In many ways, playing basketball was great preparation for my mission. It taught me the importance of practice, working with teammates, taking instruction from coaches, dealing with adversity, knowing what to do when I feel like quitting, and how to overcome challenges on and off the court. I know not all young men and women have the opportunity to learn what I did from basketball, but you can take experiences from other things and have them apply in the same way.
Here are five suggestions that might help in preparing for a mission.
1. Cultivate experiences with the Spirit in your life. Find a way to experience the Holy Ghost, to recognize His influence, feel His promptings, and understand how the Spirit operates. The thoughts that come from the Holy Ghost are different than those that come from Satan. You need to be able to feel the Holy Ghost, trust Him, and know who He is so He can guide you.
2. Practice living right. If you do not discipline yourself to obey rules, commandments, and guidelines before a mission, you will struggle to do so as a missionary. In basketball, if you don’t practice dribbling, in a game, you can easily have the ball stolen or lose control of it. It’s the same thing in life. Learn to pray and listen for answers. Prayer is a fundamental action of those who seek God and desire to teach His word.
3. Learn everything you can. Don’t wait for a mission to study the gospel and learn about the plan of salvation, the Atonement, forgiveness, faith, and the history of the Restoration. Start now, today; decide this moment that you will be prepared. Go to seminary, listen to instructors, take notes, start a journal, mark your scriptures. Knowledge is power. Study as many topics as you can in school, ask experts questions, and find answers.
4. Experience life. You need as many life experiences as you can get to help you grow and relate to others. Go kayaking, climb a mountain, read good books, work for somebody, earn a paycheck, save money, gather fast offerings, visit the sick and needy, become an expert at doing chores. On a mission, you work hard. You meet people and you need to be able to talk to them. Some do this easily, others coast by, some fight against it. Don’t waste opportunities.
5. Apply yourself. If you have a job, do it well. I’m still mad at myself for not applying myself every day of my life before my mission. I missed out on meeting and making more friends in high school. I should have been talking to a lot more people and making many more friends. I wish I had. Find your strengths and use them; discover your weaknesses and conquer them.