An Authentic Holiday Season. Is it Possible?
Thoughts on Authentic Leadership… and Lives Lived Authentically
By John P. Schreitmueller
The holidays. They arrive at the same time each year. And, while the season was historically intended to be a time of thanksgiving and for Christians and Jews a time to celebrate our faith, the holidays also bring with them boosted levels of stress, anxiety and even depression.
Every year lots of articles are published, designed to help you navigate your way through the hectic holiday season. “Quick Holiday Meals You Can Prepare in Less Than 30 Minutes!” “Decorate Your Home just in Time for the Holidays!” “Last Minute Shopping Tips!” “Stocking Stuffer Ideas!” “How to Buy for People Who Have Everything!” “What to Wear to That Important Company Holiday Event!” The titles go on endlessly, and they all infer common messages: (1) there is so little time, (2) if you are not spending, you ought to be, and (3) if you aren’t on the holiday panic treadmill yet, it’s time to get with the program!
The cornerstone of our practice is authenticity. Authenticity in leadership, and authenticity in the way we elect to live our lives. So, let’s stop for a minute to reflect on how the upcoming seasonal weeks can be much more positive and meaningful than the stress-inducing advertisers, and so many others, seem to expect for us.
When I ask the CEOs, business owners and significantly compensated professionals who are our clients what they reallywould love to see happen over the holidays, allow me to share 20 of the responses we, in private, have received so far this year:
- “I would get some rest. Real rest. I’m exhausted.”
- “I would have at least a full week with my (wife/husband/significant other/family) that is not interrupted by work.”
- “I would not buy gifts I know will be unappreciated.”
- “I would get away to a mountain cabin, build a fire in the fireplace, and write a story about my Dad’s service in World War II.”
- “I would propose to the wonderful woman I’ve been dating and ask her to spend the sunsets that are left with me.”
- “I would have time to read a good book or two.”
- “I would do away with holiday cards and never send any again.”
- “I would not respond to any emails or texts.”
- “I would not look at any social media.”
- “I would visit an assisted living home or senior living center and read a story to the residents there.”
- “I would visit a VA hospital and spend time with the Army, Navy, Marine and Coast Guard veterans there.”
- “I would visit the Vietnam Veterans Memorial in Washington D.C. and leave a special wreath there without anyone knowing it came from me.”
- “I would not watch or listen to the news.”
- “I would lock my cell phone in a safe for the duration.”
- “I would not go to any stores or malls.”
- “I would spend a maximum of 2 hours on line to do all of my shopping.”
- “I would go to Midnight Mass at a church where no one knows me so I can enjoy the meaning of the occasion.”
- “I would go to the bank and get 5 one hundred dollar bills. Then I would go to a Walmart parking lot and stick $100 under the wipers of the 5 oldest cars I can find, without anyone knowing I did it.”
- “I would go to Piedmont Hospital and anonymously pay $1,000 to the account of a patient there who I do not know.”
- “I would go for a walk with my dog every day I’m away from work.”
There you have it. 20 responses from people who are high achievers and are not lining up for more of the same over the holidays. Do you see the common denominators across these responses?
We live in an era of time poverty. This reality is exacerbated by the holidays. Time is the precious commodity so many are seeking. To rest. To reflect. To renew. To be with those who are special. And to give in ways that do not make big splashes, but make big inner imprints on the totality of the lives they are living.
I’ll wrap up with thoughts I often share with clients as they anticipate the holidays, seek authentic ways to live through them, and defeat holiday season stress:
- The holidays are finite. They are only a blip on the calendar. Regardless of what happens or does not happen, the holidays do not last forever.
- Very few people outside of your loved ones will remember what you gave them for Christmas or Hanukkah even three weeks after the holidays.
- Many of the business holiday cards you send are either never opened or are trashed upon opening them.
- Experiences are appreciated much more than things.
- The most meaningful gift you can give is the gift of your time. Give it to those you love, and to those who love you, first and foremost.
- Being “alone” for the holidays is not a death sentence. It can be a meaningful, peaceful experience. Learn to take care of yourself. Learn to be comfortable with yourself. You will be a better partner for others. And, realize you are never really alone. A greater power is watching over you.
- Having lots of money is rarely the key that makes people happy at the holidays.
- Someone else will always get more than you. Stop competing and let go. The other guy is probably miserable. You just don’t know it.
- Veterans, the sick and the elderly have the holidays too. Your authentic gift of time will mean more to them than you could ever know, and will be recognized most particularly by God, whose score board, after all, is the only one that will matter to you some day.
Now, ask yourself: what would the holidays look like if they unfolded in ways that were authentic for you?
John P. Schreitmueller is a board certified executive coach practitioner. With offices in Atlanta GA and Sarasota FL, his practice, Resolute Consulting Group LLC, specializes in the development and lives of authentic leaders.
Copyright 2017 by Resolute Consulting Group LLC