Catholic tradition sets aside the 40 days prior to Easter as a period of prayer, penance, and repentance. I typically head into Lent like most Catholics do, having chosen a couple of sacrifices that will fulfill my obligations and remind me of the reason for the season.
This year I chose to do something different.
I applied lessons I’ve learned through my business experience to Lent. Instead of giving up coffee, dessert, or some other nicety, I challenged myself to strategically define Lenten sacrifice to ensure that it had a real impact on my life.
Here are a few tips that may help make your Lent a little more powerful.
In business, I start every planning effort by listening to others. If it’s annual planning, I am deliberate about meeting with clients, employees, and third parties. I want to hear what people say about the business. I want to have an open mind. It’s silly to build a plan in a vacuum.
In my spiritual life, it’s important to do the same. Spend time in prayer asking God to enlighten your mind and give you insights into your life that you may not have. Talk to your spouse. Do you have a spiritual director or accountability partner? Talk to them about how you’re doing. In all cases, be truly open to the feedback you receive.
Analyze the Current State
In business, I am deliberate about making sense of the feedback I receive. After being out in the market, I typically sit our leadership team down together to perform a SWOT analysis (Strengths, Weaknesses, Opportunities and Threats).
By identifying the current state of both the business (Strengths and Weaknesses) and the market (Opportunities and Threats), I am more prepared for the actual planning exercise. I double down on my strengths, resolve the most glaring and impactful weaknesses, and look to take advantage of opportunities while mitigating the risks.
Why doesn’t it make sense to do the same thing in my personal life? It does! By having my strengths and weaknesses at the forefront of my mind and knowing both the opportunities and challenges that I am going to encounter over the next years, I am able to plan my Lent more strategically to ensure that my penitential sacrifices actually propel me forward towards the man I want to be.
Before you get tactical, get strategic. Choose a handful of strengths you want to double down on or weaknesses you want to improve. In doing so, consider the opportunities and threats that might have the biggest impact on your life. From these, define the outcomes you’re looking for and a path for getting there.
What does success look like? What is the best approach for getting from your current state to that ultimate outcome? Chart your course.
Perhaps you feel as though it would be beneficial to enhance your prayer life. What does that look like? Are you looking to develop a healthy habit of daily prayer? Perhaps you want to integrate your prayer life more fully into the everyday aspects of your life. Or maybe you are looking to deepen the quality of your Mass attendance.
All of these can lead to an enhanced prayer life, but, you need to define which approach would be best for you and aligns with your success metrics.
Set the Plan
Tactics should always fall out from the strategy. Once you define the strategy, define the tactics. This is where you finally get to the point of developing the specific actions that you will take. Just as in business, the purpose is to propel you forward in your strategy, not to do things for their own sake.
In other words, don’t be afraid to throw out the old standbys – giving up chocolate is great, if you’re working on generosity and have chosen self-denial as your strategy. But it might not help much if you’re working on developing your prayer life.
Be strategic and think outside of the box. Taking the time to plan your Lent will lead to a productive Lent rather than a Lent that simply checks the box.