“Let It Go” is more than a Frozen anthem for the pre-school set. It’s also a hard-core success strategy for giving yourself — and those around you — a truly happy holiday, from Thanksgiving preparations through New Year’s Day (and the rest of the year). I saw the power of a few of these little actions in the research for The Surprising Secrets of Highly Happy Marriages, and The Kindness Challenge, but it applies to all sorts of situations. Especially during the Christmas and New Year season, you’ll be shocked at the difference if you say and do these four things.
1. “It doesn’t have to be done my way.” I know I lose many of us right off the bat with that one! At every family gathering, we want things to be so special. So we have a vision in our heads for the way we want the lights to be hung, the office party to work, the food to be cooked. But sometimes that means we push ourselves and those around us to do things in a certain way… and at some point it becomes work and frustration. Which means it ceases to be special. In those cases, let go of your notions of “right,” back off your vision, and reap the benefits in more fun for everyone.
2. “I’m going to let myself sit down and enjoy this.” Yes, there’s work to be done. And very often, you can do it later. Don’t miss your niece excitedly sharing a long story about the play she’s in at her school, or miss a simple coffee with friends, just because you have ten things on your to-do list for the New Year’s party. Tell yourself that you don’t always have to be the responsible grown-up at every moment.
3. “Let’s simplify.” Let go of the fourteen things you could be doing, and enjoy the five that you do. On days off of work and school, give yourself permission to just “lie around” and read a book or watch a movie without feeling like you have to be “doing something.” Unless you and everyone around you enjoys a constant whirlwind (which, to be fair, some people do!) do not overschedule. You may have a Christmas Eve tradition of Christmas caroling and a visit to the neighborhood party and driving around and seeing the lights… but maybe this year you do one of those each day, instead of three per day. Maybe you say “This year, the Christmas tree is going to have just lights and tinsel instead of all the ornaments.” Maybe you turn the family Christmas update letter into a January update. When you start to say, “But…but…!” tell yourself, “Let it go.”
4. “I’m not going to let that get to me.” For many folks, the holidays mean extended time with family members who push all their buttons. And having those buttons pushed is one of the quickest ways to get stressed and not enjoy the holiday! Solution? Decide in advance that no matter what Uncle Joe says about your cooking or what your step-mom says about politics, that you are going to smile, shrug it off, and not let it bug you. There are many ways to do this (for example, “Sally, I think we’re just going to have to disagree”) but the bottom line with all of them is that you’re refusing to give someone else control over your peace of mind. As one of my friends puts it, “I’m not going to let him bust my peace.”
Peace. Joy. Family. Friends. Don’t miss what matters most because of holding on to those things that are less important. Let it go. And you’ll enjoy this season so much more!
Helping people thrive in life and relationships is Shaunti Feldhahn’s driving passion, supported by her research projects and writing. After starting out with a Harvard graduate degree and experience on Wall Street, her life took an unexpected shift into relationship research. She now is a popular speaker around the world and the author of best-selling books about men, women, and relationships. (Including For Women Only, For Men Only, and the groundbreaking The Good News About Marriage)
Her newest book, The Kindness Challenge, demonstrates that kindness is the answer to almost every life problem, and is sparking a much-needed movement of kindness across the country. Visit www.shaunti.com for more.