“If it were easy, everyone would be doing it.”

That was the standard reply I always heard from a friend of mine whenever one of us – or anyone we knew, for that matter – was dealing with a really difficult problem or an especially challenging issue, in business or in life. And it was a good reminder, not only that it takes hard work, discipline, and perseverance to reach our goals, but that the result will be worth the effort when we get there.

I was thinking about that as I decided what I would be doing – and not doing – during Lent this year.

Although I make plans and goals throughout the year, there are two times during the year when I am even more focused and intentional about things I want to do, change, or accomplish. One of them is at the beginning of the year, when I make my New Year’s Resolutions. The other is at the beginning of Lent.

My New Year’s Resolutions are always about self-improvement – establishing or eliminating habits, routines, and actions in order to be a better person or accomplish specific goals. My Lenten Resolutions are different. They are about preparation and anticipation, and about clearing away obstacles and distractions. And they are focused outward rather than inward. I still benefit from them – as I always do when I’m thinking or acting on behalf of others rather than myself – but the point is to concentrate on what I am giving or giving up, rather than on what I am getting.

Most years, I try to make my Lenten Resolutions a combination of prayer and reflection, generosity to others, and some form of discipline and self-denial for its own sake. Which means that if I give up chocolate or wine or eating between meals, the purpose is to feel the sacrifice, not to lose ten pounds by Easter – or to substitute something else I enjoy for whatever I am giving up.

Commitment and discipline are the key words here, and they are qualities that serve me well – during Lent and throughout the rest of the year. It’s good to be reminded of that every so often, especially when I find myself getting scattered, distracted, or spread so thin that I forget or neglect what’s really important.  And that happens much more often than I care to admit.

So my Lenten Resolution this year involves additional time in prayer and spiritual reading every day, and the elimination of some activities that I enjoy but that are of no real benefit to me or anyone else. I’ll spend time every morning reflecting on what I can do to make life better or easier for someone else, and I’ll look for ways throughout the day to put that into action.

My Lenten Resolution won’t be overly difficult to fulfill, but the difficulty will be in making sure I do it every day, especially the days when I’m overloaded with commitments, or when constant and unexpected interruptions keep occurring. But, as my friend used to say, if it were easy, everyone would be doing it.

Although that wouldn’t be such a bad idea.

The column “Find Your Buried Treasure” appears weekly in the Chanhassen (MN) Villager. This column was published on February19, 2015.
©Betty Liedtke, 2015

Do you have Lenten Resolutions or practices that you follow? I’d love to hear about them, if you’re willing to share. Please be aware that all comments will be moderated and approved before appearing on this blog, in order to protect all of us from unwanted spam.