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?

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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!

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?

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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!

If You are Determined to Live Your Best, You Can Have the Greatest Holiday Season Ever

As you know, living our best does not just happen. It requires thinking, planning and implementation. But we so often take a leap right over the “taking time to think” part and jump right into the planning. It is when we dig in and put some real thought into our lives that we discover some amazing insights. I know life is busy, and having time alone to think is scarce, but it will make a huge difference in your life if you prioritize it.

It is not a coincidence that I am writing about this subject right now. The Holidays are right around the corner and I know we all want them to be wonderful. Because that is my heart as well, I have created some Free Resources that I am very excited about! They come out next week with the express purpose of helping all of us focus on the most important things this Holiday Season. But these resources will do us no good if we don’t take the time out of our busy day to focus on them and ultimately the most important people and areas of our lives. This is going to require determination on your part and a “Can Do” attitude. But I know you want to live your best and you are willing to do what it takes to make that happen!

I have grown to love my “time to think” and you will come to cherish it as well. Here are a few things to help you make it happen.

  1. Make arrangements. If you have young children at home, make arrangements so that you can get away. This may require you to talk to a friend and have them take the kids one day and you take their kids another day, allowing you both to have some free time. If you have a significant other, talk to them about taking care of the kids. Even if they do not completely understand why you need the time away, help them understand that it is important to you. If it comes down to it, hire a babysitter. There are some areas in our lives that deserve investment. This is one of them. Your family will benefit immensely from the time you spend away thinking.
  1. Schedule it. Don’t just talk about it, make it happen. We can say “we should do that” all day long. Go ahead and schedule it, get it on the calendar and make it happen. There is a chance that life will throw you a curve ball, like it so often does, but make “thinking time” a non-negotiable. Today was my day to take some time to think. I planned to take that time at home while my husband was at work, but because of a curve ball, I am up at the laundromat  washing bedding. I will let you imagination come up with the scenario that brought me to a laundromat, but I did not allow this detour in my day keep me from having my quiet time. If fact, I am forced to sit here for forty-one minutes while my bedding washes. I could have thrown in the towel, but it ended up being a great time and place to think.
  1. Keep it simple. The goal of taking time to think is to quiet yourself and think about the most important things in your life. In the resources I have for you next week, I will actually have questions for you to think through and space to write down your thoughts, but keep it simple. Find a place that is distraction free for you, grab a pencil or a pen and relax. I love to start off by taking a long walk by myself and them sometimes I go to my local library. I find a quiet spot and get to work.

I want the absolute best for you and taking time to think has been life changing for me. I am confident you will find the same results. You can make it happen!


I am SO EXCITED to get my Holiday Resources into your hands next week! The Series is called Keys to a Wonderful Holiday Season for those Dedicated to Live Their Best. For the next three months I will send all of my subscribers a Monthly Virtual Goody Bag of free resources to help you have a great Holiday Season! The first one will be delivered to your email inbox this coming Wednesday, November 2nd! If you have not subscribed yet, go to the right hand column of my website, and you can subscribe there. You won’t want to miss it!

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It is my heart’s desire for you to have an amazing Holiday! Schedule some “time to think” now and be ready to put your most important people and areas in your life first, right where they belong!

Here’s to living our best this Holiday Season!

See How Easy You Can Bring the Spice Back Into Your Life

Every day we wake up, work, eat, and go back to bed. I know that is an oversimplification of what our days look like, but it can be pretty regimented at times. What is it that brings spice to our life? I believe it’s people. Even more specifically, the real spice comes from the people in our life that are closest to us, those most important people. I don’t know about you, but it is easy to fall into a day-to-day rut and start to take our most important people for granted. They enrich our lives and we enrich theirs. How can we spice up life and show them how much they mean to us?

Happy loving family

My life is filled with many amazing people. I could not even begin to list them all because, in my absent-mindedness, I would surely leave someone out. Each person in my life holds a very special place in my heart. I am truly thankful for each of them. Just yesterday as I was driving to visit family, I spent some time mentally listing out all of the people that I am thankful for and why. I immediately felt peace and joy in my heart. We are so fortunate to have special people in our lives.

How can we tap back into our most important relationships? How can we show how much we care? Here are a few ideas:

  • Our thoughts become our actions. Spend some time when you are driving or waiting for an appointment to think about all of the people in your life. Think about how special they  are to you, how they contribute to your happiness, and how your life would not be the same without them. These wonderful thoughts will bring joy into your day and it prompts us to take action. I know when I take time to think about how lucky I am to have John, my husband, in my life, I can’t help but want to spend time with him, send him an encouraging text or give him a hug. Take some time today to think about and be grateful for the people in your life.
  • Make it personal. Have you ever come across the perfect gift for someone? Or came up with an idea to surprise someone special to you? Remember the feeling of excitement it built in you? You were so excited to see the joy on their face when they received it. Ask yourself “what is one small thing I can do today to bring a smile to someone I care for?” It might be as simple as buying and giving them their favorite candy bar. It could be sending them a text message telling them how much they mean to you. It could be surprising your child by picking them up from school in person or bringing lunch to your significant other at work. Whatever it is, doing something special for those we care about reminds us of what is most important.
  • Allow for fun. Every relationship looks differently; therefore this looks different for each of the individuals you care for. John and I enjoy spending time together, but many of our hobbies are independent from each other. It is important to enjoy time together, but I also enjoy giving John the freedom to go off and enjoy his hobbies without me. Figure out what that looks like for you, but prioritize fun for those most important to you. Life is too short not to enjoy it!
  • Keep life simple. When I am running around with my head cut off, I do not have time or energy to do any of the above. We all have limits to our time, energy and focus. We can either give those we care for some of our focused time, or we can give them the leftovers. I don’t know about you, but at the end of the day, I don’t have much leftover. My creativity is used up, my energy is gone and fun is the last thing on my mind. The simpler we keep our lives and schedules, the more energy we have for those most important to us.

Who is most important to you? What would you like to do in the next 24 hours for them? Write yourself a reminder and make it happen. This small act will bring joy to you and those you care about!

Here’s to prioritizing those who are most important in our lives!

Do You Make This Mistake When Stress Hits?

None of us strive, day in and day out, towards our goals only to end up backsliding and have them fall apart. That is what happens many times when an unplanned stressor hits our lives. These stressors can come through personal or family illnesses, job changes, moves, and even happy occasions such as weddings. The reality is that each of these, and so many not listed here, require an extra amount of energy. If we do not make adjustments to divvy out our energy appropriately, we can find our goals and most important areas of our lives placed on the back-burner. What can we do during these times of increased stress to stay focused on what is most important?

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I have realized that I only have a certain amount of energy to use up each day. I have a limited amount of mental, physical, emotional, and spiritual energy. Much like allocating the 24 hours in each day, we also make decisions on how we disperse our energy. I feel the easiest of these to manage is our physical energy. I know that if I go on a long bike ride, I am not going to have much physical energy left to tackle my landscape project later that same day. I think as we learn more about ourselves, we naturally learn to manage our energies, but it is when stress hits, that it can become more challenging.

A mistake we can all make during these stressful times, is to think we can keep going at our current pace in all areas of our lives. Stress consumes energy, and a lot of it. Here are some things to keep in mind to help us make adjustments needed in order to stay focused on what is most important.

  1. Keep your “most important things” in front of you. I would recommend making a list and read it every day, if not more often. There is something powerful about starting your day reminding yourself of these good things.
  2. Be intentional about who and what gets your focus and energy. If you don’t take time to think about this, the things that scream the loudest will get your attention, and the quiet “most important things” will not. My friend, who has two boys in elementary school, said that her shower time is her thinking time. I give you permission to take a little bit longer shower to reflect on what areas are most important, what should get your attention that day and what areas you can cut back on until the stress subsides.
  3. Watch out for unhealthy comforts. We all have a default “comfort” we go to when stress hits. It may be food, caffeine, nicotine, alcohol, etc. For me it is sleep. When stress hits, I get extremely tired because I can ignore the stress when I sleep. The problem with comfort is that it’s hard to stop once we have started. I get into the mindset that “I deserve” this comfort because of all the stress I am dealing with. Give yourself some grace, but realize that many times these comforts cause us to backslide. Allocate some energy towards resisting unhealthy comfort because it does take energy to say “no” to the unhealthy stuff and “yes” to what’s most important.
  4. Guard against unnecessary stress. There are two stressors that I have to watch out for. The first one is self-imposed deadlines or overcommitting. I love setting goals, and good goals, in my opinion, have associated deadlines. This is great until it creates unnecessary stress. There are times we have to take a step back and realize we are not going to meet our original deadline. It’s okay to adjust and extend the deadline for our own sanity. The second unnecessary stressor is taking on someone else’s problems. It is my desire to help other people and I do on a regular basis. I simply have to recognize that when I give my energy to someone else, it take energy away from something or someone else. I reference back to what is most important to me and decide from there.
  5. Prioritize yourself. I put this last because I knew that if I put this first, many of you would immediately stop reading. Am I right? This is one of those truths we all know, but struggle with. The better you take care of yourself, the better you can take care of others and stressful situations. When you prepare your “most important” list as recommended in #1, please put yourself as MOST IMPORTANT. We are stronger and better able to handle stress when we are rested, eating well, getting some exercise and taking time to think and plan.

How have you kept moving forward on your “most important” areas when stress has hit?  I, along with my other readers, would love to hear what has worked for you. We are all in this together, trying to do the best we can. I would love to hear from you!

Here’s to staying focused on what is most important, even when life gets stressful!