What’s Your WHY? (January 1, 2018)

You’ve Got to Know Your “WHY” to do your “WHAT”.

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Welcome to 2018!  I’m moving a tad bit slowly this morning after having a busy day and late night last night.  You might be feeling the same way. 

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So, here we are, Day 1 of this brand new New Year! 

How are you this morning?  Excited, tired, purposeful, determined, unimpressed, thoughtful, or meh…

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People feel a lot of different emotions on this 1st day of a new year.

Many of us have made some resolutions, or challenges, or goals for the New Year.  Call them what you will, but many of us like to look at the New Year as a time to refocus, re-balance, and recommit our thoughts and actions to specific efforts that take us closer to where we want to be at this point a year from now.

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People have been making goals and resolutions for a very long time, but we are notoriously terrible at actually accomplishing those goals!

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We usually have our “WHAT” firmly in mind – WHAT it is that we want to do. 

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Some common examples:  lose weight, eat healthy, stop smoking, learn something new, travel more – the WHATs are as diverse and creative as the people who commit to them.

But in order to accomplish your WHAT, you also have to know your WHY: 

WHY you are committing to this WHAT. 

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Because if you don’t have a clear view of your WHY, it will be much harder to stay the course when actually trying to accomplish your WHAT gets challenging. 

And the WHAT always gets challenging. 

Unless your WHAT is to “sit around and do nothing more often in 2018”.  That one is pretty easy to do without a WHY!

IT'S HARD

Shout-out here to Audrey Russell, my fitness coach, whose first question to me was, “OK, what is your WHY?”  At that point, my answer was mostly, “I don’t know… just BECAUSE!”   Audrey is awesome and friendly and never once said, “That’s a stupid non-answer, Rebecca!  You have to have a WHY!”  She just encouraged me to think about it and then went on her way being awesome and stuff.

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But, dang it, I did think about it, and found that knowing my WHY made a huge difference in setting goals and being committed to accomplishing them. 

I discovered that I do a lot of WHATs, and love taking on challenges.  So many interests, so little time!  But I have been less successful in completing them because I didn’t focus enough on my WHYs.

So, “what’s a WHY”, you ask

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Let’s start out really basic and ask, why are you setting a goal (any goal) in the first place? 

Is it because that’s what people do on New Year’s Day?  Is it because you are a “goal setter”, and you HAVE to have goals or you feel weird?  Or is it to accomplish something specific?

Let’s use a specific example.  One common resolution is “I want to lose weight”.  It’s a lovely goal – we Americans are becoming more obese as a nation with each passing day.  So, good on you for wanting to do this! 

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So, if losing weight is one of your goals, ask yourself WHY you want to do that.

  • To look “good” at your high school reunion this summer?
  • To get your A1C levels down and get off the diabetes meds or the insulin shots or the threat of those being part of your life very soon unless you make some changes NOW?
  • Because you’re feeling and seeing the “middle aged spread” that is so hard to get rid of?
  • To feel better, stronger, less sluggish?
  • Because everyone tells you you need to lose weight?
  • Because society says you need to be a certain size to be ok?
  • Because you think Gal Gadot is awesome and you want to be a warrior like Wonder Woman?

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What is your WHY? 

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I’ll make it personal now. 

I would like to make healthier lifestyle choices this year, which will, in turn, include weight loss as a result of the healthier choices.  I would love to weigh less, but more than that, I’d like to just be healthier, more fit, stronger.

I’ve had that goal since Jr. High school, when that whole self-image thing really gets out of control.  I have always been athletic and active.  But my German heritage also came through strongly in my physique and body type (“short and stout”).  Back then, I wanted to be skinny because the skinny girls were more popular.  Because then the boys would like me more. 

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Very 12 year old sorts of reasons.

The problem is, we carry many of those deep feelings of insecurity into our ADULT WHYs, and those aren’t reasons that will encourage you to stay the course in meeting your goals.  Being popular isn’t something you can control.  Having the right boy like you takes cooperation from another human. 

A successful goal has to be something you can control.  Otherwise, the likelihood of failure goes up, because you can’t control anyone but yourself.  And sometimes you can’t even control yourself. 

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I’ve mostly moved past those types of WHYs (I hope anyway). 

But I needed to figure out my adult-version WHYs.

And the good news is, there ARE adult WHYs!

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My WHY now is not just one thing.  Mostly because I like words and analysis and can’t say anything without taking it deeper and using lots of words.  But that’s just me.

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My WHYs for making healthier choices which will lead to a leaner, thinner, stronger me:

  1. I FEEL better – physically, mentally, and emotionally – when I eat healthy, clean food and exercise most days. When I feel better, I DO better. When I feel better, I am kinder to myself and those around me.
  2. I am less tired, less sluggish, feel less heavy on the INSIDE when I make healthy choices
  3. I want to do what I can to ward off the negative health effects of unhealthy lifestyle choices that are at epidemic proportions in our country during this generation. The life expectancy in the US has been going DOWN for years now, which is an alarming new trend after years of our life expectancy averages increasing.  And most of the reasons are lifestyle choice related.  I can’t prevent every illness and disease, or accidents, and I know that someday my body will get old and wear out, but there are ways I CAN make my odds better.  And feel better more of the time for as long as I live.
  4. I want to set a good example for family and friends.
  5. I want to be a good steward of this body and the things I can do and experience in this life if I take care of it.

this is why

These WHYs are important to me.  They matter a whole lot more than being skinny so that I’ll be popular.  These WHYs get to the core of who I am and what is important to me.

Do you get the idea of a WHY now?

You can accomplish a WHAT without a WHY, sure.  But the WHY takes it deeper, makes it more meaningful and personal. 

remember why you started

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So on those days when I’d rather do anything other than exercise, when I would rather have a bowl full of hot, buttered, cheesy rice instead of a (delicious) and healthy salad – I need to remind myself of WHY I choose to exercise and eat clean and healthy.  If that doesn’t work to get me motivated, then I need to switch over to the FIGHT THRU I was talking about in my post a few days ago, and just DO THE THING that I need to do in my quest for good health.

Some people will tell you that once you know your WHY, the HOW is easy.  That sounds good, doesn’t it?  I want to do it THAT WAY, because they are telling me it’ll be easy once I figure out why I’m doing it.

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But the HOW is NOT easy – or you would have done it already. 

And we already KNOW THIS…

life is not easy

The WHAT and HOW will be challenging, and having your WHY clear doesn’t make those things easy peasy. 

It just makes them MORE POSSIBLE because you found a real reason, a deep reason, a meaningful reason, to do those things.

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But easy?  Nah, not easy.  Just worth it.

Your WHY is just as important as, and maybe MORE important than, your WHAT. 

if you haven't found it yet keep looking

So today, as you watch some bowl games, and eat those black eyed peas (I’m a Southern gal; one MUST consume black eyed peas on New Year’s Day!), give some thought to your WHY.

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I guarantee you’ll be glad you did!

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When It’s the Most Wonderfully Difficult Time of the Year

Have you ever hypnotized a chicken?   It’s really easy.

Here’s what you do:  Hold a chicken on the ground and stretch out her neck so that her “chin” and beak are lying flat.  Then, still holding her down gently, draw a straight line (with your finger or a stick) in the dirt, running from her beak out and away from her.  You can let go of her now – the chicken won’t move.  She has been hypnotized by that straight line.

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Amazingly, she will remain fixed in that position until something finally breaks her focus.

(I read this on the internet, so I’m pretty sure it’s true.  If you know otherwise, please keep it to yourself so my point won’t be ruined.  Thx.)

Do you ever feel like a hypnotized chicken?  I know I do.

I can get so hyper-focused on something right in front of me –
especially something painful or sad – that it is hard to see or experience
anything else. 

Not everyone feels merry and joyful during the holidays.  Often, they have been enslaved by sad memories, recent or long ago losses, and dashed hopes that make this season of merriment hard to bear.  Others feel so overwhelmed by all the things they “have to do” in November and December, that they can’t see past the next task on their list.   And they become paralyzed, much like the hypnotized chicken who can’t see past the terror of that straight line.

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Please know that if you are feeling less than merry and bright during the holiday season, you are not alone.  I think most people, if they are honest, will admit that there is some degree of sad in there with their happy.  We remember Christmases past, and the people who are no longer with us, either because of death or severed relationships.  We may remember times when something tragic happened around the holidays, and it’s hard to get that feeling of unease and sadness to leave.  Some people, unfortunately, are in a bad situation right now, and the holiday season is anything but happy.

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For whatever reason, we have this Normal Rockwell – Hallmark movie idea of Christmas and how it “should” be in our hearts and minds.  We want to experience the holidays all warm and cozy and happy and get along with everybody and nobody makes anybody else angry.

In reality, our lives are a mishmash of many different conflicting thoughts and feelings and expectations.  And our experience during the holidays will be the same way.

There will be a good bit of happy.  But there will be some sad in there too.

While we can’t remove all the old, painful memories, and we can’t totally shush the wishing for what is not, there are some things you can do to better weather the difficult times.

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1.   Feel What You Feel

There are no right or wrong feelings.  Feelings just – are.  Acknowledge what you do feel and see if you can figure out why you feel that way.  Others may think you shouldn’t feel a particular way – they are wrong.  If you weren’t supposed to feel a certain way, you wouldn’t.  Try to understand where the feelings come from and ask yourself why there are there.  Only then can you determine what to do with those feelings.

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2.  Take a Look at Your Expectations of Yourself and Others

Our expectations get us in SO much trouble.  Especially during the holidays.  You expect people to do certain things, behave certain ways, and when they don’t, it impacts your mood dramatically.  You may become angry and resentful, break down in tears, ignore them.

All because you had an expectation that didn’t come true.

Many times our expectations are not based in reality.  We project our ideal of what “should be” rather than what “is” onto others, and they rarely meet this imagined ideal.  Especially during the holidays.

If your grandpa has always been a sarcastic son-of-a-gun, he probably will be again this year.  No amount of wishful thinking will change that.  People can change, yes.  But they rarely do, especially at a high stress time like Christmas.  If you expect Grandpa to be different this year, and he’s not, you have set yourself up to be miserable.

Think about your expectations of yourself too.  There will be too much to do.  So don’t try to do it all.  Prioritize and make some choices.  Weed out the “busy” tasks and focus on the meaningful ones.  It is absolutely ok to tell yourself and others “no”.  In fact, it is imperative to say no now and then to avoid burnout.

You, and those around you, won’t be perfect this holiday season.  Things will go wrong.  Instead of crossing your fingers and gritting your teeth hoping that everything will – finally! – be perfect this year, instead let a go of your need to control it all.  Try planning for what you’ll do when don’t go as expected.  Decide in advance what you’ll say if Grandpa slings a zinger of a sarcastic comment at your very sensitive son, even though you’ve spoken to Grandpa about this.   Figure out how you can manage yourself in the midst of chaos and other people’s poor behavior.  Your behavior doesn’t have to be poor just because theirs is.

The only person you can control is YOU.

Focus on the things you have control of.  Leaving all the Christmas preparations until the last minute will create a bunch of stress for you.  So don’t put it all off until the last minute.  You can do something to prevent that kind of stress.

In dealing with difficult people, always  hope for the best (anything can happen), but PREPARE for the worst.  If things do go better than ever before, be thankful and enjoy it. And if they don’t, then you’ll be ready to deal with these things rather than react inappropriately to them.

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3.  Find Things to be Thankful For

We’ve all heard “attitude of gratitude” until we’re blue in the face, I know.  But making a point – making the effort – to focus on the good rather than bad will make a difference in how you feel and in how much you are able to find joy this season.

You all have probably seen this on Facebook and such, but it IS TRUE:

There is always, always, always something to be thankful for.

There is.  Look for it.  Look HARD for it if you are especially stressed.  But it’s there waiting to share a teeny bit of joy with you if you will slow down long enough to notice.

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4.  Stay in the Moment

We get ourselves all worked up when we let ourselves spend too much time worrying about the future and rehashing the past.  That is not to say that the past is not significant – it was – or that we shouldn’t plan for the future – we should.

The problem comes when we spend the majority of our time and mental energy in either of those places and not enough time in the current moment.

Scripture has a lot of wisdom on this one, as usual:

“Therefore do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about itself. Each day has enough trouble of its own.”         Matthew 6:34

“Don’t worry about anything; instead, pray about everything. Tell God what you need, and thank him for all he has done.  Then you will experience God’s peace, which exceeds anything we can understand. His peace will guard your hearts and minds as you live in Christ Jesus.  And now, dear brothers and sisters, one final thing. Fix your thoughts on what is true, and honorable, and right, and pure, and lovely, and admirable. Think about things that are excellent and worthy of praise.”          Philippians 4:6-8  

These are two of my favorite verses, and are ones I need to read often to keep myself in a good place emotionally.

imagesHSPW29LHYou may be anticipating getting together with your extended family for Christmas Day and you’re remembering how bossy and picky your mom always is.  Everything has to be just so, and even when you do everything right, it still isn’t “right”.  It’s always something.  And your sister’s kids – they are SO wild and uncivilized.  You really don’t want your kids playing with them.  So while you’re making your shopping list for your contribution to the Christmas meal, “mashed potatoes” somehow reminds you of Christmases past, and you find yourself getting angrier and angrier at how unjoyful it all was.  “Pumpkin Pie Filling” reminds you of how one year, right before dessert, you couldn’t take it anymore, said some choice words, and stormed out.  After focusing on all of this negativity for awhile, your mind, if left to its own devices, will jump ahead to next week, when you’ll all be together again – for, you believe, a probable repeat of that same miserable kind of Christmas Day.  And thinking about that gets you even angrier and holier-than-thou and all sorts of other intense and uncomfortable emotions that you don’t enjoy.

You’re dreading the entire thing.

Do you see what’s happening?

Your run-away thoughts are influencing your emotions, which in turn will impact the way you act.  The good news is, you can change courses.

Can you think of ways to face this situation and be less stressed about the whole thing?  Christmas Day with the extended family still may not be at the top of your “best times ever” list of things to do, but you DO have some control over how you feel and how it all goes.

You most definitely have control of what thoughts you choose to park on.

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On that Christmas Day, focus on the things that DO go right. On the people who ARE kind and cheery.  This will take effort, because you are used to focusing on the all the negatives.  You are most likely primed and ready for all the crap to start flying.  Your comebacks are already rolling around in your brain.

Instead, stay in the moment.

Do the aromas coming out the kitchen smell good?  Do they make you smile and sigh?  Notice that.  Think about what it smells like and how those smells make you feel.  Does one particular dish remind you of your Grandmother, whom you really loved, but who has passed on?  Spend a bit of time smiling about how wonderful she was and how blessed you were to know her.

Is your dad, in his wacky way, trying to help everyone get along?  Take a minute and notice his efforts, even if they come up short.  Tell him you noticed, and give him a hug.

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Is it snowing?  Even though that might make driving a pain later on, RIGHT NOW – stop and notice how pretty it is.  Go outside and close your eyes.  Feel and smell (yes, smell) the snow.  Listen to how normal sounds are different when things are covered with snow.  Feel the moment that God has given you.  Don’t worry about driving until you need to drive.

This is called staying in the moment.

It won’t come naturally.  You will have to “pull” yourself out of the past and the future and pointedly note what’s going on in the Present.

(You know I can’t let this opportunity pass me by, right??)

The Present, this very moment, IS a present.  We’re not guaranteed tomorrow, and we can’t go back and get a redo of yesterday.

The present is more than just a moment.

It’s your Gift.

today is a gift

Stress LESS and Enjoy MORE this Holiday Season

i have to scream nowAre you panicking yet?

I can already feel time accelerating as we stumble into mid-November then slide on in to Thanksgiving, and quickly round that corner to December and Christmas. I can feel the hard deadlines of Thanksgiving and Christmas staring me in the face, and I’m starting to feel just a tiny bit frantic about it all.

You too?

If you tend to get overwhelmed and stressed this time of year, I have a few tidbits of advice to share that will help you enjoy more and stress less.

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1.  BE PURPOSEFUL

The first thing you have to do is actually STOP for a minute before you dive headlong into the crowds and the frenzy of busy-ness that we have come to call the holidays here in America.

Even though your instincts are telling you to “get busy!!”, you need to sit down for a few minutes and do a bit of thinking.

Decide what activities, traditions, events, and the like are important to you and focus on THOSE.

Did you notice the word “decide” there?

decideKnow what activities bring meaning to you and your family and do THOSE things.  You will be inundated with a million invitations and great ideas and fun opportunities over the next 6 weeks.

imagesCAO3DFVTBut the fact is, there will simply not be enough time or energy (or money) to do everything.

So be purposeful in what you do over the next 2 months.

Get the family together and ask each person what makes Thanksgiving and Christmas special for them, then make a point to incorporate those things into your holiday season activities.

junie-b-jones-yucky-blucky-fruitcake-barbara-park-paperback-cover-art[1]Here’s an example.  If you spend a lot of time and effort making fruitcakes for everyone at Christmastime because that’s what your mom always did, but nobody (including you) actually LIKES fruitcake – then stop doing that!  If someone asks you where the fruitcakes are this year, tell them that you decided not to make them.  Now you can use that freed up time to do something that brings meaning to you and those you love.

And if you decide that even though no one (including you) likes fruitcake, but you just feel like you HAVE to make them so that it seems like Christmas to you, then do it.

But do it because you’ve chosen to, not because you feel like you have to.

Be purposeful in how you use your time, energy, and finances.

2.  MAKE A PLAN

Christmas bucket listOnce you and your family have decided what your priorities are for this holiday season, get out a calendar and make a plan.  Schedule in the things that you want to do (family portrait, going caroling, baking cookies, dressing up to see The Nutcracker, etc), so that they will actually happen.  And no, planning things out doesn’t take all the fun out of the holidays – it actually helps insure that you use your time the way you intended to.

Spontaneity is nice, and there will be opportunity for spur-of-the-moment activity too.  But leaving it all to spontaneous happenstance leaves a lot to be desired when you’re feeling overwhelmed and extra busy.

3.  START NOW

Just-Do-It-Now[1]You can do all the planning in the world, but if you wait until Thanksgiving morning to start thawing that turkey, things won’t be as laid back as you might have wished.

So start your planning and doing NOW, no matter when “now” is.  Even if “now” is already late, it’s still earlier than waiting until tomorrow.

Even if you’ve waiting a bit too long to get the ball rolling and you have that deer in the headlights look because it’s all coming at you too quickly, getting going today beats the heck out of waiting until tomorrow.

Take a look at the events you put on your calendar, and figure out what preparation needs to be done for each thing.  Are you hosting Thanksgiving dinner this year?  Then there are most likely some things you need to do in the days leading up to Thanksgiving to get ready.  Plan them out.  Put them on the calendar.

Are you mailing Christmas cards?  Then decide how many days before Christmas you want them to be in the mail – put that on the calendar.  Figure out how long it will take you to address them, write a note in them, buy stamps – and put those on your calendar too.

Taking the family to see The Nutcracker?  Figure out what day to go, and then make sure you leave time to get tickets.  Put it on the calendar.

You will need a calendar with a lot of space to write.  :o)

4.  LEARN TO SAY NO

For some reason, we feel obligated to say “yes” to everyone and everything that competes for our time.  Sometimes we want to say “yes”, but time, cost, exhaustion, and the like prevent us from joining in.

But lots of times, we really don’t want to say “yes”, yet we feel obligated.

sayingnoAccept the fact that it’s ok to say “no”.

“No” is a perfectly acceptable answer, and most people will accept your “no” just fine.  They may be a little disappointed, but generally folks won’t be uncivil about it.  Remember that you are in charge of your time and how you choose to use it.

getty_rf_photo_of_dayplanner[1]You can’t do everything.  And even if you could, you wouldn’t WANT to do everything.  When you try decide to get out the cape and be Superwoman, the stress you place on yourself may sap all the joy out of the holidays for you AND your family.

Practice saying polite “no’s”.  Google “how to say no”. You’ll find some great ideas for how to decline invitations graciously.

What about obligation?  There are some things we don’t particularly WANT to do, but we feel obligated because it is important to someone else.  What about that?

Sometimes doing things out of obligation is the right thing to do.

Mancinimercer003[1]For example, it may not be your idea of a fun holiday evening to hang out with your Great Grandma and watch Lawrence Welk reruns on December 15 every year.  But maybe for her, it’s one of the highlights of the season.  You love your Great Grandma and you realize she won’t be around for all that many more years.  So even though Lawrence Welk makes you gag, you make the time because of a sense of obligation, as well as a love for your Great Grandma.  That’s totally ok.  Wonderful, in fact.  Just be sure you are doing it purposefully (see #1), even if it is not your favorite part of the month of December.  Someday you’ll be oh so glad you made the time to be with your Great Grandma.

If you do end up participating in things you feel obligated to do, be sure to focus on the blessings inherent in that event, rather than only focusing on how put out you feel about being there.

Look for the good and you’ll find it.

5.  BE REALISTIC ABOUT RELATIVES

celebrate-family-christmas-wallpapers-1024x768[1]I know you’re tempted, but the holidays are NOT the time to try and resolve all your family’s issues.  Keep in mind that everyone’s stress level is automatically heightened during the holidays, then add to that a mix of people who don’t see each other often, and just for fun, toss in a few folks who are sure to tick everyone off.  All the ingredients for a perfect storm assembled in one (too small) house (with only one bathroom).

TheFamilySkit-BubbaTeacher-CarolBurnettShow-Screenshot[1]If your family tends to be full of drama, they will tend to be full of drama again.  If your Dad hasn’t spoken to his sister in 20 years, he will most likely not be in the mood to speak to her just because it’s Christmas and we’re supposed to be full of joy today.

Think long and hard before you surprise your relatives with an intervention.

The temptation to address long-standing family squabbles is there, I know.  Because everyone is going to be at the same place at the same time, and it just makes SENSE.  Christmas seems like the PERFECT opportunity to address those huge issues, make Mom talk to Uncle Fred, have an intervention with the meth-head, tell the teenager with blue hair that she can’t sit at the dinner table until she starts to show some RESPECT by getting rid of that blue!  Right?  WRONG!  It’s a horrible idea.  Don’t do it, please.

grenade_paratrooper_1943_700[1]First of all, it won’t turn out like you want it to.  Emotions are already running high during the holidays, everyone is already just waiting to be set off, and you’re about to pull a pin (or two) and throw a grenade (or 8) into the mix.  Sounds fun!  Don’t.

So what to do, then?

  • Be civil – you can’t control how anyone else acts, but you can control yourself.  And you must control yourself.  Just because someone else is acting out doesn’t mean it’s ok for you to do the same.
  • Lower your expectations – Yes, you heard that right.  The best predictor of future behavior, is, unfortunately, past behavior.  Yet we don’t seem to be good at accepting that tendency. Lowering your expectations will reduce your stress.

Why is it that we go into family gatherings expecting the person who has been a jerk every year for the past 15 years to suddenly NOT be jerk-y this time?  When there is no indication that anything has changed?  There is no reason to expect more from a person than they have shown in the past.

images[6]An important point:  Don’t give up hope – anything can, and sometimes does, happen – but the likelihood of a drastic change in behavior happening all of a sudden at a holiday gathering – um, not so great.

If things go better than normal, be thankful.  If someone has changed for the better, let them know how much you appreciate it, and thank God for His ability to change a person.  But don’t EXPECT these changes.

Don’t let your enjoyment of the time together depend on miraculous changes in the behavior of people who have a history of not being civil.

Make sure your expectations of your kids are realistic too.  During the holidays, kids tend to  be hyper-excited and amped up on holiday treats. They will most likely act like kids who are super excited and full of sugar and not much sleep.  Why do they do this?  Is it because they are horrible little urchins who are just trying to embarrass you?  Probably not.  Probably it’s because they are excited and have had too much sugar and not enough sleep.

sugar-and-hyperactivity-in-your-child-300x198[1]Yes, have your expectations and requirements. I’m not saying to just let the kids run around like banshees for a month.  But be sure to COMMUNICATE THOSE EXPECTATIONS CLEARLY TO THEM.  Don’t assume they should “just know” how to behave.  Remind them.  And don’t act so surprised when they act like excited kids.

  • Rehearse your lines – If there is a situations that tends to happen each year at holiday time that upsets you consistently, rehearse how you will handle that in advance.  Because if it’s happened every year for 10 years, it’ll likely happen this year too.

Plan what you will say to Uncle Stan when he’s had too much to drink and asks you (again) when you and your hubby are gonna start making babies.  Because Stan will likely do something similar this year.

If your cousin tends to be cruelly critical of your kids, decide in advance what you will say to her when it happens this year so that you have prepared and are ready to deal with it.  She’ll still push your buttons.  You’ll still be angry with her.  You’ll still think she’s insensitive and wonder why in the world she says things like that.  But you can handle it a lot better and with a lot less residual stress if you rehearse your lines before you get there.

Because people will tend to act this year the way they have acted in past years.

You included.   Hmm.

imagesCAV4BX1ASpend some time thinking about that too.  If you tend to rub people the wrong way or lose your “filter” with certain people and say things you shouldn’t, spend some time praying about it and rehearsing how you can act differently this year.

  • Set your differences aside

You are bigger than this, bigger than these issues.  God CALLS you to be bigger than all this.

Remove the chip from your shoulder.  Leave the resentments and hurt feelings you usually drag along behind you at the door and try to just be thankful.  For whatever you can think of to be thankful for.  There are ALWAYS things to be thankful for.  Get rid of the “poor me” attitude.  Take the snark out of your tone of voice and choice of words.

imagesCA43Q7JYSure, not everyone will act like you wish they would (you included), but surely you can set those differences aside for a day and focus on the blessings you all have, the good things you share.  Even in the worst of situations there are things to be grateful for.

There will be opportunities later to resolve differences.

And if the opportunity to make things right with someone presents itself during the holidays, by all means, seize the moment!

But don’t FORCE the moment.  Don’t take a perfectly lovely day and decide that you will forcibly make peace with your semi-captive relatives.

6.  MANAGE YOUR EXPECTATIONS

I wrote about LOWERING your expectations a few paragraphs ago, talking about dealing with relatives.  Now, I’d like to share a few more thoughts on expectations in general.

Expectations[1] (2)You will not be perfect and neither will anyone else. Things will not go according to plan.  Count on it.  And find a way to be ok with it.

3_10506750_3[1]Does it really ruin the entire day if your son brings apple-CRANBERRY sparkling cider instead of the apple-PEAR sparkling cider LIKE YOU ASKED HIM TO?  Like you have EVERY year?  It can ruin the whole day, if you let it.  But it shouldn’t.  And it doesn’t have to.

If he is supposed to bring the turkey and he brings bologna instead?  That might ruin it for some people.  But even then, find a way to laugh about it and deal with it, without creating a national crisis.

If you approach the holidays with perfection and perfect peace in mind, you are setting yourself up for disappointment.  Go in with a plan, absolutely.  But when things go a bit haywire (and they will), roll with it.  Find the humor.  Don’t waste your time being angry at who did what wrong, and why, and how “now it’s ruined!”.

Simpsons fightingWhen your husband or your kids or your friends or your mom don’t respond to something the way you wanted them to, don’t let that ruin your day.

imagesCAZM5NWPYears ago, I worked with a client whose mother was so picky about how Christmas should be “done” that the family basically dreaded Christmas.  The woman was never happy.  She saw the day as a big production that had to be done just right, even down to the way they came down the stairs in their new pajamas on Christmas morning.  Everyone had to look just right, talk just right, open gifts just right.  React just right.  And because the family “never” did it “right”, she was forever upset about it all.  Angry at them for being so dense and ruining her day.  Even if they did everything the way she directed, she would find something to be upset about.  Joy?  None.  Family bonding?  Nope.  They coulen’t wait for it to be over.

It’s sad really, that we can be so particular about having things go our way that we sap all the joy and wonder right out of the season. That our families dread getting together.

Don’t be that person.

What were Thanksgiving and Christmas supposed to be about again?

What memories will your kids be taking with them in the years to come?

Think about those things.

Check your expectations.  If they are the least bit unrealistic, get rid of them.

Final Thoughts

25th[1]Even though Christmas comes on December 25 every single year, we seem perpetually startled that it sneaks up on us and comes “so quickly”.  Every year many of us say “I’m gonna get an early start on it next year!”

And I think we mean it.

Falling back to one of my key phrases again (thank you Nike) – JUST DO IT!  You can, you know.  It just takes some planning and a bit of action.

Wouldn’t it be cool if we could actually relax and enjoy the holidays with our families? If we didn’t dread this time of year because of all the things we “have” to do?   If we blessed others rather than stressed them out in November and December?

If you’ll be purposeful and do some planning, examine your expectations and decide to let some things go, I guarantee that your stress will go down and you’ll enjoy the season a whole lot more.

peanuts singing carols