After New Year’s, New Orleanians get a second shot when it comes to general improvement of the self every year. It’s what you might call the bonus (or curse?) of celebrating Carnival in a deeply Catholic city.
It’s called Lent. And what started as a rejection of earthly pleasures to seek the divine has become a grab bag for false-started New Year’s resolutions. While folks who don’t observe Lent aim to keep up a year-long commitment thanks to those pesky resolutions, some of us only have to stick it out for 40 days. Score!
But can you do it in a city dedicated to debauchery? Keep an eye out for these five bumps on your path to progress.
1. A Vague Resolution
The first Lent-breaker isn’t an obvious one. You want to make a SMART resolution, not a stupid one. See, SMART is actually an acronym credited to a management guy named Peter Drucker, and it stands for Smart, Measurable, Assignable, Realistic, and Time-Specific.
“I give up sweets for Lent,” doesn’t achieve any of those descriptors. It’s way too vague. For example, relatively healthy stuff like fruit can be sweet. There’s also no deadline. It’s like you’re setting yourself up to fail on this one.
So if giving up sweets is your thing, aim for something more like: “I’ll refrain from eating candy during Lent and will only indulge in one chocolate bar on Fridays between Ash Wednesday and Easter.” Write it down. Make it your ringtone. Make it your mantra.
Then you can make it happen.
2. St. Patty’s Day and Other Shenanigans
Throw a rock on any day in the city and you’ll likely hit a festival or a parade or something. (Don’t actually throw rocks at parades. It’s frowned upon in polite society.) New Orleans is a party town. Period. And the city won’t freeze while you go about doing your Lent thing. Never forget that events like the St. Patrick’s Day parade will be the bane of your existence if you’ve forsworn booze for a fortnight. Avoiding environments that run contrary to your commitment is applause worthy, but sometimes you’ll just have to grin and bear it as flying cabbages and smiling faces tempt you into breaking your pact with yourself.
Consider a goal with all that in mind.
3. Family and Close Friends
Your mom and ‘em will be rooting for you … right up until they don’t. In our relationships, we often play roles. You might be the indulgent spouse who eats everything put on the table. Or perhaps you’re beer bro’s with your best bud who always buys the first round. The ones you love may hit back against your goal if it threatens their status quo. Whether it’s quiet avoidance or deliberate sabotage … it’s easy to fail prey when your friends play cat to your mouse.
Don’t get caught up in other people’s issues when it comes to your own well being (That’s why you’ve made your resolution, right?). Find the friends and family who want to help you on your journey. Make some new friends if need be. But never let someone else walk your path for you. Too often, you’ll find yourself lost.
4. Dwelling on Mistakes
Ah, you screwed up. Perhaps you overslept and missed your date with the treadmill. Perhaps a long lunch meeting drove you to some fast food drive-thru drama. It’s tempting to make one slip-up an excuses to give up completely. You see, that Catholic guilt is part of the standard Lent package, and failing is human. And if Lent is meant to remind us anything, it’s that we are beings born to fail. It’s what we do once we fail that shapes how awesome we can become. So cut yourself a small degree of slack when it comes to slip-ups.
Better yet: Make sure to build it into your SMART goal!
Let’s be honest. It’s not the goal, atmosphere or characters in your life that will most likely lead to your Lent Fail. It’s probably going to be you. We know there’s another Mardi Gras coming around again. That means another Lent and another shot at getting it right. When we live with the “certainty” there will always be another day, we often fail to seize the one we’re living in.
But nothing is certain, and finding the motivation to reach your goals is up to you.
Own these 40 days. Make them yours and yours alone. Fill them with things that will build YOU up and embrace every hour. Who knows? After 40 days, you might like that feeling of self-empowerment and want more. And if you need an extra hand when it comes to committing yourself towards the best you you can be, check out this list of mobile apps designed to help you reach your goals.
Matthew Davis is a Marketing Producer for FOX8.