According to a recent article in the Financial Times, “Steve Bratspies, Walmart’s executive vice-president of general merchandise, told reporters: ‘Our strategy for Black Friday and holiday season is we’re going to win it.’”
This is how retailers see the holidays. Make no mistake–no matter how much green and red their glossy ads display, no matter how cheerfully decorated the stores are, no matter how jolly the language of their amazing markdowns, this time of year is all about fourth quarter earnings. And honestly, I get that. They are businesses. They’re supposed to try to make money. I sincerely wish the quest to cash in on the holidays didn’t include longer hours for their employees, many of whom barely get any time with their own families, but I understand why they push so hard to sell, sell, sell.
That said, I think it’s critical that we, the consumers, make the holiday season about something more than stuff.
Whatever your belief system, (the holidays shouldn’t be about cramming theology down others’ throats any more than they should be about the gifts), I encourage you to take some time to be thankful this year. Carve out time to spend with the people you care about. Decide, in advance, that you will be content with what you already own, regardless of what you receive. Maybe even dedicate some time/money to help others who don’t have as much as you do.
For far too many, the holiday season is no longer a near-magical time focused on gratitude and relationship, but a celebration of indulgence. Black Friday keeps inching further forward–Walmart’s online sale begins on Thanksgiving morning this year–and that’s not going to stop, but that doesn’t mean the holiday season has to be all about acquisition. At least, not for you and your family.
The holidays can be (even will be) focused on whatever you choose as your focal point. Pick something more enduring than this year’s hottest gift trends.
Okay, kids, it’s tough decision time.
Over the last couple of years I’ve really enjoyed sharing my thoughts and rants with you here. I’ve taken great pride in posting several times a week, every week, but, as you can well imagine, that takes a fair chunk of time. So, in the interest of narrowing my focus, I’m going to turn down the volume of posts a bit. Quite a bit, actually.
In the meantime, I’ll be working hard to finish up not one, but two book proposals. If you’re interested in keeping up with me, check out my fiction site. I plan to continue to post there twice a week.
Thanks to everyone for reading. (Both of you!) And, if I don’t talk to you again before then, have a wonderful holiday season!
This site is built around the idea of being a grownup. Being responsible. Living in a way that betters you and the people around you.
You know, being an adult.
Sometimes I hear someone make a comment about how they refuse to grow up. Invariably it’s a joke, and it’s usually in defense of some sort of silly behavior. Since launching this site, those jokes make me cringe a little because, geez, I feel that, too. I mean, I have no desire to lose that part of me that’s still wrapped up in child-like wonder. I don’t want other people to lose it, either. Every year around this time, I break out my Peanuts specials and watch Linus prep for the Great Pumpkin. I insist on yet another viewing of The Nightmare Before Christmas. I still find a reason to dress up most years.
What I mean to say is, being responsible and acting like a kid from time to time are not ideas that clash. When I rant about growing up and when I point to behaviors and attitudes that adults shouldn’t embody, I don’t mean to imply that any of us should kill of our inner kid. Far from it. I think a key part of being a grownup is making sure that little girl or little boy inside you is still alive and well.
As Aldous Huxley said, “A child-like man is not a man whose development has been arrested; on the contrary, he is a man who has given himself a chance of continuing to develop long after most adults have muffled themselves in the cocoon of middle-aged habit and convention.”
Chances are, you spend a great deal of time doing adult things, and honestly, that’s good. Good for you. But it’s important to indulge your inner child every now and again, and this is a great time of year to revive that part of yourself. The holiday season, beginning with Halloween, is full of opportunities to remember what it was like to be a kid, and to embrace a child-like joy all over again, no matter how old you are. If that means watching a movie you loved when you were a kid, or finding an excuse to go to a costume party, visiting a haunted house, or carving pumpkins, do it.
Yes, it’s Halloween morning, and maybe you haven’t given any thought to doing something childish today, yourself. Hey, it’s not too late. Let your hair down a little today. Be a kid again. Have some fun.
A big part of being a grownup is making sure the kid in you is still kicking.
Last week, I wrote about getting what you want. Perhaps, after reading that post you took my advice and spent some time thinking through some of your life goals. You may have even come up with some changes you’d like to make.
If you did, I have a follow-up piece of advice for you: start making those changes now. Don’t wait. Don’t come up with excuses. Don’t allow yourself to slip into limbo, talking and thinking about what you’ll do “some day” while staying in the same old rut today.
Don’t do it. Act now.
Life is wonderfully unpredictable. Sometimes that reality is pleasant, and sometimes it means you get thrown a curve ball you weren’t prepared to deal with, but either way, it’s constant. Life is always in flux, and there will always be reasons for you to just go with the flow, doing what you’ve always done instead of making a needed change. Logical, sound reasons. Reasons that even give the impression of maturity.
But, the truth is those reasons (and excuses) only serve as a cage. If you know you want something, if you’ve set a goal, don’t wait for circumstances to become ideal. Start chasing that dream now. Even if you can only take baby steps today, even if you have to start by crawling, find a way to move forward.
Once you start to make a desired change, momentum kicks in. It becomes easier to continue to make the change. And, you’ll feel a sense of relief and satisfaction at the knowledge that you’re not stagnant any more. It’s an instant morale booster.
Trust me. I spent years talking and dreaming about writing before I actually started to work on a book. I have two manuscripts finished (well, the first drafts–I’m starting the editing process), and I have yet to find an agent or a publisher, but I can’t express how personally satisfying it is to say that I wrote a book. I fulfilled a life goal. Even if it never gets published, I did what I set out to do.
It’s a cool feeling, and I want you to have that feeling, too. Once you know what you want, get busy making it happen. Don’t wait. Act on your dreams today.
Honestly, there’s not much need for me to write anything that expands on the above picture. There you have it, really, The first step to getting what you want is knowing what you want.
But, you know, this is a blog and all. I should probably say something, right?
So, I’ll say this: there’s a good reason why I decided to post that picture. I think there are a lot of people out there in the world who would say they aren’t satisfied with various areas of their lives. Their jobs suck. They aren’t happy with what they’ve accomplished to-date. They don’t feel their marriages/relationships are where they should be. They can tick off thing after thing that leaves them feeling disappointed.
And yet, ask them what any one of those areas of life would look like if they woke up tomorrow and it were perfect, and they’re stumped. They don’t know, because they don’t know what they want. They only know what they have now isn’t it.
In psychology, they call that question (“What would be different if you woke up tomorrow and this problem was fixed?”) the miracle question. According to Psychology Today, therapists use the miracle question because “it helps the therapist to know exactly what the client wants from therapy.” It’s a tool for helping people figure out what they want.
And you know what? It works.
If there’s an area of your life you aren’t happy with, why not give the miracle question a whirl? Ask yourself what would be different if that area of your life were perfect when you wake up tomorrow. Whatever you come up with, that’s what you want. Then, you can take that information and start plotting a course to make it happen.
The trick is, you can’t delve into the past for your answer. “I would have finished college 10 years ago,” isn’t a reasonable answer. But, “I’d be enrolled in college to finish my degree,” is. Your answer has to be present/future focused.
Knowing what you want out of life is step one to getting what you want. If and when you discover that you aren’t sure what you want, take some time to think things through. Figure out what results would leave you feeling satisfied, and then develop a plan for achieving those results.
If you’re like most people, a lot of what you do and say is done and said in reaction to the things happening around you. In fact, there have likely been times when you’ve made a poor choice and then, in defense of yourself, said, “Well, I wouldn’t have said/done this if you hadn’t said/done that!” Your actions weren’t proactive–they were reactive.
That’s normal and even natural. After all, Newton’s third law is that, in the physical world, “every action has an equal and opposite reaction.” Every time you take a step, this law of physics goes into motion. You push against the ground (action) and the ground pushes back (reaction). As far as science goes, this law is fundamental and allows for a lot of things we take for granted. Without it in effect, planes couldn’t fly, cars couldn’t move, we couldn’t walk and all kinds of physics shenanigans would ensue.
The problem is, a lot of people carry this physics law over to their emotional lives. For example, when someone yells at them (action), they yell back (reaction). But, there are two problems with that. First, creating an “equal and opposite reaction” to emotion is damn near impossible. When I walk, the ground pushes back just enough to allow me to take a step. It never over compensates so that I get thrown forward and land on my face. But conflict doesn’t work like that. I may have some notion of how much what you said hurt me, but how in the world could I possible gauge my response so that it has the exact same affect on you?
There’s no way.
Second, emotional reactions don’t create equilibrium, like physical reactions do. Yelling at you because you yelled at me doesn’t make things even. It escalates the entire encounter. It makes it more likely you’ll continue to yell at me, or, said another way, it makes things worse.
If you want out of that cycle, you have to learn the fine art of not reacting. Sometimes, that means dampening your reaction a lot. Someone yells at you, and you simply say in a calm voice, “Please don’t yell at me. I don’t like that.” At other times, it means not reacting at all.
Look, most of the time when someone attacks another person emotionally, they want a reaction. If you really want to defuse the situation, don’t give them what they’re after. Don’t react.
It takes work to learn how to pull this off. You can bet your emotions are going to be on overload, and some part of your brain will demand that you push back. Learn to control that impulse, though, and you’ll learn how to take control of the situation instead of letting the situation take control of you.