Anyone else rushing around trying to “make it all happen”, getting work ready for the end of year, getting prepared at home for the festive season? Been up late? Been out many evenings doing errands? Holiday parties? Family events on the weekends? It can feel very full and lively at this time of year, or overwhelming, or both. You are not alone.
Whether it is being rushed off your feet for the month of December or the fact that we put a lot of stock into re-envisioning ourselves in the New Year, what happens for many of us after the holiday binge has subsided is a time of reflection and evaluation and we ask ourselves big, deep questions like: “Is this the life I thought I would be living?” (or some version of this question). There is no answer to this type of inquiry that sets you up for success in your next year when asked before you’ve given yourself a chance to re-charge (these questions often creep in when we are over-tired, or when we’ve been sacrificing to make other people’s “moments” happen, etc.). The inevitable planning for the New Year will come, but before rushing into it (especially since our “rush” muscles have been getting tuned all month and are primed for action) use this prompt to do something different this year.
Do nothing. Attend to your current state of mind before heading into the rush of planning your life in the next year. Often the specter of “what‘s next” comes upon us in moments of silence, like when the gifts have all been unwrapped, the parties are done, and you are finally enjoying a quiet moment, sipping something soothing under the sparkle of festive lights. But is this the right time to plan the future? Not really, it may be the first time you’ve had to put your feet up all month, so do that instead. Give yourself this moment to enjoy (you worked hard to get here). Put off thinking about big plans for a time when you can be objective and less swayed by the “emotion” of the season.
Stretch, enjoy the good will of others, bask in all that is merry and bright. Sink into this moment and savour it. There is a time for plans and evaluations, but this moment of calm relaxation will never come again. Enjoy it, guilt free. Find your moments over the holidays and hold onto them, they are what real life is all about.
At this time of year I like to reflect on all that I am grateful for in my life, which comes to me in quiet moments and then is gone with the rush of the season. It’s not that I am ungrateful, it’s that I haven’t exactly made the time to be grateful with intention. Then last December I was challenged to express gratitude to others in a meaningful way as part of the completion of my Masters certification in coaching. Our class had just been through an epic 8-month journey together, exploring our deepest selves by becoming more skilled in our coaching, and we were tasked with expressing to our classmates what we most appreciated about each of them. Simple words, sincerely meant, to leave an indelible mark of remembrance on our time together and shape the future of our connection going forward. I’ll admit that I was completely rung out! I felt overwhelmed by this simple, yet beautiful, request. The coursework and self-development needed to get to certification was the culmination of a three-year journey and I was beyond exhausted. And yet, when I took the time to appreciate what it was our teachers were asking us to give to one another I was moved, and so began the realization of a new way to express gratitude. What followed were 16 succinctly written letters expressing loving kindness – the words just poured out. It was cathartic, moving and completely intentional. When I was done I felt better than I had in years.
Fast forward to this year when a new challenge arose. Write a letter expressing compassion to yourself.
But I am not alone. Many of us cannot express in words (written or spoken) how we feel about ourselves. We cannot liberally apply to ourselves the self-compassion we so generously offer to others (through forethought and intention, or in a pop-up moment). Sadly this limitation (for that is what this is) then holds us back from putting our whole self into the world; into the love of our families, into work we love, into making a difference, into realizing our great potential. We can only give to others as much love as we hold for ourselves.
So as this Christmas season unfolds, here is a challenge for you. Write this letter to yourself (or record one). Give yourself the gift of self-compassion, deeply meant and forged through intention. In so doing you will have given yourself a gift beyond measure. One that will take you forward into new and beautiful places within yourself and in your life.
This may be one of the hardest letters you’ve ever had to write, but it is a necessary step towards unlocking your great potential. Know you are worth every word.
The writing prompts for this letter to yourself were inspired by the completion process from the brilliant minds at Integral Coaching Canada.