For some folks, the prospect of holidays and the expectations that come with them can evoke feelings that are closer to dread than joy. And if our perception is that others effortlessly produce perfect food, gifts, and parties while surrounded by perfectly behaved children (and spouses), that perception could add to the lack of satisfaction.
It doesn’t have to be that way. Each of us has at least some control over how our holiday season goes. If you are struggling to keep it all in perspective, here are a few suggestions.
First ask yourself, “What do I want?” This choice theory question is such a helpful starting point for many situations. Consider, “What does Christmas mean to me? What really matters to me now? What is most important for me to do? What do I really want from this time?”If you have a spouse or partner, it’s also important to find out what they want. Some couples go through considerable effort and expense to follow traditions because they think their better half expects or enjoys it. Sadly, that’s not always the reality. It’s even sadder if both go through the motions for each other when neither really wants it.
How do you find out? Asking, followed by listening, is a great way to learn.
Even the most devoted couple may find that they don’t share the same wants. What if you want to spend your days relaxing in front of the fire, while your best beloved wants to go places, party, visit, and shop till closing time?
Work out a plan so that each of you gets at least some of what you want. And remember that a couple need not spend every minute of their time together to demonstrate their commitment to each other.
If past holidays have brought blow-ups or nasty scenes to your life, then take preventive action. Limit the opportunities for clashes, and limit access to booze or anything else you suspect might be used as an excuse to provoke a disagreement. If what you want is a peaceful time with family and friends, then make it as easy as possible for peace to happen.
Finally, forget the “shoulds.” For example, “We should all spend this time together,” “We should buy expensive gifts,” “We should make huge time-consuming meals because that’s what we’ve always done.” If those activities bring you joy; then do them with joy. If they don’t, consider what activities would bring joy. Discuss them with the people you are closest to, and then choose the activities that really matter.
An especially destructive should is, “They should be grateful.” For your own satisfaction, do what you do for the joy of it. If you expect others to behave or express gratitude according to your “shoulds,” you will likely be disappointed!
Especially at this time of year, it can be hard to recognize the difference between what we can and can’t control. However, if you put thought into what you really want, you are better equipped to take actions that will lead to satisfaction.
What does a satisfying holiday season look like to you?
Welcome to Reality Check:
articles and observations inspired by the work of Dr. William Glasser
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