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46 Days To Discover Your Destination

Compass sitting on a map

Tomorrow is not only Valentine's Day, it's also Ash Wednesday. And in case you are not aware of it, the time between Ash Wednesday and Easter is 46 days, commonly called Lent. These six and a half weeks are a great opportunity to reflect on one's relationship with God.

Many people often use the time of Lent to "give something up" or "add something on." For example, I have a friend who is trying to look at his stock portfolio less. And another friend who is going to read his Bible more regularly. While some people scoff at such resolutions, I don't think that trying to live healthier is such a bad idea. Part of living well is to recognize those attitudes and activities in our lives that are hindering us from making positive progress, and then taking action to address them. If you decide to use Lent to practice living in a healthier or more social way, I say, "more power to you."

If you want to do something for the Lenten season, but don't know what to do, I have a suggestion you might want to consider. And this idea comes from Jesus himself.

Jesus knew his life goal. It was always on his mind. He was singularly intent on his journey to Jerusalem and his salvation of the world. At times he was probably buoyed by it, and at other times it weighed heavily on his spirit; for to accomplish his purpose required that he would need to experience unfathomable suffering. Nevertheless, because he knew his destination, he could endure the rocky paths, the sleepless nights, and the mockery from others. His sense of purpose meant that these things were merely milestones along the way to his destination.

Without purpose, humans are not in motion, instead we are stuck in the moment, "the now." And the now is not a place that sees a need for pain. To settle means we have decided to seek comfort. Pain, in contrast, is something to be avoided.

But of course, sooner or later, suffering finds us. And we feel angry and miserable because of it. For many that misery leads to depression, and for some that depression leads to the abandonment of all hope and ultimately the desire for the end.

The antidote to such nihilism is to set for yourself a life goal and to move towards it. Perhaps this Lenten season you can take some time to consider where it is you want to sail to. No storm is too daunting if by passing through it you get closer to your port of call. My suggestion then, for those of you who are interested, is to choose some time between Valentine's Day and Easter to do the following:

  1. Identify two significant outcomes you want to see happen in your life. Create a short title representing each one and write each title on a sticky note, then place these in a prominent location in your home.

  2. Note the various milestones that will have to take place in order for these outcomes to occur. Write the milestones for each outcome on a single 8.5" x 11" lined paper. Tape each list under each sticky note outcome.

  3. Draw a chronological map of how you can influence and achieve these milestones. Using a blank 8.5" x 11" piece of printer paper, sketch out a timeline and note where all of the milestones will go as they move forward toward each outcome. Both outcomes and their milestones should be on this paper. Put a date next to each milestone. Tape this map drawing above your outcome sticky notes.

  4. List the attitudes and behaviors in your life that have been holding you back from pursuing the outcomes you identified above. Draw an icon or picture on a sticky note symbolizing each thing that has been a hinderance for you. (For example, if a preoccupation with social media has been part of the problem, one could draw a picture of a thumbs up like emoji.) Place these sticky notes all around your house as a reminder of the items you need to remove or adjust in order to make your life better.

Deciding to abstain from chocolate or getting more exercise during the Lenten season is perfectly fine to do. But if we really want to make progress in having a more meaningful life, it's probably best to think a little deeper. What are the big goals you are setting for yourself? How are you going to get there? And what's holding you back from pursuing them?

(Photo credit: Compass map by Denise Jans on Unsplash)

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