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Opinion: Why 'give up' for Lent? Better to set some solid goals

Lent may be the season of giving up, but a more positive approach would help you succeed, writes Barbara Edwards.

Barbara Edwards

LENT HAS STARTED and whether you are invested in the religious aspects of this time or not, lots of people are in the ‘giving up’ frame of mind when it comes to sweets, tobacco, alcohol, technology and many more.

While the lenten phase can be helpful for enabling people to get motivated to lose the weight, get to the gym, cut down on whatever they feel they’ve had too much of, personally, I prefer not to use the phrase ‘giving up’, as you’re immediately on the back foot. I would rather look at the positive of what it is I’m trying to achieve.

What is my end goal?

Take food for example. Lots of people decide to cut out sweets and treats for Lent because they may want to shift a few pounds. They head into the season with the statement of “I’m not eating sweet things and I’m going to lose weight”.

But already that statement contains two challenges – not eating sweet things and the weight loss element. So, what happens?

Well, because they are now focused on all the things they can’t have, the goal (in this case losing weight) is the furthest thing from their mind.

90136303 Pancake Day. Kieran Doherty from Monkstown prepares pancakes at the Blackrock Superquinn for customers getting ready for Lent. Photo. Mark Stedman/RollingNews.ie Source: Mark Stedman/Photocall Ireland

But what would happen if you said to yourself “I’m going to create new habits for myself for Lent”. How much more positive would you feel? You don’t even have to have a long list of changes you want to make, just one is fine. Would you face your goal with feelings of dread and negativity?

Or would you see it as a more doable exercise? The language we use to ourselves and about ourselves impacts how we feel about ourselves.

With this in mind, and helping you focus on the positives of your Lenten challenge, my tip is to ask yourself the following questions:

What do I want to achieve?

  • How will I know if I’ve achieved it? (maybe wearing a particular outfit is your goal)
  • What obstacles could prevent me from succeeding?
  • Am I motivated enough?
  • Do I have support around me to achieve this?
  • Will I notice the benefit?

Answer these on a sheet and put it where you can see it regularly, this is a vision board of text, although, you could also answer these by using images too. Visual aids like these can really assist the brain when it comes to imprinting a new idea.

The important thing is to see it regularly as it creates a visual representation of what you are trying to achieve. There’s no point creating a beautiful looking sheet on your computer if you never look at it again. 

It helps keeps your brain become more focused, with a positive mindset. After all, this is your personal roadmap.

shutterstock_355333868 Setting goals, in a visual way, can really help. Source: Shutterstock/marekuliasz

Habits are hard to break

Using Lent as a time to start a new habit or stop something you wish to stop can be a little like new year’s resolutions on 1 January. We can fall flat as quickly as we set our intentions.

Breaking old habits and creating new ones is not always easy, but it is doable if you can get yourself into the right mindset. Break your goal down into manageable bite-size chunks –instead of saying “I need to lose 10lb” and feeling deflated, set yourself a 2lb challenge by five times.

If you think of your goal as a book, it’ll contain chapters where each chapter is a different element, phase or stage ultimately culminating in the result, ie, the last chapter.

Remember – Rome wasn’t built in a day!

These things take time, and every now and again we can slip back into old ways. But even if this happens, don’t give up. We learn by our mistakes and pick up where we left off.

Just remember: Break your goal down into manageable pieces and acknowledge your success along the way. We are only human at the end of the day.

Barbara Edwards is a Coach & Mentor in Co Donegal offering 1-1 and online consultations. Barbara can be contacted at info@becoached.ie or via her site www.becoached.ie

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Barbara Edwards

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