I recently was on a community call hosted by one of my mentors, Susan Bradley (founder of the Financial Transitionist Institute), and the topic was how families navigate change during the holidays. The holidays are a time of emotional connection – which can be the source of both appreciation and frustration. As Susan pointed out: “Families are always figuring it out.” And that’s OK. Sorting through our personal relationships is a continual process that probably never ends – nor should it. If viewed through the lens of mindfulness, the holidays can be a great time for growth.
Here are three mindful questions inspired by our community conversation that could possibly help you – not only to preserve your sanity but also to cultivate a curious, expansive mindset towards the holidays.
- What is most important to me? Why is this important? Is it savoring an old favorite recipe, or wrapping gifts, or singing seasonal songs, or seeing a child’s eyes light up with wonder? Whatever it is, take a moment to go deeper into why you enjoy it, and why it is important to you. Is it because it rekindles childhood memories, or helps you to experience gratitude, or connects you to your higher power? Perhaps talk to a “thinking partner” about this or journal privately. Either way, becoming aware of your “why” not only allows you to enjoy your holiday activities more; it also allows you to explore other ways to build on that feeling and seek more of what brings you joy.
- What do I need to let go of, what is no longer possible? Lives and family dynamics change over the years. Sometimes we grow out of old traditions. Sometimes people are no longer in our lives. It can be challenging to let go, which is why it is especially important to ask the first question so you protect what is sacred to you. Once you define that, then you can think about what is less essential. Is there something you could let go of, that might reduce a source of stress or help you to move forward? Of course, with family traditions, what may seem trivial to you could be important to someone else. So, it’s a good practice to have a conversation with family members about this topic. One of Susan’s favorite things to ask is: “What would it look like if we got this right?” Imagine what an ideal situation would look like, given the circumstances now. Exploring this topic with a trusted friend and even practicing the conversation could be helpful before approaching family members.
- What new needs to be created? A few years ago, our family came up with a new and somewhat quirky tradition for Thanksgiving. My husband’s brothers lived all over the United States and it was difficult getting together. Furthermore, no one was excited about playing host. In fact, the whole thing began feeling more like a pain than a meaningful gathering. So, someone suggested we try meeting in Las Vegas instead of descending upon someone’s house. Why Vegas? Well, the boys grew up there for a part of their childhood, so they know the town fairly well. Now that they live all over, Vegas is still a relatively easy city to get to from any part of the country. And most importantly, going to a buffet meant that every person could eat whatever he or she wanted, and no one had to clean up! Turns out, we were not the only ones with this brilliant idea – the first year we tried this, the Vegas buffets were so packed we waited nearly 3 hours to get seated! But we had a blast, and a new tradition was created. Now we all look forward to this time together. We are here in Vegas as I write this, getting ready to celebrate in this way for the 4th year. Part of the reason I think we got this right is that we knew who the decision-makers in the family are, and included them in the conversation. We gave them the choice to participate in this crazy idea, or not. We said we would try this for one year, and see how it goes. We made it safe to get it wrong, or to get it right. And by so doing, we stumbled upon a solution that seems to be very right. How might your family update your family traditions, and perhaps start something new? What could you initiate, to encourage people to come together in a meaningful way? Even a small act could be the start of something new and wonderful.
I hope these questions help you to approach the holidays with curiosity and appreciation. It can be difficult to dig into these deeper questions, especially with family members. In fact, it can feel pretty awkward at first. But it can also be incredibly rewarding. As Susan said, “it is powerful and bonding to be honest, inclusive and positive.” And who knows, the ensuing conversation may surprise you.
Thank you for reading. I wish you and all those you love, a happy and healthy holiday season.