New beginnings: Now is A Great Time to Start Your 40 Day Journey

Posted on February 16, 2010

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Just get started

Happy Mardi Gras/Carnival everyone!  Eat, drink, and be merry, for tomorrow we . . . reflect (?)

For anyone unfamiliar with its significance, Mardi Gras  is the Tuesday before the beginning of Lent.  And for Christians, Lent is the 40 days before Easter, our opportunity to prepare the way, to reflect, to pray and to draw closer to God.  I love to think of Lent as another chance for a fresh start.  People who observe Lent might give up sweets or meat or alcohol during this time – or take on a positive habit, like praying or meditating.  I see similarities between Lent and the Muslim observance of Ramadan, which is also a period of reflection leading up to a celebration.

Well, whether you are Christian or not, why not use this time to draw closer to your own divinity?  If your New Year’s goals and resolutions have fallen by the wayside – hey, start fresh tomorrow.  You can do anything for 40 days.  Why not dedicate the next 40 days to making your life meaningful or joyful or generous?  Here’s one approach:

  1. Choose your intention.  Will you walk every day?  Will you focus on your food and appreciate its nutrition and taste?  How about saying a quick prayer every day?  Will you give up a vice?  Or will you do one small thing to get closer to your calling?  You decide how to make this time meaningful for yourself – and you also get to decide what behavior you’ll credit.
  2. Print out your calendar for the next 40 days.
  3. At the end of every day, give yourself credit (a check mark or happy face or gold star on top of the current day) for performing your intention.  Be generous in giving yourself credit.  If you get to the end of a day and you haven’t done anything to observe your intention, figure out some 5 minute quickie that will meet the spirit of your goal.  Didn’t eat healthy?  Have a glass of water or  a piece of fruit before bed – and give yourself a check mark.  Watch those marks pile up!
  4. At then end of every week or 10 days, look back at how you did.  Did you get a check every day?  Celebrate!  Give yourself some little treat (even better, write down what treat you’re going to give yourself at every week/10 day milestone BEFORE you  start)  Did you forget on some days?  It’s ok!  Try to figure out what went wrong.  Overwhelmed?  Maybe you can scale back your intention or break it down into smaller chunks.  Just plain forgot?  Try tying your new behavior to something you know you will do every day.  For example, if you want to read more good books, tell yourself you’ll just do it for 15 or 20 minutes after you brush your teeth.
  5. Repeat steps 3 and 4 until you reach the end of your 40 days.  How did it go?

Remember: pick an intention that means something to YOU.  This means, don’t pick something you ‘should’ do or pick what everyone else is doing.  Imagine yourself reaching the end of the 40 days having successfully acted on your intention – even in a small way – every day.  What goal, fulfilled, would fill your heart with joy?  THAT’s the goal you want to focus on for the next 40 days.

For people who DO observe Lent and associate it with giving up sweets, chocolate, alcohol, etc., think!  Did giving up things in the past make you feel closer to God?  Maybe it’s time to try DOING something for Lent, rather than giving something up.  Can you brown bag your lunch and give the money you saved to a local food bank?  Can you decide to pray every day?  Lots of paths to try.

For me: I have been mulling over writing a collection of short stories based on the New Testament.  There is some great storytelling fodder in that book.  So I might try writing a short story every day during Lent.  Unless I chicken out (that’s a lot of stories to churn out!).

Whatever you do, have a great 40 days.

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