Give Up the Routine and Predictable for Lent – Give Up On Giving Up

Lent, in the Christian calendar is marked by prayer, penance, repentance, charity andself-denial, for forty days leading to up Easter. It is usually summed up in the phrase ‘giving up something for Lent’,  and is often seen as a test of will-power. However, there is more than one way to ‘give up’ and make sacrifices. So if we consider Lent from a secular, personal development angle, you don’t have to be religious to observe lent.

One aspect of prayer is about giving thanks and practising gratitude. So over, the next 40 days, take a moment each day to take stock and be thankful what the things, situations, opportunities and people in your life. To help, here’s a link to my Gratitude and Anticipation Experiment. Another aspect of prayer is giving time to reflect quietly, so you could also include 40 days of meditation, for a couple of minutes, three times a day. Try my Two-Minute Stress Buster and give up on stress.

Penance and repentance are about facing up to mistakes and seeking forgiveness. So use the next 40 days to build bridges with people and put things right. Also, spend the next 40 days forgiving people whom you feel have wronged you. Sometimes we hold on to past hurts and don’t allow ourselves to move on. Also, spend the next 40 days giving up on collecting new hurts. Start by forgiving yourself. Give up on beating yourself up about past mistakes. Give up on holding on to the past. Give up on that inner-self talk that puts you down.

Charity involves giving something to others. It’s easy to give money (when you have it to spare), but more difficult to actually give time. It doesn’t have to be a grand gesture. So, over the next 40 days you could do a random of act of kindness each day.

Self-denial is what is most associated with Lent, but need not be about giving up our favourite treats. Instead, think about giving up routine by trying something new. We often get stuck in a rut, so use the next 40 days to deny ourselves that ‘luxury’. Opt for novelty over familiarity. Increase variety of the foods. Get more exercise. Read a book or start learning a new language. Deny the part of the self that likes to get stuck in a routine. Give up on saying ‘that’s just the way I am‘.

Think of any aspect of your life or self that you’d like to develop such as confidence, social skills or self-esteem. Give up on the feelings that are holding you back and take the first steps to try the very things you’d like to do. Give up on excuses.

At the start of the 40 day experiment, rate your happiness on a scale of zero to ten. Rate your life satisfaction and also optimism of the same zero to ten scale. At then end of the 40 days, rate your happiness, life satisfaction and optimism again. What’s changed. Is there any thing that you’d tried during the 40 day experiment that you’d like to continue doing?

Give up on giving up. . . but not just for Lent.

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2 Metaphors for Learning: The Baby and the Fly

Let’s consider two role models for your learning and  personal development: the baby and the fly. Now I’m going to start by assuming that you have more in common with a baby than a common house fly, or at least I hope you have.

The Baby
Babies learn to work by trial and error. It makes an attempt to walk but quickly topples over and lands on it’s butt! The shock may make the baby cry but what does it do? Give up, try exactly the same again or try something slightly different? Well by this time the baby has a working hypothesis of what’s working and what isn’t based on feedback of previous butt-floor encounters. Baby may decide to shift weight a little in one direction, do a slightly different thing with the arms and so on. The original plan stays pretty much the same after all it did resulting in standing an a first step. After that it’s a cause of  using a continual improvement approach. Sometimes progress is slow but nevertheless it keeps going forward: try-think-tweak-try-think-tweak-try!

Now let’s consider the fly.

The Fly
Imagine there’s a fly in you house. (If that offends you then imagine it’s in my house). Not being blessed with such a sophisticated processing system, the fly thinks that if it can see through a window, then it must be able to fly through a window. Of course, it collides with the window, over and over again. Unlike the baby, the fly doesn’t reflect but continues to head-butt the glass, even though there may be an open window close by. The fly doesn’t see the opportunities or look for solutions other than ‘persistence pays’. And yes, full marks to both the fly and the baby for persistence, but bonus marks to the baby for using the feedback and knowing to adjust the plan and trying something different. What we need is persistence in formed by feedback with an eye on opportunities viewed through ‘solution-focused’ lenses.

Now, human being are much smarter than flies. Just compare diets for a start. However, sometimes in moments of blinkered persistence we behave like the fly or else give up altogether. Babies are like little scientists performing experiments and that’s how they manage to learn so much in short a short space of time.

Babies learn; flies use your food as their lavatory. What do you want as your role model?


[Adapted from Don’t Wait For Your Ship To Come In. . . Swim Out To Meet It]

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Experiments in Personal Development: Feedback Not Failure!

All too often we don’t chase our goals through fear of failure. Sometimes we feel its easier to spare the disappointment by not trying at all. However this approach is based on a faulty assumption that when things don’t work out the first time it is failure. However more often than not it’s not failure at all. It’s feedback!

As infants learning to walk you didn’t give up the first time your butt hit the floor. Rather, you sat there thought about it a while and tried again. More importantly you tried something slightly different until you found something that worked. You learned from the mistakes and built on your successes.  Now just think of the amazing capacity for learning that we have as babies. As adults we kind of forget the ‘feedback not failure‘ approach and as a result we miss opportunities to learn.

As a coach, I use the concept of ‘personal experiments‘ which offers my clients a low-threat strategy for pursuing their goals. So, if you want to make a life change,  tackle it as a personal experiment. Try the first step as a personal experiment. Try it on for size and get some feedback. If it works out, that’s great. Move onto stage two. However if it doesn’t quite work out, then use the feedback to adjust your plan. What do you need to do slightly differently to get closer to the result you’re looking for? It’s not a ‘one-shot deal’, it’s a process. So, repeat this process, just as you used to do as a child.

As you can see, with this approach there is no intrinsic sense of failure. It’s all feedback and nothing to fear.

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Don’t Wait For Your Ship To Come In. . . Swim Out To Meet It

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