The Dirty Little Holiday Secret

WHAT NO ONE TALKS ABOUT DURING THE CHRISTMAS SEASON

There is a dirty little secret that no one likes to admit about the holiday season. It’s well known that millions suffer from additional stress and anxiety during the period between Thanksgiving and New Years Day. Some of this anxiety is due to the additional financial stress from the feelings of guilt about purchasing presents for everyone in our lives. Household credit card debt spikes during the holidays leaving a lingering money problems for millions heading into the New Year. Then there is the stress about traveling and seeing all the members of your family you feel obligated to see. Let’s be honest, we all have some family and friends that require us to consume copious amounts of alcohol just to feel comfortable around. For millions others it’s the time off work that becomes a problem. If you are lucky enough to be paid for the time off, great. If not, not only do the stresses of additional purchases come into play, but also the loss of income. For some, all of the issues listed above are applicable. These, however are not the dirty little secret I’m referring to.

What We Think the Holidays Are

The holidays can be many things to many people. Whatever story we tell ourselves about the meaning of the holidays will become reality. Therefore it is very important to consider what you are telling yourself about what the holidays are. Are they about family? Are the holidays about your faith? Do the holidays mean giving to others? Are they about stressing out? Watching movies like Christmas Story or Die Hard? All of these meanings may be great and they may apply to you, but let me suggest to you what the Holidays and all other days are about. In fact, the Holiday Season is not unlike any other season in what it means for all of us. How can this be? If you look at what we really have control over in our lives versus what is outside our control, the answer is clear. You cannot control external events such as how people act at family parties, what movies are on TV, whether or not you come down with an illness or how much stress others have during this season. You only have control over one thing, your mind and how you decide to take action with it. The special feelings and rituals we have during this season are not exclusive to this time of year. Moreover, the positive lessons of the season are not meant to only be learned and remembered during winter. So the question then becomes, “how do we control our minds an keep the lessons of the holidays all year?” In a word, reflection.

What the Holidays Are Really About-

The Christmas season is considered the “season of miracles”. I think the greatest miracle is the human mind and what it is capable of. In the Bible, Jesus states “the kingdom of heaven is within you”, meaning all of us are capable of cultivating heavenly thoughts and therefore a wonderful life. We can also choose to ignore the miracle of our minds and allow ourselves to be overcome with negative emotions. One advantage of having Thanksgiving, Christmas, New Years and any other special holidays near the end of the year is that we are able to reflect on our actions and thoughts over the previous year. I believe that’s what the Holidays are really about- reflection. It is a time to look back at what we have learned, who we have met, what opportunities have come our way, what we are grateful for. This is not just about New Years. The emotions connected with all the Holidays this time of year can sometimes cloud our thinking, but strong emotional environments can also be useful for internal reflection. Sometimes is takes strong emotions for us to realize what is important. It’s important to reflect on what is in our control and what is not. By reflecting on the past year, we can learn much about ourselves and how we responded to things outside our control. For me, I like to write down situations that I was proud of how I acted as well as the times I am not so proud of. Also, what things were in my control that I maybe neglected? What do I need to work? See, the Holiday season is truly a time for miracles, a time to reflect on the miracle of life and our minds. The fact that humans can self-reflect is itself a miracle. We can choose our values and actions- choice is a miracle.

WHAT NO ONE WANTS TO ADMIT- IT’S ALL ABOUT YOU
So here’s the dirty little secret- the Holidays are really about the most important person in your life…you. Every day is about you. We like to think what we do is for others, but we cannot control others or how they react or feel. We can give all we like, but it’s still for us. We can only control ourselves and our minds. You are the most important person in your life because you are the only one who can control you. If you want to help others this Holiday season, fine, but understand why you are doing it. You are doing it for because it fits with your values and fulfills a need you have to contribute. There’s nothing wrong with that. No reason to feel guilty about it. In fact, it makes you a better person, a better you! Everything you do, even if it’s for others is still for you. Reflect on that this holiday season. Reflect on how you can do more for yourself so that you may help others. Consider what is in your control and what is not so you can live a life with less anxiety and allow yourself to grow. Reflect on what you are grateful for, especially your mind. Reflect on how important you are. To others, to the world, to your loved ones. You are the most important person in your world. So take care of yourself so that you may help take care of others.

Happy Holiday, Merry Christmas, Happy New Year!!!!

Sean

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Picking Your Battles

Much of life is discerning between what is in your control and what is not in your control. So much effort is wasted on things that we have no control over and inevitable pain occurs from the wasted energy. It’s not always easy to establish what we have control over, but once we do, we can properly focus our efforts on taking action. However, as I have gotten a little older, I realize that sometimes the best course of action is no action at all. That is not to say that we should be lazy and do nothing. What I mean is that part of becoming wise is learning how to pick your battles. In other words, the question we should all ask is, “where will our efforts have the most effect?” Picking the right battle is essentially properly allocating your resources and energy. This means that we must ignore less important situations while the major ones are addressed.

I cannot even begin to express how much energy I have wasted fighting the wrong fights. This is especially true being a business owner because I often think that everything is in my control in the business. This is a mistake. Although I’m responsible for the business, I do not have control over every aspect. In business, owners like myself make the mistake of misdiagnosing what areas need the most attention and then we spend enormous amounts of money and energy on things that have very little impact. I’ve done this by focussing on advertising instead of having the sales staff properly trained. I didn’t realize that the ads were not the problem. It was the ability of the staff to close the sale because we had either the wrong people, or they were not trained correctly. This is just one example of picking the wrong battle to fight. Although I had control over both these aspects of my business, one battle would have yielded much more return on investment than the other. I’ve also made the mistake of adding more equipment thinking that would increase sales. In fact, the newer equipment had almost no impact on sales. What did increase sales was remodeling the locker rooms. Interesting.

Just because something is in your control doesn’t mean you have to take action immediately. Rushing into battle unprepared is often worse than taking time to properly analyze the situation and then choosing how and where to attack the problem. Most of us can understand how it would be a mistake to attack an enemy head on where their forces are the most concentrated and you are outnumbered. But that is exactly the mistake we make when we rush into taking action without analyzing where we can be most effective. Again, just because you can do something, doesn’t mean you should! Sometimes the best course of action is to save up your energy and attack a problem where you will have a huge impact. Think of this as getting a bigger weapon. Don’t throw a rock at a tank just because you’re holding one in your hand. Take the time to find the right weapon to take on the problem.

In health,

Sean