Scarlett’s Letter – My Walk in the Desert

Today marks the end of Lent for those who observe this tradition. Whether religious, or not, this season of spring is a season of renewal, and an excellent opportunity to awaken and grow along with the buds and the blooms.

I started the Lenten season a bit unprepared, hastily deciding I’d walk in the desert by moderating some of my behaviors. I decided I’d “fast” by limiting myself to one square of dark chocolate a day, one tablespoon of butter per meal, and one adult beverage per day. I may have also mentioned something about sticking to a single serving size of peanut butter, as provided on the label, and not shopping for peanut butter based on the comparative generosity of the serving size on the label.

Forty days later, I stumble out of the desert, prepared to come clean on how my “fast” went. I rocked the butter “fast”! I went whole days without butter, and probably got close to using three to five tablespoons per week! I did have to make a couple of trips to the market for EVOO (extra virgin olive oil), though. Chocolate? I did alright, better, anyway. Of course, my interpretation of “one square” may have varied slightly based on just how generous the squares were for the different brands of chocolate I consume. I did very, very well with the peanut butter, too.

What does that leave? Adult beverages. Yes. Well. Let’s just say I kept staggering out of the desert and into an oasis where I would enjoy one or two extra adult beverages per night. Not every night, but several times. What can I say? I am a sinner. I repent. Not. At least I’m honest! After all, there was the vacation to Alaska, which accounted for many of the transgressions, about ten consecutive days worth, to be exact. The other fifteen or twenty transgressions, I have no excuse for. I’m just a bad seed.

The lesson I take away from this walk in the desert; we all have areas we hope we can improve ourselves. By setting goals and working towards them we almost always make some improvement, we learn a lot about ourselves, and we affect change. Failure is human. Failure to achieve a goal within a specific timeframe is not failure to achieve the goal. Some goals we set for ourselves may be too aggressive, the timing may not be right, or we may not be truly prepared to attempt that goal with fervor. That doesn’t mean we should give up entirely, simply adjust the timeframe or modify the goal and take it on in smaller bits.

Think of goals much like a football game. The coach calls for a play and communicates it to the quarterback. This becomes the quarterback’s “goal”, for sake of comparison. As the defense lines up, the quarterback may have to reevaluate his goal and adjust his plan. As the snap is made and the defensive and offensive players begin to move into position and adapt accordingly to the other players movements, the quarterback, again, may have to adjust his plan to achieve his goal, or adjust the goal entirely. Our goals are no different. Adjusting the plan or modifying the goal is not a failure. You still have a chance at making a touchdown, if not this play, then maybe at least you’ll gain some yardage! Keep playing!

While my walk in the desert, my fast, was triumphant with a few of my intentions, I know where I need to reflect and focus some additional energy. We all have similar intentions and encounter similar difficulties. It would be in our best interest to keep working at it, even though the fast may be officially over, we may have exited the desert into a lush garden, the goal still exists and still has validity. Keep walking.

March

March. The third month of the year. March. A walk with measured or regular steps. What does one have to do with another? March provides us an opportunity we should not neglect.

In the month of March, many things change; daylight savings time begins, spring begins, we are in the midst of the Easter season, all of these things signify a season of renewal and hope.

Much like New Years is the time of year we get to start with a clean slate for the year, and Monday, a clean slate for the week, think of March like the beginning of the “natural” year. Nature comes to life in spring, birds begin to nest, baby animals are born, flowers bud, blossom and bloom, everything is renewed. With this spirit and energy, we too can focus on those goals, those intentions we wish to accomplish.

And so, with March, and the spirit of renewal and hope that spring brings, we should pick up our feet, lift our knees high and march. Whatever intentions we had at the beginning of the new year, whether they languished during the doldrums of winter, are now forgotten, or whether we are still committed and taking action on them, this season of renewal brings to us an opportunity to commit ourselves anew to these intentions. Or perhaps to choose some new intentions to march towards.

As with all things we wish to accomplish, it is important to assign the appropriate level of importance to them. I use the word “intentions”, rather than goals. To be clear, goals are a desired result a person envisions, plans and commits to achieve. Goals are wishes, with a deadline.

Many times, in organizations I have been involved with, both professionally and volunteer, the suggestion that goals be S.M.A.R.T. has been recommended. S.M.A.R.T. goals are specific, measurable, attainable, realistic and timely. We should always have an “active” list of S.M.A.R.T. goals, and I do recommend writing them down and revisiting them, often, re-examining them for relevance, importance and “S.M.A.R.T.ness”.

Often, we have many more goals than we can hope to accomplish all at once. This is where I distinguish my goals from my intentions. Intentions are goals that I am applying a focussed amount of energy, thought and activity to presently. Intentions are right now, goals are eventual. Intentions are goals that I intend to accomplish by working on them, focussing on them, each and every day, until they are achieved. They are aligned with everything I do, and don’t do. Intentions are goals that I am “marching” towards. And nothing comes between me an my intentions.

What goals are on your list that are ready to bud, blossom, bloom, ready to be born, ready for renewal? What goals are you going to promote to intentions? I implore you to use March to march towards those intentions, and don’t let anyone or anything come between you and the desired result.