everyday success


A Little Holiday Wisdom

The holidays are upon us.  If you’re like me, Thanksgiving is the signal for a breakneck pace, the rush to prepare.  The retailers have been reminding us for weeks that it’s time to start but for most of us, it takes Thanksgiving to get us into gear.

Yes, there are many among us who prepare all year long.  Their gifts are chosen, wrapped and awaiting a position beneath someone's tree.  Not me.  I have done nothing.

For those of us who haven’t begun, there’s still time to be sure our holidays will be memorable.  It does, however, take a little forethought and planning – over the next couple of days.  Before entering the shopping madness, take a moment to consider these.

First, what do you expect from your holidays?  Have you ever asked yourself that - what you expect from your holiday season?  It’s important to nail down expectations so there isn’t a sense of regret or unfulfilled promise at the end.  The holidays are so full of energy and hope but if we don’t know what we’re anticipating, it’s likely we’ll be let down.

Next, recall yours and your family’s favorite traditions.  Your favorites will lead the list of choices for this season.  Remember to consider whether there have been any changes in other, life changes may mean holiday choices will be different this year.

Don’t forget to cross off those traditions that no longer satisfy.  We evolve.  We change.  It’s not heresy to change your favorites.  This might be the year for a new tradition.  What will it be?

Look at the calendar.  Figure out your timing.  The school choir’s performance.  The tickets to The Nutcracker.  What are the things that are already commitments?  What about parties you want to give or you expect to attend? 

Tomorrow is the last day of November.  That leaves little time for a lot of celebrating.  Consider this, New Years’ Eve is a mere 31 days off!  Now’s the time to let your calendar help guide you.

Making choices.  We can’t do it all; there are just too many possibilities in the holiday season.  It’s time to decide what you will do in Holiday Season 2013 and what you will leave for seasons beyond.

What will make this holiday season memorable?  What can you do to be sure it’s a year you’ll happily remember?  Starting a new tradition can make it memorable.

Avoid end-of-season regrets.  Making plans – a traditions plan and a money plan – will help you prevent disappointment or regret.

Savor.  That’s right; don’t forget to enjoy the fruits of your planning.  Enjoy the moment.  Breathe in the scents.  Delight in the sounds, the flavors and your uplifted spirits,.  Appreciate all that you have, all that is a part of your 2013 holiday season.

Life Begins At the End of Your Comfort Zone

Are reality shows a source of philosophy?  In this case, yes! 

On What Not to Wear, co-host Stacy London advised one of her makeovers, Life begins at the end of your comfort zone.  In this instance, a talented young woman learned that her “six-pack of t-shirts” did not dress her for career success.  With gentle prompting and small clothing choice changes, this woman encountered greater recognition – in her career and her social life.

Sometimes we make choices without thought.  Our brain moves to autopilot because our lives are crammed with busyness.  With autopilot, we feel as if we can control the gazillion daily decisions we all face.  Unfortunately, autopilot can also get us into a rut.

Autopilot differs for each of us.  We may use it to choose our clothing, our vacations, our food, even our performance at work. It’s easy to assume your autopilot choices are actually your preferences.  It’s even easy to assume that autopilot choices will always be the right choices.

Consider asking yourself these questions:

  • Do I always do this the same way?  Why? 
  • Are there other ways?  What are they?
  • If I were to make a change, what are the benefits?  What are the drawbacks?
  • How would the change feel for me?

Moving beyond your comfort zone may be as simple as setting your alarm fifteen minutes early so you can practice your yoga or work out.  It might mean taking on a new responsibility at work.  It could be deciding to play with your children for thirty minutes every day.  It could be deciding on a weekly date night with your spouse or partner.

Moving beyond your comfort zone does not mean taking irrational risk.  Often, it’s small incremental change that is meaningful.

Setting the Stage for Great Ideas

Where are you when you get your best ideas?  You know the ones.  They’re the ideas that make you wonder, “Whoa, why didn’t I think of that before?”  Where are you and what are you doing when your really great ideas come to mind?

Researchers1 have found that some of our best ideas, our most original and creative ideas, actually happen when we are literally standing outside the box.  That’s right, they actually did research using room-sized boxes and even shapes of boxes taped on floors.  What did they learn?  They learned that people are most creative when they are standing outside a box.

This does not mean you need to stand on your front porch in the pouring rain to get a good idea.  Where are you when you do most of your idea generating? 

For some, it’s while they drive.  If that’s the case, why not spend a few minutes walking when you reach your destination?  See if a breakthrough idea doesn’t pop right into your mind.

For others, it may be at their desk at home or in the office.  Again, try a different space apart from your regular space.  See what happens when you set yourself apart from your regular thinking or working space.

Use your hands.  Researchers also tested the adage on the one hand or the other and found that extending one’s hands forward as if weighing ideas helped generate fresh thinking.

One researcher2 even learned that better ideas were generated when one’s hands were free.  Put your iPad down, move away from your computer, leave your vehicle, free your mind and see what great ideas come your way. 

1 When Truisms are True by Suntae Kim, Evan Polman and Jeffrey Sanchez-Burkes, New York Times, February 25, 2012. 

2 To “Think Outside the Box”, Think Outside the Box by Angela Leung et al, Psychological Science, January 2012.