Christmas, Hanukkah, New Years, Kwanzaa. What did I miss? No matter what your religious or cultural tradition, at least in America, December is a busy month. We are frantically shopping, scheduling our family trips, cooking (and eating) too many tasty treats. Consuming prodigious quantities of our favorite beverages, both alcoholic and otherwise. We love it, and we hate it at the same time.
The holidays fill us with nostalgia. Ah, the presents, the fireplace, the stockings. Grandma’s famous pie. Yum!
But they also stress us out and cause us to tote jumbo bottles of antacids with us to combat the constant state of heartburn and discomfort. And usually when it is all said and done, and giant ball in Times Square has dropped (on time delay for us west coasters) signaling the new year has finally arrived, we all start trying to clean up the mess we made of ourselves during the previous month.
We set our New Year’s resolutions. All the gyms fill up with people again (causing the true regulars tons of frustration). Budgets are set (again). Credit card statements are finally looked at (often with deep sighs of regret.) And then we proceed to get on with our normal lives again, at least for the next eleven months.
So as the final days and hours of 2016 disappear, and you are enjoying that tasty glass of egg nog while watching the fireplace crackle and the little ones furiously tearing open their presents, I’d like you to take a few moments to truly reflect on the good things that have happened to you this year.
Surely, there have been some things that didn’t go your way. You are a Democrat and the Republicans won. You are in the middle of a nasty, seemingly never-ending divorce. You were diagnosed with something unpleasant. Or maybe you were just cut-off by someone in a shopping mall parking lot, and they took that prime parking spot you were waiting for.
Whatever is irking you right now, I’d like you to take five minutes and let all of that go, and simply list out the things that did go your way this year. And in an effort to set an example for you, I’ll share with you some of mine:
- I took my family on a wonderful vacation to Europe. We saw the amazing sights of Rome and Venice, and my wife got to finally see her Italian sister after almost 15 years.
- We added 2 puppies to our family who have added a great deal of joy and laughter (in addition to chewed stuff) to our house.
- My wife has had great growth in her business, and we have continued to deepen our relationship.
- My parents moved to the resort town of Big Bear for a new retirement adventure.
- I have continued to grow professionally, attending 2 great conferences, and coordinating a successful pro-bono event.
These are just some of the positive things that have occurred in my life over the last eleven and a half months. Sometimes, with all of the stresses of daily life, it is difficult to step back and reflect on all of the good that has happened to you, but I’m certain there has been.
I believe deliberate optimism is one of the most important things you can do to lead a happy and fulfilling life. Sure, it is definitely not always easy. “Stuff happens” as they say. But despite whatever setbacks you may be experiencing in your life today, there is always something good to be appreciative of.
So let me help you in this process. Try doing one of these things over the next week, and see how you feel:
- Take all of the spare change & loose cash out of your car, pockets, purse, etc. and give it to someone you think could use it.
- Pay for someone’s coffee or meal behind you in the drive-through line.
- Send a thank you with a gift card inside to someone you know it without a return address.
- Say thank you and happy holidays to every working person you meet for a day.
- Buy something brand new that you want for yourself, and give it to someone else that you know wants it too.
If you didn’t know already, these are examples of “paying it forward.” After you’ve done one, spend some time reflecting on how you feel. You’ll be surprised at how doing small things like this has a positive impact on your attitude.
Giving and generosity are one of the core tenants of creating optimism. It is “that time of year again” to deliberately practice these ideas. And in doing so, we both help ourselves while we are improving someone else’s life at the same time.
Finally, I doubt I will get another post out before the New Year, so I’d like to say thank you to everyone who reads my crazy ideas, or likes my funny doodles. It has been a great 2016, and I look forward to an even better 2017.