Pop the bubble before it pops you

It is that time of year again. We often hear people say, “I can’t believe another year has gone by.” Well it did. And what do we do to remind you of this fact? We wind ourselves up into a frenzy so that when we pop that cork on New Year’s Eve we are letting out more than fermented gas.  We let out a big sigh of relief and gasp the fresh air of a new year.

It's in the air

I feel it.  Do you feel it?  There is a familiar build up of pressure at this time of year that is palpable.  You can feel it in everything around us.  Whether you celebrate any of the holidays at this time of year or not, you are not able to escape the reminders and the direct experiences.  In addition to normal everyday tasks, work and commitments add in:

  • extra traffic
  • extended shopping hours
  • festive parties at work and with friends
  • last minute holiday/vacation planning
  • suitcase packing
  • travel, travel, travel
  • house decorating (maybe even extra cleaning)
  • overflow of holiday communication (sorry I know this newsletter is in that )
  • family reunions with people you want don’t want to see
  • familiar sounding year in review stories and media countdowns
  • shopping
  • baking, cooking, preparing holiday food

A question of meaning

So my question for you at this time of year is how do you have fun and at the same time engage in a meaningful and purposeful way?

I ask this question because what seems to be forgotten is the meaning behind the holiday season. It is so easy to get caught up in the superficial aspects of this time rather than go deep. We can also let the overwhelming part get to us and take the fun out of all the activities.

I want you to go deep. I also want you to have fun.  It is not an either or but an and situation.  There is a time for both if you make it.  Even in all the activities listed above there are moments to have fun and go deep.

You think I am crazy, right? How could being in traffic be a deep experience?  Well I ask you then, how can it be? It can, you just need to ask yourself what you can do to make a difference.  Or how can the office Christmas party be fun if your company is struggling and jobs are at risk?  It is up to you.  How do you find a way to still celebrate what you do have, not what you don’t?

An experiment for you

With the remaining days left of this year you can experiment. In fact you don’t even have to apply this just to this time of year. Try this out anytime, anywhere.

Pick a situation on the list that bugs you, really gets to you.  Now imagine you are in that experience. What were you thinking BEFORE the experience? How did you set yourself up for a bad experience. By this I mean to what extent did you pre-program your mind to only see the experience as negative, dreadful or bad?  Then in the experience how conscious are you of the way you feel about it? Can you step back, witness and observe your own feelings and attitude? Can you distance yourself objectively enough to then say why are you doing this?  What if you did something different and if you did what would it be?  Could you look forward a bit and ask yourself how you wish to feel going forward?  If you were to fast forward ask yourself how do you want to remember this in the future?  When you are reminiscing what kind of stories do you want to tell about this experience?

Not so positive example

For example, let’s take a common one like driving in holiday traffic to get to your holiday destination.  If you are on the negative side of the equation you talk up the traffic before you even get in the car. Then you whinge about it all the way on your trip. When you get to your destination you are exhausted, not from the drive, but from the self induced stress of hating driving in the traffic. Sounds pretty frustrating yet so common, right?

A healthier approach

This time you talk about the upcoming trip with your travelling companion. You discuss in a non emotive way how you think the traffic might be and how you usually feel when you drive in it. You then discuss strategies for how you might deal with it by planning your departure and driving approach.  Then while you are driving instead of complaining you choose other ways to entertain yourself such as music, audio books, conversation with your companion.  You even might engage in the experience as a tourist drive even if you have gone this way hundreds of time.  You choose to see the trip as a fun experience.  Then of course afterwards when someone asks about the trip you can recall the sights, the scenery and the pleasant and happy experience you had seeing it all along the way.  Yes you might have taken longer yet you accepted this would happen when you planned the trip. What you choose to recount also allows you to focus again on what worked rather than what didn’t.  

The approach is not about ignoring real emotions but changing your thinking and conscious attitude so that you are less likely to experience the negative emotions.  What I am suggesting is that you take a more conscious and heart based approach to the holiday season. This after all is what the spirit of the season is about, not how much money you spend on someone for a present.  You can give meaning to anything as this is in your own world view. Therefore all the above experiences can simply be aspects of the holiday season that help you remember what really matters.

I ask...

What does really matter to you?

Perhaps this is the time to reflect on that question. Then maybe what you go through, have happen and experience will be just that.

So enjoy popping the bubbles along the way rather than in one big bang at the end.