Happy December! Now that Thanksgiving, Black Friday, and Cyber Monday are behind us, the annual sprint toward December 25th is on! As we enter into this festive season, I want to present you with a challenge. The holidays can be either, extremely stressful and chaotic for you, or full of the joy and peace described in the carols. The choice is yours. If you choose the latter, then allow me to discuss a few ways to be deliberate in your approach to this Christmas season.
First of all, make a list. No, not a shopping list, but a list of what you value most about this season. Whether it is time with family, reflection upon the Christ of Christmas, or the continuation of long-held traditions, if you are not intentional about aligning your actions with what you value, you will end up disappointed and even depressed at year end.
Secondly, take stock of your expectations regarding this special season. Reflect upon the past and contemplate what aspects you want to maintain and what you want to be different. Then take steps toward meeting these expectations. A word of caution: it is vital to make sure that your expectations are realistic. For example, it is not realistic to expect everything to be “perfect” or to expect others to change their behavior from what has been usual in the past. The best way to ensure that your expectations can be met is to focus on things that are within your control. Therefore, if you desire to deepen your relationships within your family, do not expect others to initiate the change. The best thing to do is focus on making steps to cultivate that yourself. This might mean scheduling more one-on-one time with certain individuals or planning a family game night to cultivate these connections. Also, expect some resistance to change from others, because not everyone has the same values as you. Be honest with yourself and others about your expectations, but allow others the flexibility to opt out if what you are suggesting is not comfortable or desirable for them.
Keep in mind that the gap between expectations and reality is where anger, bitterness, frustration and resentment reside. Therefore, aligning your expectations and reality as closely as possible will cultivate serenity and joy.
May you experience peace and joy through your deliberate decisions to create such an environment!