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Three approaches to help you feel happiness this Christmas

12 December 2018 Anthony Eldridge-Rogers

Three approaches to help you feel happiness this Christmas

Christmas and New Year′s coming and frankly I am feeling a familiar, strange ambivalence towards it. I am both happy at the thought and idea of the break and all that goes with it and at the same time, a part of me isn′t.

There seem to be many snippets that all run around in my head. They are concerned with presents and gifts, the cost, ‘getting it right’ and hoping there are no conflicts when we mix the oil and water of one group of relatives with another. Then there′s the food, the drink (I don’t drink but of course others do) along with work issues to finish or deal with. 

All this is focused on the idea of future enjoyment, although I sometimes find myself thinking that if I ‘just get through it in one piece’ that will be a result! What saves me in all of this are some things I learnt from being a coach and which I find help me stay on track and at a deeper level, calm and at ease. 

Here they are:

Make Christmas about your meaning and purpose
Coaching tells us that people need connection to meaning and purpose. We spend our professional lives working with people to get into that alignment so that what they do every day and the way they relate, lead and work is lined up with what is most important to them - their meaning and purpose.  Christmas and New Year is an extension of that. If we can follow that through into the idea of festivities and enjoyment then we can find a way  that is fulfilling and meaningful. So the key question to ask yourself is: ‘What has the greatest meaning for me when I think about the options for Christmas?’ 

If it′s time with kids, then make that the theme. If no kids, then time with the most important person in your life. And so on. Find the core, most meaningful aspect in your life and place it at the centre of Christmas. Then encourage others to do the same. 

Christmas is a time when we feel that we must sacrifice our meanings for other peoples. That′s a paradox. When we give up what matters most to us, for what matters most to other people, then we are making a sacrifice that is too expensive. Find the places where you, and those you love, agree on meaning and build plans around that.

Tune out 
We′re bombarded with the massive amounts of data and information, so tune that out. Commercial and media driven Christmas and New Year is a marketing orgy for companies and those all vying for our attention. Under this onslaught we can find ourselves questioning our own commitments and being tempted to follow the herd. There is only one way I know to usefully combat this and that is to remove yourself from the onslaught as much as you can. Go on a newspaper and media fast and avoid the ads.

In coaching practice, I often see that too much data causes people to stumble and get diverted from their mission. We′ve been fooled into thinking that information is power and so more information equals more power right? And more power is good because you can do more with more power? This is a very significant over simplification. Information, unless very carefully managed and used simply, overwhelms most people. It tells us too much, gives us too many possible options and weakens our ability to stay connected to meaning. 

In reality there are often many different routes to a destination. What matters is not that there are a hundred ways to get there but that we pick at least one and start taking it. Once you do then you can forget all the others while the one you′re on is working. So it is with Christmas. Once you have decided what matters most and what you are going to serve that has the most meaning for you, you can commit and disregard the rest.

Give important gifts of relationships not things 
So we make this long list of gifts to organise and buy for those we love. Inevitably the budget is always too small and inevitably we have to say no to things that we either know they would like or that we would love to give but just can’t afford. Painful stuff sometimes. I know as I have felt this often around my children.

Here is another way of approaching this. Make a list of people you would like to give presents to on the left hand side of a piece of paper. Then draw a line down the middle of the page.  At the top of the left hand column put the word THING. At the top of the right hand column put the word ‘NON THING’.

So for the THING column you would put the present you plan or have in mind. In the NON THING column you will put what you want to give them that is not an object but rather is about how you relate. So items like TIME, LISTENING, SINGING, WALKING, PATIENCE, MAKING, COOKING, pretty much anything that involves being together and that revolves around the quality of your relationship. 

Include what you know they love or like and what you know they′d love from you which you can give them. Maybe you have not had much time to really listen to a loved one. You can decide to give them the gift of listening, really listening. Maybe you know a close friend or relative who loves a sing along. Make the decision to organise one with them. Or talk a slow walk with an elderly relative who you never have to time to walk with at their pace.

Everyone′s lists will be different but it′s about de-materialising the way we approach giving at these times.

Last but not least put yourself on the list. What do you most need this Christmas that′s not a present or an object? Is it quiet time or dancing time? What do you want to give to yourself?

Next time someone asks you what you want for Christmas, give them both answers. Your THING and then the other NON THING. If it′s appropriate you can explain your alternative THING/NON THING Christmas list and ask them what NON THING they might like as well.

So what might this all lead to?

Well, firstly you′ll find out quite a lot about those around you and yourself. Secondly, you might be surprised at what it brings up for you. You may see that how you behave at these times is more about what you think and believe others expect from you as opposed to knowing what you and they both want. What it may well also do is lead to happiness, a deep sense of joy that you are making Christmas an extension of the meaning of your life and giving to those you care about.

I hope it goes really well and I wish you a Happy Christmas and New Year.