Archives for Christmas

Making 2018 Better Than 2017

Part 2 of 4

Thinking by Creative Ignition on Flickr

If you celebrate Christmas, this next week will be hectic. As you lay your head to rest, instead of visions of sugarplums (whatever they are,) you might see all the things not yet done – presents not bought or wrapped, recipes not yet altered to accommodate Cousin Joe’s lactose intolerance. You might spend your time going through a mental checklist of people wondering or feeling like there was someone important you missed.

If we took a page from nature, however, as the first day of winter approaches in the northern hemisphere, we would see more stillness – an incubation (at least we do here in the Northeast). Even nature knows there is a time to rest and reflect, a time to renew and plan for what kind of rebirth is wanted or needed.

This can also be the most active time of the year to be together, and being together is what we try to remind ourselves this time of year is all about.

We’ll take a look at three more areas of your life to reflect upon and recreate for 2018, starting with the one that takes a lot of focus this time of year, even as we naturally crave seclusion.

  1. Social Life

Once I started digging into the personal and professional development world, there was an advice that really bugged me, and it continues to, even though at times I think it is sound. The advice has been regurgitated in various forms. Jim Rohn, who I quote a lot and love many of his teachings, says that you are the average of the five people with whom you spend the most time. Other teachers flat out preach that you need to leave negative people behind you and fill your inner circle with more positive, wealthy people if you want to get or stay positive and wealthy.

When I was in college I had heard that your network is your net worth, and that was so discouraging. There was some family who were (are) wealthy and prominent, but they had proven to be not very helpful, and that was the only existing route I could see to elevate myself.

I was grateful to find, as a recruiter when I started to network more, that new connections can be made, and fairly easily.

That being said, I wasn’t about to leave behind my friends. Yes, I wanted to spend more time around people who followed a path to success that I aspired to follow, but I couldn’t just cut off from my life the people who care about me, though they may not be successful, wealthy, or even positive.

The whole personal development world is now plagued by people who are aspiring to be ascended in higher thought and living, but who create a contrast between themselves and others less ascended. I see this only leading to disdain.

There are some obvious reflections you might have: did you see your loved ones enough? Did you entertain as much as you could have? Are you losing connections to friends you intend to keep?

But also consider that if you can spend more time with successful people and add to your knowledge and inspiration, the time you spend with less successful people will enable you to add something positive. Just stay mindful so that you don’t fall into a superiority trap.

As you start to see a better way to be and live, it’s natural to notice more how the people who are not living better are choosing that, and to be frustrated by it. If you really want to change it, though, you will not be effective from a place of judgment. Once you achieve a better way of living for yourself, the next thing to work on is how you can accept others where they are. And, sometimes you will also see opportunities to set healthy limits for how much you let others keep you down.

  1. Intellectual Life

As my senior business students shared their goals, it was clear to me that they were putting the accountability on their development in the hands of their future employer. Does it belong there? Is every employer going to care where you want to see yourself in 5 years as it does NOT relate to their company?  I am tying intellectual life to develop because there is a strong correlation between new knowledge and development. Can we effectively grow without gaining new knowledge?

Anecdotally in my own life, I started to see my development accelerate exponentially in my 20s when I did three things – hired a coach, started to network (as stated before), and started reading non-fiction habitually. Then in my 30s it seemed clear that I didn’t just want to read, but I wanted to discuss with others what I had been reading. I had forgotten in my 20s how much I missed discussing ideas, as was encouraged and came naturally in college. I started attending more lectures and meetups, and even started my own mastermind and meetup.

I have to admit that when I’m really busy, reading and discussing are what I cut out, but because I made them such habits and enjoyed such a boost of growth from them, I go back to them as soon as the dust settles.

It’s the best time of year to develop your reading wish list, since you may even receive one as a gift. Ask others what to read based on your goals or resolutions for 2018. People only recommend books they have read, so make a note of who recommended what and invite that person to discuss the book once your done. This helps you create a goal for finishing the book and also nurtures your social goals.

  1. Family

It seems this should be higher up the list, right?  The thing is, if money isn’t the area of your life that vexes you the most, it could be this. If this is true for you, it may seem more logical to survive the holidays and then reflect, which can look more like venting.  We can do better than that, though, and starting to achieve peace in this area by doing what is in your power to do (because we can only control our actions, not those of others) will enable you to start the year more as the person you want to be. We can’t pretend a new year will change you, but if you can demonstrate to yourself what you are capable of in this area during the time of year where the expectations are highest, you will feel more empowered to create an even better vision of your family life in 2018.

(I know very few people who can’t relate to this. If you are one of them, count yourself so blessed!)

Some of what I have learned about myself in relation to my family through my personal development has to do with me NOT wanting to feel bad and the lengths I go to not feel bad, which can include making my family wrong to make me feel right. Once I realize I am doing this, I feel worse, but only then can I start to course correct and forgive myself and them – which is very powerful.

There is one mantra that I hear a lot at personal development events that helps me maintain my sense of humility and acceptance of myself and others – “We are all doing the best we can with what, where and who we are at each stage of our lives.”

If you are feeling extra stressed this holiday season and the source is your family, watch some Brené Brown interviews on YouTube. Practice ho’oponopono, which is a Hawaiian practice that induces healing and forgiveness.

Notice that my advice in this area is actually more around action than reflection; this is because I feel I personally spend too long reflecting in this area, and not spending enough time actually making efforts that can improve it, which take practice because this is the area where triggers are voluminous. This also means that this is the area where there is the most opportunity for growth, but where growth is the hardest.

Which of the 6 areas covered so far feel the hardest to you? Which do you want to dive into first, and which one do you want to avoid?

We’ll cover 3 more areas next week.

 

Cheers to a year that is better than any before!

Sting – Brand New Day

Music video by Sting performing Brand New Day. (C) 1999 A&M Records

5 Ways to Give Joyfully During the Holidays, Even with Financial Shortcomings

Gifts by Jennifer C. on Flickr

The holidays aren’t so happy for us all. The idea that giving is receiving, and that we find our joy by giving can make us feel worse if we have very little to give.

I have been there, more than once. In college it’s supposed to be acceptable, but in my senior year I was also facing my mother’s re-marriage and responsibilities of being maid of honor which I knew little about. My brother also was married on New Year’s Day. That year I wanted so much to give them something special, but had only my talent to contribute. I wrote illustrated poems for my family. I realize that in some families the sentiment would have been appreciated, if not at least considered adequate. I was not reassured, especially with a new almost-sister-in-law.  My mom and dad, however, still have those on display in their homes.

Then after I was laid off in August of 2002 and still had not landed by Christmas (and in fact spent another 6 months unemployed after that) I was living on a meager unemployment check that didn’t even cover my student loan payments. I had no savings. I had no budget for Christmas. I used one of my unemployment checks to subscribe to Ancestry.com and did thorough genealogical research on both my mom’s and my dad’s family.

I found out a LOT that none of us knew before (like we’re Swiss!) I took the portion of another check and went to my local craft store and dollar store where I bought picture frames for a one-page family report I compiled on each side, and artful things I could color/frame for my boyfriend (at the time/now husband) who was supporting me financially.  Two of those pictures now hang in our daughters’ room. I felt bad giving so little at the time, even though I put a lot of time into those, because he had been giving me so much. I didn’t even appreciate my own gifts to him until years later when I realized that he had envisioned them there all along.

One of my best friends was having a baby during this time of unemployment. She asked me to make her a playlist for each stage of labor. She wound up not listening to each of them for her first (he came quickly) but she did listen to them all for her second. Then nearly 10 years later I listened to the same playlists during my births. That wound up being another gift that blessed me back.

Look, gifts aren’t always appreciated the way we want, and that’s true whether you spend $10 or $1,000.  Focus on putting thought and heart into your gifts, and find peace in your own gesture. Here are five ideas of ways you can give this holiday season if you don’t necessarily have the budget you want.

  1. Volunteer – I know you have heard this before, and that is because it is really one of the best ways to remember how valuable you can be for others, and at the same time helping others less fortunate than you will remind you of your own blessings. Gratitude is a powerful emotion, and will give you the energy to move forward and make greater efforts for yourself. Volunteering may not give you enough material wealth to give the people in your life presents, but it will make you a more uplifting person to be around. If you can’t give them something material, give them something they can feel.
  1. Upcycle – Make what’s old new again. Hometalk.com has a ton of ideas for taking things you might have around your house or obtainable from your local restore or thrift shop and turning them into masterpieces worthy of giving.
  1. Photo albums – Memories are priceless! Yes, we have become very accustomed to looking at pictures digitally, but let’s not underestimate the power of that physical photo album that you can open and look at with others to remember and honor how these people made your life so special.
  1. The new “mixed tape” – Make playlists on Pandora, iTunes, or even YouTube. Does someone have a road trip coming up? Do they do a lot of cleaning or project work? Do they love to run? A great playlist can be an awesome companion, and they’ll think of you every time they listen. Keep the other person’s musical tastes in mind; don’t impose your tastes upon them. Make it something that expresses how well you know them. Pick songs that have messages they will find meaningful.
  1. Coupons for services/experiences – Time is one of the most precious, finite resources on the planet. The thing I have found about these coupons, however, is that if you fail to deliver, you feel worse, not better. So give the coupons with an expiration date and specific days/times that you are available to deliver. Remember couth, too. For instance, if someone has a messy office, offering to clean and organize it for them may make them more self-conscious. Unless they specifically mentioned that this messy office is a problem for them and they WANT help, don’t be that specific. You could offer handyman services, babysitting services, or contribute a talent. Perhaps there is something you know how to do that the other person would like to learn. There are so many possibilities with this.

Something else that can help ease the pain of not having enough to give, devise a plan to improve your situation where YOU are the determining factor of success, not a plan in which you have to rely on someone else to give you an opportunity. Having a greater sense of possibility and control does wonders for your spirit. That is an area in which we can help – reach out for a free consultation.

While the feelings associated with not being able to give what you want to give can bring you down, we can also learn for ourselves a new value of gifts. If you have always been able to give materially before now, this new experience can provide unexpected blessings to your life. If you have struggled during this time before, hopefully you can use one of the above ideas to have a new experience of gift giving.

We are not our bank accounts. Our value is not dependent on our wealth. We are valuable just as we are, and part of the joy of this life is exploring all the ways that we can create value for others. Whether you have a lot or a little to give, may you feel blessed and be a blessing to others.

 

Happy holidays!

Sarah McLachlan – Fear [live] [HD]

From “Afterglow Live”. Buy the DVD!