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Learning for Lent

We recently celebrated an anticipated day for millions of people around the world. Shrove Tuesday, more commonly known as Pancake Day. This tradition marks the start of the Christian Festival of Lent. The question usually on everyone’s lips is ‘what are you giving up’, but this year what about gaining for Lent instead?


The origin of Pancake Day stems from Christian’s eating their fill of fats, butter and eggs, which were forbidden during Lent. It represents the last chance to eat all the good stuff in the house, before fasting on the run up to Easter. Nowadays, we feast on a delightful stack of pancakes and choose a favourite sweet or savoury treat to go without for the 40 days. Many of us find the parameters easier to follow, knowing there is a clear end goal of Easter, but could we use this period to focus our efforts and energy into growing and developing a new skill instead?


At Toastmasters, personal and professional growth is at the heart of everything we do. Our members and global community have goals in mind, be them individual or as a collective group of speakers and they dedicate time every month to pursuing their ambitions. It takes dedication and structure, which challenges like the Toastmasters educational program or Lent present, to give us something to aim for. So how are you going to use your 40 days of Lent?


It’s never too late to start something new!

We have shared a few examples of what you could focus your efforts into this Lent to get you started:


1. Developing a new skill, such as public speaking

As busy individuals, with access to abundance of media and distractions, it’s often easy to forget to make time to focus on ourselves and our skills. Having a structured plan or a timeframe to work towards enables us to focus and there is no time like the present!


Why not use this next 40 days to pick up that acoustic guitar that is gathering dust in the corner, or finally sit down and read that book you bought on Amazon back in 2017 about training your brain. Whatever your ambition, having a timeframe can help you maintain momentum, so you achieve your goal.


Skills do not just have to be linked to your personal life, they could benefit your professional endeavours too. We have an incredibly diverse community at Toastmasters in Harrogate, from people practising for their father of the bride speech, to those setting up their own business and looking to gain confidence for networking.


2. Supporting someone with their goals and ambitions (mentoring)

At Toastmasters we are committed to encouraging speakers through evaluations, competitions, and challenges to stretch their skills. However, we always endeavour to provide feedback. This Lent, why not take time to support a colleague, friend or family with one of their goals, providing feedback, constructive criticism and guidance as a mentor. Not only will they benefit from personal growth, but so will you in helping another to believe and achieve.


With a strong mentoring program at Toastmasters, we know first-hand the benefits that collaborating can have for all parties.


3. Connecting virtually with video

This last 12 months has been challenging for all of us. Being disconnected from our usual face-to-face outings, meeting with friends and chatting over coffee has forced us to embrace the digital world to try to recreate a connection. How have you found Zoom? Have you spent your weeks on Microsoft Teams or Clubhouse or Google Meet?


Although there is a tendency for us to feel ‘zoomed’ out, it is important to still strive to connect and collaborate virtually, until our circumstances change. Whether this is through social media platforms and videos, or through joining community groups like Toastmasters, which offers a safe place for you to engage and interact with like-minded individuals. Who knows, you may even make new friends to meet when the lockdown rules are relaxed!


Whatever you decide to do with the 40 days of Lent and beyond, from learning to bake to planting flowers for Spring, make sure you take time to gain something positive rather than focusing on giving something up.


If you’re looking to explore public speaking or connecting virtually online, please do get in touch as we’d love to welcome you to our Strictly Speaking Harrogate Toastmasters Club.


Jessica Dodds

President at Strictly Speaking Harrogate Toastmasters (2020-2021)

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