It was a few years ago, and almost Ash Wednesday. I hadn’t honored Lent since I was a kid, when I would give up something, like sweets, for the 40 days before Easter.
That’s billion, with a “B”! If even just a small portion of that number gave up something for Lent, that would be millions of people linked together in a common vision, practicing a shared intention. And that seemed like an incredibly powerful union of consciousness whose manifesting power must be extraordinary.
I wanted in.
Traditionally, Lent is a time to practice leaving behind an old way of living and acting, in order to embrace a new way of being. (For Catholics that means being more like Christ.) So I thought about what I wanted to let go of, what way of being wasn’t serving me. From what did I need to free myself, so that I could embrace a healthier, happier way of living? What did I need to free myself from so that I could embrace a healthier,
happier way of living?
The answer was worry.
I owned a school back then, and there was plenty to worry about: finances, student issues, enrollment, scheduling, to name just a few of the things that kept me up at night. But I knew that worrying served no useful purpose. It didn’t change the enrollment numbers or make the weather cooperate on class days. It only drained my energy, sapping the creative juices I needed to lead my staff in solving the issues the business
faced on a day to day basis. And worrying made me feel exhausted and look haggard. It had to go!
So that year I gave up worrying for Lent.
Every time I caught myself starting to worry, I stopped myself from winding up a mental story about what bad things were going to happen, gaining strength from thinking about the other people, all over the world, who were resisting whatever was tempting them, too. I wasn’t alone, I was united with countless others, all focusing our resolve on releasing ourselves from the constraints of something that wasn’t good for us. Early in that season, I saw my worry for what it was: just a bad habit, like eating too much sugar or throwing my dirty clothes on the floor. Worry lost it’s powerful hold over me in those forty days, and it never gained a strong footing in me again after that. What did become strong was my ability to see a situation clearly, choose a course of action, and go for it. No getting sidetracked, derailed, or paralyzed by imagined negative outcomes.
Was my release from worry the result of tapping into the collective unconscious and moving into the sacred flow of Universal Mind? Absolutely! What I did in giving up worrying for Lent was to change my behavior, rather than trying to change my mind about worrying. I didn’t try to convince myself that I shouldn’t worry; I just refused to do it. I then had to create new ways of responding to the same kinds of differently and couldn’t label me as a worrier anymore, which reinforced the not worrying. I just stopped worrying and I then saw myself as someone who didn’t worry.
In Positive Psychology, this is called Self Perception Theory. My mind decides who I am based on how it sees me behaving. You see, our minds can’t tolerate a dissonance between how we see ourselves and how we act, and will always believe the behavior. So even if I thought of myself as a worrier, but actually stopped the worrying behavior, my self perception had to change. I would see myself in a different way, in this case believing that I am, in fact, worry-free! Forty days might be enough to change a habit, or you might need longer, but either way, the jump start of changing with 1.2 billion other people has to be a good thing.
Stopping the habit of reacting with worry sparked a changed in my behavior and, consequently, in my mind. To this day, I don’t think of myself as a worrier, and I don’t worry often or for very long. I’m free to use my creative mind to solve problems, accept things that are out of my control, and relax in the present moment.
Grab a Worry-Free ToolKit or Map for practical how-to tips on letting go of worry.