Monthly Archives: November 2014

The Two C’s That Make the Holidays Stressful

One of the reasons we have so many arguments and disagreements with family during the holidays is because we engage in the practice of Competing and Comparing. Here’s what I’m talking about…

There’s a difference between saying,

“I make my potatoes differently,” and “I make my potatoes differently.”

See?…. No?

Yeah, it’s not obvious is it, not without tone and inflection – which is to say, not without intention. It’s the exact same phrase, nothing more than an observation perhaps, but the intention changes everything. But…

A passing observation is rarely passing if it’s speckled with comparison and competition.

If an external value system is placed on the item in question (potatoes), then comparison is immediately included in the intention (“different” becomes “better”). Comparison is better or worse. Once we have attached a value to it, it opens the door for competition, which internalizes the comparison. (aka: I’m better because my potatoes are better.) Whoa! And therein lies the problem, because it can be said or received either way. We don’t control how others receive our statements, of course, but we can certainly control how we say them.

So, how do you navigate the holiday season with less stress, arguing and disagreement? Raise your awareness to Comparison and Competition, and choose something different.

Sub-text, second-level dialogue, and assumptions are all fodder for Comparison and Competition. Once we engage in either we create opportunity for disagreement and argument, hurt feelings and frustration. So, it’s easy to see why the holidays can be fraught with strife for so many as families gather together to celebrate. Keeping the two C’s in check can lead to more enjoyable holidays together now and in the future.

Finally, when in doubt, it’s best to choose gratitude. Regardless of how the potatoes are made, a simple “Thank you for making the potatoes” goes a lot further than any passing observation ever could (even if Aunt Bernie’s potato recipe is awesome). There’s little room for disagreement when gratitude is shared.

Finding Calm in Chaos

Calm in a time of chaos.

Ok, so here’s the thing: this week, my blog is “late.” The question I had to ask myself, though was: late by whose standards?

My weekly blog has a deadline for delivery on Tuesday mornings at 8:15am Central time. This is a self-imposed deadline that I created a long time ago to a) deliver to my readers consistently, and b) hold myself accountable in accordance with my goals and mission.

But here’s the thing about deadlines and life, sometimes they need to be modified and flexible.

I don’t know about you, but I’ve been feeling the chaos in the world lately. From deaths, to anger, to frustration and fear, I’ve been picking up on most everything like a giant satellite dish. This is nothing new for me. It’s one of my gifts, and I am grateful for it. However, there are times (like now) when it gets wonky and a bit out of control. My barometers remind me that something is out of whack, and I need to take a step back.

So, this week, that meant that I sort of stepped away from everything, including my blog. And… I thought about it and realized that this was ok.

As we head into a traditionally busy season, I think this is an important message for me to share: it’s ok.

It’s ok to take a step back.
It’s ok to not do something you were meaning to do.
It’s ok to say no.
It’s ok to take time for yourself.
It’s ok to choose something different.

Typically, the holidays are a time when we overbook, overcommit, overindulge, and overtire ourselves. Why? Because we feel a sense of obligation, or we have a desire or are inspired, to do more. “More” often results in feelings of chaos.

So, this week, I’m here to say that chaos is the end result of chronic misalignment over an extended period of time. And it’s ok to put on the brakes, take stock, and choose something different. If that means the pies are store bought, that’s great. I mean, it’s pie! It’s all good! If that means the presents have stick-on bows, also cool. Again… presents! It’s all good.

It also means that if you need to take 5 (or 35) minutes for yourself and do absolutely nothing, that’s ok too. And if a deadline happens to fly by, and it’s not life-threatening, it’s ok. It’s always ok.

Finding the calm in the midst of chaos is about giving yourself permission to make a different decision.

Life… Hyphenated

I was listening to the radio yesterday, and one of the headlines was of the plane crash in the Bahamas in which a prominent pastor (Myles Munroe) was killed. My condolences go out to his family and friends. The radio hosts quoted one of the pastor’s sayings, and it struck me as something I wanted to share with you.

He said (and I’m paraphrasing), the value of your life is not based on its duration, but it’s donation.

I love that! Love it.

A “good life” is not measured in years, but in how those years are used.

Another example of this (as a loved one pointed out) is the famous saying that your life is not defined by the dates on your tombstone, but rather the “-“ between the years.

So, this week I ask this question: What are you doing with your hyphen?

It’s a simple question that generates a lot of thought and answers. More importantly, though, I think it’s a good tool to add to our toolboxes.

Why? Exactly because it is so simple.

In the past, I’ve done my best to simplify ideas to help us all make better choices, such as the giving/taking discussion, or the idea that things are not good or bad for us, but rather strengthen or weaken us. This is one more tool we can all add to our decision trees:

What are you doing with your hyphen?

Whether it’s holding someone’s hand a little longer, giving to someone in need, or taking time for yourself in nature – it’s all about making the hyphen meaningful. Perhaps today is a good day to make a decision from that perspective. I know I will.

The Little Things

Love and Life are found in the little things.

I had a conversation with my mentor recently in which we discussed the meaning of Life. As we were talking, I came up with an image, of sorts, to represent what I was trying to convey.

In much of Western medical thought life begins at the top of a pyramid, which is represented by the functionality of the heart, lungs, and brain. Life. From there it trickles down to the rest of the human experience, widening as it goes.

Life pyramid 1

Life as a top-down approach.

Indeed, Life can be defined scientifically like that, but I tend to disagree. Life, it seems to me, is a bottom-up proposition. Life is defined by all the little things that make it worthwhile for the heart, lungs, and brain to keep working. Life is found in the broadest expanse of the pyramid, comprised of tiny events, feelings, and experiences.

Life Pyramid 2

Life from a bottom-up approach

For who is to say that Life doesn’t continue in the hearts of others when one’s body has decided to leave? I think it does. We have a word for it: Legacy. I call it Love.

Love is all the little things. It’s the knowing smile from across the room that makes you feel instantly relaxed, assured, and at peace. It’s the tiny hand reflexively reaching up for yours as you go to cross a street. It’s the wag of a tail when you come home after a long day. It’s the whisper of the words “good night” when you’re too tired to speak. Love is a million little things that make it worthwhile to wake up the next day. Love is also the memories we hold in our hearts allowing others to live on in us.

Love is found in the little things. It’s the immeasurable moments that collectively create Life.