Thursday, April 2, 2015

The Power of Lent & Other Habit-forming Rituals

Did you give up something for lent?

You know this custom in many religions that tasks a person with giving up something for 40 days?

You often hear of folks who gave up soda or chocolate, then there's coffee and cursing. Lots of goodies to say goodbye to momentarily so Jesus (or your equivalent) is pleased. Now, I don't mean to come off as facetious. Truth be told giving anything up as a sacrifice is in and of itself noble.

However, someone wise once told me that you should never aim to give up something insignificant that you'll quickly gorge on when the first chance appears. For instance, you give up chocolate for 40 days and on day 41 practically overdose on mini kit-kat and twix bars, yea that wasn't very sacrificial or positively habit-forming. In that moment of chocolate binging all sacrifice is lost and your best chance of forming a new and better life habit is headed right down the drain. 

The true power of lent, New Years resolutions and other habit-forming journies is to actually "sacrifice" or better yet create a new, positive life habit. This year my family took this exact approach and lent has been extremely powerful because of it.

Here's the breakdown:

As a family we could only have dinner out on Saturdays during lent. This was amazing. Now the kids are a custom to eating family dinner at home and greatly look forward to family meals out on Saturdays. We pulled this off and in turn got back to the best habit of having nightly family dinners at home. At this point we pray, eat and share our days. It may sound simple enough, but for our busy family eating on-the-go and out of fast food paper bags was slowly becoming our norm. This habit needed to be reversed and lent was the perfect time to do so.

Next, I personally gave up not going to church. Follow me here. I didn't sacrifice anything. What I did was reengage and renew my commitment to church. We've been all five weeks so far and there's no stopping us now. This habit is reformed and with it came many blessings. So many profound things resulted out of faithfully attending church every Sunday of lent. This may not be as important to your family, but find a ritual that is. Family rituals can be bonding experiences that keep you connected and present.

Finally, my husband gave up a ton of things over lent... a ton. He did amazing too. And what was the big deal there? His example. Our children saw how committed he was for 40 days and this impacts their ability to commit, sacrifice and grow. One such goal was my husband's ability to be physically active and fit for 40 straight days. So much so our kids often ask "Where's Dad... Gym or Work?" Our kids expect a father who is hard working, physically active and so many other great things all based on his ability to maintain good habits. Plus, he's one hot hubby, such a win-win!

Now you don't need lent to rev up good habit building routines. Pick your own time frame, set up your own personal and family goals, then stick to it. Soon enough habits are formed and benefits you couldn't even imagine come to be.

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