner with you and he made the effort to do it. ” I tried to breathe. She was totally right, but for some weird reason, I have the hardest time letting people make mistakes. I’m still trying to understand it, but I committed to do better even without the wisdom of understanding my irrationality. I took out a pen from my purse and wrote the words DESIRE and EFFORT in about a 34 font on my left hand. I needed all the help I could get to remember, especially when things went wrong.

So, all this was on my mind as I headed out onto the trail on my bike yesterday. With the ink residuals on my hand, I could no longer read the words but I had memorized them after a few days. I watched the other people on the trail, like I always do. I was in the middle ground of cyclists. I have a mountain bike that I push to the max. I do about twelve miles per hour and get a good workout aiming for at least 15 miles per ride. I am always somewhat astounded when the “real” cyclists go whizzing past me with their fancy road-bikes and padded shorts with matching bike jerseys. They must be doing about twenty-five mph.  I off-set my disappointment in my slower self by passing up the even slower more relaxed riders on beach cruisers and tandems.

It couldn’t have hit me harder yesterday if it was an alien ship landing right on top of me. Everyone on the trail, no matter what their speed or clothing or bike or size had a desire to ride. And if they were on the trail, they had put forth the effort.

We were all winning! No judgement needed. We were all riding. We all had desire and we all had put in different levels of effort. Yes, some of us had a much greater ability (WHY CAN’T I HAVE THE GREATEST ABILITY?) but we were equal in desire and had all exerted effort. Yeah for us!

Now if I can just translate this lesson from the trail onto things more personal I know I will be much happier. Others’ cycling abilities don’t really personally affect me, but when they don’t remember to take out the trash it does. I am still trying to figure out how to handle those more personal moments of disappointment. How do you give someone an A for effort when they forget and there really was no effort at all? I guess at that point I should just hand out an A for desire and give the ADHD members of my family some serious grace.

Some scriptures on desire and effort.

Yea, in the way of thy judgments, O Lord, have we waited for thee; the desire of our soul is to they name, and to the remembrance of thee. ~ Isaiah 26:8

As newborn babes, desire the sincere milk of the word, that we may grow thereby ~ 1Peter2:2

Some Mormon doctrine for my LDS friends.

Behold, I speak unto all who have good desires, and have thrust in the their sickle to reap. Behold, I am Jesus Christ, the Son of God. I am the life and the light of the world. I am the same who came unto mine own and mine own received me not. But verily, verily, I say unto you, that as many as receive me, to them will I give power to become the sons of God, even to them that believe in my name. Amen.  ~Doctrine and Covenants 11: 27

And it is requisite with the justice of God that men should be judged according to their works; and if their works were good in this life, and the desires of their hearts were good, that they should also, at the last day, be restored unto that which is good. ~ Alma 41:3

Here is some good food for thought I just enjoyed on the subject of desire. And here is an address by the intellectually advanced Neal Maxwell.