Two Options for Navigating Obligations and Expectations this Holiday Season

How is everyone doing the day after Thanksgiving? The topic of obligations and expectations may be fresh in your mind. Obligations and expectations during the Holiday Season can be a good thing or a bad thing. There are wonderful events that we feel obligated to attend and there are the not so wonderful events that we feel obligated to attend. The same goes for expectations. Some are healthy, some are not. So how do we navigate these obligations and expectations this Holiday Season so that we can have our best Holiday Season ever?

Mother and daughter baking together

I just recently started reading a book that came highly recommended called Essentialism, The Disciplined Pursuit of Less by Greg McKeown. Through the years, I have worked hard in my life to keep things as simple and as enjoyable as possible. With that in mind, this book looked like it would enhance what I already knew and held dear. I did not pick the book up with the Holiday Season in mind, but I have found the concepts to be very applicable. Here are two options I want us to consider when it comes to obligations and expectations in the next few months. The direction we decide to take will not be cut and dry, but hopefully, we find a middle ground that will help us to focus on the right stuff.

One option is to say yes, yes and yes. So many times it feels easiest to just say yes to everything and everyone who makes a request of us. We certainly feel a sense of reward when we say yes, because everyone is happy with us. But what happens so many times when we say yes to everyone and everything, is we start to fall into a cycle of “I have to”, “It’s all Important”, and “How can I fit it all in?” We take on so much “good stuff” but we find that other areas in our lives start to suffer. We start to feel out of control and unsure of whether the right things are getting done. Especially during the Holidays, we start to feel overwhelmed and exhausted. I’ve been there, and I am pretty sure you have too. In fact as I have spent time with wonderful individuals already this month, folks are already feeling the stress as they anticipate the months to come. That is heartbreaking to me. The Holidays were never meant to be miserable. They were meant to be filled with wonder and joy! I want to remind you, as I have to remind myself, that we do have a choice in how we fill our time and energy. There is another option.

The second option is to say yes only to the Best things, and no to the rest. The first thing that comes to my mind when I read that heading, is dealing with the many people who I might have to say “no” to. I almost get a knot in my stomach. Wow! It feels so much better to just say “yes”, at least in the short-term. I need you to trust me on this, choosing the best and saying “no” to the rest is the best thing. The initial interaction of saying “no” might be hard, but it will pay dividends in your life and relationships. Greg McKeown even mentions that in the long run, people respect you more for saying “no” and prioritizing what is most important to you. Choose the few best things over a quantity of good things. Saying yes to the best requires making a choice. It requires discerning what really matters. It requires accepting trade-offs, because there is always a trade-off. When we choose the BEST things we feel in control. We get the right things done. We experience more joy in our life. Isn’t that what we all want?

One strategy I have employed over the years when I am unsure whether I should say “yes” to something or not, is to tell people that I will get back with them with an answer. This creates a time of “pause”, which allows me to ask myself how this fits with what is most important to me. Just recently, a friend of mine was looking for volunteers to help with a fundraiser for a very worthy cause. She was getting desperate, so she sent a plea out to her friends and family to see if anyone could help. When I received the message, I held off for a day or so and asked myself if this fit with what is most important to me. I also thought about how it was going to affect my time with my husband. Once I had thought it through I agreed to help. Yes, I said yes! But I only said yes when I knew I was going to have plenty of time with John the rest of that weekend and that volunteering fell in line with an area of my life that is most important to me. When you receive a request, slow things down, take time to think, and know that your “yes” or your “no” is the right thing…is the BEST thing.

We have SO MANY CHOICES with regard to how we spend our time each day and during the Holidays. It is great to have options, but ultimately we have the power to choose. Let’s try to stay zeroed in on what is most important to us and center our lives and our Holidays around those most important people and things.

Thank you Mr. McKeown for your book Essentialism. A number of the above concepts were pulled from a simple graph he created on page 8 of his book. If you want to live more intentional and focus on the few most important things in your life, this is a great book to add to your Christmas Wish List this year.

Here’s to saying YES to our BEST!

The Difference Maker for Your Thanksgiving Gathering

Traditionally, the week leading up to Thanksgiving is filled with messages of thankfulness. It is a great message, but I want to take a little bit different approach this year. I want us to take a look at the people around our Thanksgiving table, really think about them and what makes them tick. Each of us are created with unique gifts and personalities. We all have something very special to contribute to our world. It is easy, at times to get frustrated with others who are not like us. This week, I invite you to look through different lenses with me and try to see the best in everyone. Acknowledge their good traits and contributions.

Thanksgiving: Family gathers for dinner at grandma's house. Little boy.

I am one of seven siblings and my husband, John, is one of four. At this stage of life, our families have grown and continue to grow with great nieces and nephews. Both John and my families are filled with wonderful people who truly want the best for each other. We have a good time when we get together. But when we gather that many people together, with a variety of personalities and life experiences, there can be stress and even conflict. What I challenge each of us to do this year, including myself, is to step back, take a deep breath and try to see the good traits that our loved ones have. See the best.

Here are two things to keep in mind:

  • Everyone has different life experiences. Because of those life experiences, they look at things through a different pair of glasses. A recent example that I encountered was a situation where an individual got in a minor car accident. After the accident the driver played the accident over and over in their mind, trying to figure out how they could have avoided it. There were some individuals that were of the opinion that they did the right thing by not swerving, thinking that swerving could have created more problems. But there was another view that was expressed and that was “absolutely yes, you should have swerved.” But this individual had been in a head on collision years back. Because of their life experience, they had a completely different, and valid, viewpoint that needed to be respected. Remember, all of us come together during the holidays with different life experiences that shape our thoughts and our conversations. Let’s try to remind ourselves of that and think the best of people.
  • Everyone has a different personality. Because of these different personalities, each individual approaches life in a completely different way. I will use John and I as an example. John and my personalities are DRASTICALLY different. (Could you feel the dramatic emphasis there?) John and I look at a problem or challenge in two different ways and want to remedy that problem or challenge with two different approaches. John likes to pounce on the problem, no need to delay, fix it and move on. It is a strength that I have come to appreciate in John. He keeps things moving. I, on the other hand, like to take things slow. I like to think about things, contemplate the different options, then eventually make a decision. Differences in personalities can cause stress and conflict in the midst of our Holiday gathers. Our hope is always that each person, with their unique strengths, would give and take a little bit to make things run smoother. But know, it is within our control to recognize that others are different than we are and that is ok. Yes, there is wisdom in removing ourselves from people who like to push your buttons, but try to see some good in them and their unique personality.

During the Holidays, a bunch of people, who are very different from each other, converge together in one space. I know we all want to have the best Holiday that we can have, therefore let’s do what is within our control to appreciate the people around us and see the good in them.

Here’s to a Wonderful Thanksgiving with the Wonderful People in your lives!

Why it is So Hard to Take Time for Ourselves – And How to Fix It

It is Friday night, my husband is out with friends and I could really use a break. Like so many of us, I have been working hard this week as well as working through some unexpected issues that popped up. The question then is, if I could really use a break, why am I still writing this Blog Post? Why is it so hard to stop and rest or stop and do something just for myself? And you know, it’s only going to get harder as the busyness of the Holidays approach. How can we prioritize ourselves, get the rest we need and have some fun too?


Right now I feel like there is so much that I need to get done. I keep telling myself that I will push through these last few things then rest, but the list of “To Dos” never ends. I desperately need to do some yard work. For some that sounds like more work, but for me that is a very relaxing activity. I love the fresh air, the sun on my face, and getting my hands in the dirt. I am hoping to finish this Blog Post tonight and come tomorrow I am setting the “To Do” list aside and getting outside for some “Jen Time”.

What do I need to do to make that a reality?

  • Prepare. I am going right now and pulling out my yard work clothes. One thing I know I will need in the morning is to remind myself first thing, with my pile of yard clothes, that yard work is the plan for the day. I also need to make it as simple as possible for myself in the morning. The less I have to think about, the better. Let’s say you would love to get up early and go jogging. Pull your clothes and shoes out tonight and have them waiting for you when you get up. Even set out the breakfast you want to eat. Make it as simple as possible. (One moment please, I’m going to get my clothes together…seriously!)
  • Okay, I’m back. What else do I need to do to make sure I have my “Jen Time” tomorrow. Communicate! Earlier, my husband and I were talking about our weekend plans and I let him know that I was going to work out in the yard Saturday morning. This is important because one thing that can pull us away from our needed time is the people we love. It is vital for us to share with each other what our plans are, that we really need the time, and then respect that time. Communication is key.
  • Keep it simple. It is important not to overcommit because our plans can easily turn into more stress. Plan less and if you end up getting more done, it’s a bonus. Folks, this is tricking the mind for our benefit. I am planning to work on just the front landscaping tomorrow. When I get that done, I will feel great! That amount of work can be accomplished in the time I have set aside. Now, if I have time left and decide to do just a few more things, that is going to be a bonus! This applies also for a day out. If you plan four destinations, one right after another and you only get to experience half of them, you feel bummed or you feel like you missed out. Plan one, maybe two things, enjoy them and add more if time allows.
  • Join a friend. Have you ever agreed to go do something with a friend, then at the last minute you REALLY did not feel like going? This happens to me all the time, but I go because I made the commitment to my friend, and what happens? I have a great time! Making plans with a friend keeps us both motivated, and life is so much fun with friends! This example does not completely apply to my landscape work for tomorrow, but I will tell you that silence and solitude are my friends and I will enjoy them tomorrow!

These are just a few ideas. Taking time for ourselves is hard. The reality is, just like everything else that is great in our lives, it takes intentionality to make it happen. We deserve down time and we are better wives, mothers, friends and co-workers when we prioritize it. Do you have any “you” time on your calendar in the next few weeks? If not, block some time off just for you!

Here’s to getting rejuvenated so we can live our Best!

Six Strategies for Turning Your Time with Others into Quality Time

Quality time with those we care about can feel like a scarce commodity at times. There is so much we need to get done every day and time flies by so quickly. We end yet another day realizing that there was a high quantity of activity in our lives, but it was short on quality. You are not alone, we all find ourselves in the same predicament. It takes intentionality to set aside quality time with those we love, and make it the best time it can possibly be.

Mother and son

I have learned a lot about what to do and what not to do when it comes to quality time with those I love. Here are six things to remember as you prioritize quality time in days to come.

  • Starting small is ok. If life has been especially busy here of late, and you are ready to bring back the quality time, realize that it is going to be an adjustment for the people in your life. I once had a very gung-ho woman in one of my Life Planning Classes who knew this was an area her and her family needed to improve upon. One week she came to class extremely frustrated with her family. They did not want to cooperate with her renewed love of quality time. She described the plan that she tried to implement that week. She went from very little quality time to a minute by minute quality time plan for each member of the family for each night of the week. I loved her enthusiasm, but as she experienced, it was a little bit too much for her family to take all at once. Starting small will yield less resistance.
  • Spend quality time on their terms. I am not into video games. I have never been good at them and I have never really understood them. I have a number of kids in my life that love video games. Okay, what kids don’t, right? When I stop in to visit them, they absolutely love to tell me about their Minecraft and video game stuff. I call it stuff because I don’t understand anything they are telling me. But they love to share it with me, so I love to hangout and listen. I try my best to take interest in what they are interested in. It turns our ordinary time together into quality time.
  • Make quality time a positive experience. Early in my marriage, my husband, John, stopped taking walks with me. I did not understand. He used to take walks with me all the time. What had changed? Over time the reason was revealed. He did not like walking with me because I would take the opportunity to tell him about all of the things that went wrong in my day, at home, at work, etc. He would rather do just about anything than be forced to listen to me complain as we walked around the loop in our subdivision. I still have to watch myself to this very day, but we have much nicer walks, and he will go with me when I am a happier, positive person.
  • Make sure quality time does not feel like a punishment. Many times disciplinary action needs to be taken, specifically with the youngsters in our lives. One form of discipline is to take a privilege away for a period of time. That privilege might be screen time, or it might be time hanging with friends. Many times quality time requires us to put down the screens and let friends know that they cannot come over for the night. This can feel like punishment. If we want our time to be of quality, it’s important to do something special during that time. Yes, you may still get some resistance, but making your quality time feel like fun, and not punishment, is essential.
  • Go on a date night. Yes, you should have regular date nights if you have a significant other. But also go on a date night with your son or daughter, just you and them. I have witnessed these date nights when Daddies take their little girls out to dinner. It melts my heart every time. Date night is a time when we can focus 100% on the other person, and they can focus on us. These times are priceless.
  • Grab the small moments. Just the other night we went out to dinner with some dear friends. Their two boys were new to playing darts, and there were a number of dart boards at the Bar and Grill where we were eating. The boys were having a great time. But they had an even better time when their mom came over, who has a wicked dart throwing arm, and hung out with them and helped them. The moment did not last real long, but it was quality!

We have people in our lives who mean so much to us. Let’s try to switch over some of the quantity of time into real quality time. Everyone will be happier for it!

Here’s to great times with great people!