What’s up, readers? I’m Samuel, Community Director and Co-Founder of Undergrad Success. My column will run each Thursday until you get sick of seeing it…and then it’ll run every Tuesday and Thursday.
I couldn’t decide on which article I wanted to post today. (Yes, I’ve been writing while we were away.) Because I couldn’t decide, I wrote something brand new and time sensitive. If you don’t have time to check in with us every day, check out our Newsletter. It’s brand new and we’ll deliver the weekly updates straight to your inbox. Don’t like what we have to say and you can unsubscribe just as quickly as it’ll take you to type in your first name and email. Enjoy!
Lent? Let’s just practice self-control.
I don’t participate in organized religion, which means I’m not an expert on the topic of Lent. From what I understand, (please, correct me if I’m wrong), it is the 40 days prior to Easter, starting yesterday, in which those observing this time fast for the 40 days to simulate Christ’s 40 days and 40 nights of temptation by Satan.
Growing up, I was raised Methodist. Not many of my friends knew what this meant. I always said that if Lutherans were lazy Catholics, then Methodists were lazy Lutherans. We only took Communion on the first Sunday of each month. We never prayed to the Rosary, but Lent always seemed to be something my Sunday school teachers would be up in arms about. “YOU HAVE TO GIVE UP SOMETHING!” Maybe, I’m exaggerating. They didn’t yell.
So, what did I do? I gave up pizza…or something trivial. I guess you could say I didn’t exactly take it very seriously. Well, I was a kid…so pizza was sort of a big deal. Yesterday, our Facebook/Twitter timelines were cluttered with Lent statuses and tweets. Some were serious…others were jokes…e.g. ”The Pope gave up for Lent.”
Anyway. As I’ve grown older, I started using the 40 days of Lent as an excuse a reason to work on forming a new habit, breaking a bad habit, or just getting out of my comfort zone for 40 days. I started with saying hello to strangers I passed, quitting my junk food addictions (only curbed that 80% of the time), and getting to the gym. I didn’t always succeed, but last year, I finally 100% stuck to my “sacrifice.” I promised to give up on sweatpants.
Sweatpants? Yes. Sweatpants.
This should come as no surprise to any of my real-life friends or those of you whom I’m a friend with on Facebook/Twitter; I quasi-rant about this all the time. I vowed to stop wearing sweatpants outside of my apartment (unless going to/coming from the gym) for 40 straight days. This was sort of a big step for me at the time. I wasn’t nearly the fashionista I am now—and on top of that—I had a bad habit of waking up 15-minutes before my first class.
The first several days were tough. I was no longer able to completely disregard my clothes for the day, AND I had to get up earlier to shower and change. Yeah, I was a mess. Fast forward to the end of Lent and I had completely revamped myself. I was starting my day earlier. I was eating breakfast every day. And I was dressing better. I was walking with more confidence, because I didn’t feel like a schlub on MWF—and people were noticing. Needless to say, I still maintain the no sweatpants rule.
I set out on those 40 days to accomplish one thing…40 times. And my goal was a resounding success—and I vow to make this year no different. I’m already on a pretty solid workout schedule. I eat well 80% of the time. I read 5 nights per week. I feel set. So, I’m headed back to my attire.
I’m vowing to never leave the house in a t-shirt for the next 39 days. Unless going to/coming from the gym, my shirt must have a collar. Exceptions will be made if I’m wearing a blazer/sport coat.
Yesterday was my first day.
I’m doing this because I like the idea of participating in something that practices self-discipline—and I enjoy looking stylish. At surface level, not wearing a collared-shirt outside the house seems a little mundane—or maybe a little insane—depending on your viewpoint. Regardless, I can count 7 days last year when I remember dressing poorly and meeting someone I would deem…”more important” than the average Joe. That’s why I’m doing it. Why should you be participating? And more importantly…
…what does participating in Lent have to do with being successful?
I’ll tell you. Bottom line: those people who practice self and personal improvement will continue to beat out those who don’t…in jobs, in school, and in life. Lent is the perfect opportunity for you to set a personal improvement goal. Many people focus on the negative aspect of these 40 days, i.e. giving something up. Let’s do something positive. Let’s do something so that when Easter rolls around, we feel like a better and more disciplined person having done it. Let’s go get something.
Here are some of my more successful goals I’ve had in past years:
- Read 30-minutes per day — Reading is yoga for the mind and for the soul. You’ll not only be amazed at how many books you read in 40 days, but you’ll astounded by the thoughts that begin to flow through your head. It’s like a jump-start to get the creative juices flowing. Might I recommend Blink by Malcolm Gladwell…that will start you off nicely!
- Give up processed foods — Yes, give them up. They’re bad for you, anyway. Ditch the soda. Throw away the Doritos. And put the damn Snicker’s bar down. When I bid my 80% farewell to processed foods, I started eating Greek yogurt, strawberries, blueberries, macadamia nuts, and almonds for substitute snacks. You’ll feel more energized and you might shed some unwanted weight in the process—and by “might” I mean, you definitely will. Thank me later for this one.
- Begin a workout plan — Listen, I’ve been there and done that with most workouts. I’ve completed 2 rounds of P90X mixed with Insanity. I’ve tried body-weight only workouts. I’ve hit the treadmill, the elliptical, the bike, you name it. The most important thing I’ve learned is this: the more realistic your workout plan, the better the chance you have of forming a new habit and working this into your lifestyle long after Lent ends. Shoot for 3-days per week for about 100-150-min total. This doesn’t mean go in there and screw around with your friends. Get in there and get some work done.
- Choose your own — If none of these goals appeal to you, think up one of your own. The stipulation is that it must be aimed at personal development, whether it be in your professional, personal, or academic life. Don’t give up something trivial like Facebook and then spend it on Twitter. The point is to give up something to do something more important and beneficial.
Remember: these are only suggestions. Ultimately, it will boil down to our idiosyncratic tendencies. Whatever your excuses are, stop making them for 40 days. Most people aren’t going to be doing anything, so revel in the empowerment that you’re bettering your life while others veg out on the couch eating the food you just threw out. You can make your goals known to your friends—or you can keep them internal. I always find there is extra accountability in shelving some of that personal burden with a friend who can be there to give you a little extra kick in the ass when you need it.
In the meantime, talk with me on Twitter. I’ll give you the advice you need to hear 😉 And if you want a little accountability, leave your goals in the comments below.
See you next, Thursday.