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Rise to the challenge: Building new habits during Lent

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Daniel Esparza - published on 02/14/24

The fruits of Lent can last a lifetime, yet only if we transform Lenten challenges into habits. In fact, the season implies building positive habits that enrich our lives all year long.

Yes, this is yet another article on Lent – the season in which we all inevitably try to take the next step towards a radical transformation of ourselves. And whereas we have all had some pretty successful Lenten seasons, it is also true that growth is a slow, most of the time invisible, process. The good thing is that the fruits of Lent can last a lifetime, yet only if we transform Lenten challenges into habits. In fact, the season implies building positive habits that enrich our lives all year long. It might sound naïve to some, but a “Good Habits Challenge” can be a fun and engaging way to do just that, individually or as a family.

Step 1: Choose your focus

What areas of your life do you wish (or need) to improve? Consider these examples:

Spiritual habits: Reading Scripture daily, participating in prayer groups – maybe even attending weekly Mass again?

Personal growth: Practicing gratitude, spending time in nature, catching up with readings or personal formation.

Family values: Sharing family meals, engaging in acts of service together, having regular prayer time – or simply being there for your family can be a big change for some.

Step 2: Designate the challenge

Decide on the duration (weekly, monthly, the entire Lent) and choose the level of commitment. Will you try one new habit, or tackle several? Make sure to keep it achievable to avoid discouragement.

Woman with dark hair writing down a note

Step 3: Make it engaging

Visualize your goals: You can easily create some sort of Habit Tracker, a checklist of sorts that helps you see how far you’ve gone – I often write down how many pages have I read per week, or how many miles I’ve jogged.  

Buddy up: Team up with family members or friends for support and accountability. Sharing some goals with your kids can be pretty cool, as a different way of bonding. Some friends of mine have decided, for example, to learn how to skate with their kids. And whereas this might not exactly look like a Lenten resolution, what is important is that they learned to give up on some unnecessary tasks to do things that have a very different value: spending time together with their family. That way, you can celebrate milestones together.

Get creative: Reward yourselves for each week of dedication with small treats – movie nights, perhaps?

Again, involve the kids: Adapt your own challenges to their age and interests. Create fun activities around the habits. It is impressive how performing acts of kindness together can build character.

Step 4: Embrace flexibility

Life throws curveballs. A lot of those. If you miss a day or struggle, don’t get discouraged. Adapt, forgive yourself, and recommit to your goal.

Step 5: Beyond Lent

Remember, habits take time to solidify. Lent is a unique springboard that allows us to incorporate positive changes into our regular routines.

You can (and should) seek inspiration from Catholic resources: saints’ stories, Scripture verses, or your favorite spiritual readings. If you have none, ask your spiritual director. If you don’t have a spiritual director, well, find one – as part of your challenge.

In short, this Lent, don’t just give up on things, but add some others instead. Challenge yourself to gain something meaningful: the enduring practice of good habits that uplift your life and strengthen your faith.

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