The One Question to Ask Yourself During the Holidays

Nine drummers drumming, a drum roll please. The big question, the ONE you need to ask yourself this holiday is…Why?

It really is the magic question, especially this time of year. Your answer can bring clarity, reduce stress and guilt, and make your entire holiday season more meaningful. For every task you “need” to do to prepare for the holidays ask yourself why.

Why am I sending Christmas cards? I asked myself this one as I was picking up fifty custom picture cards from Costco. My answer was to touch base with friends and family–most of whom are now on Facebook. So, they’ve seen pics of my family all year and they pretty much know what we are up to. Hmmmm. If I cut the list down to the ten or so people who are not on Facebook I would probably have time to make them some sort of homemade card with a sweet note and pictures. Sounds so much more fulfilling and a much better use of my time.

Why am I putting up a Christmas tree? I asked myself this a few years ago. Our family travels every Christmas to visit family. So I used to put the tree and unravel the lights and put the ornaments on,struggle to keep the dog’s tail from knocking the ornaments off then we would…leave. It seemed even sillier when we would return from our trip after new years eve and I would need to take it all down in addition to all the other post-trip tasks. I had some guilt when I packed it off to Goodwill, but I reminded myself that someone else would get so much more enjoyment out of it than we were. Now I go for a little garland and a few lights (’cause the lights are the best!) and it looks just as festive to me.

Which has brought me to the big why. Why are we doing this at all? Our family isn’t religious so celebrating Christmas is as odd as if we just picked some other religion’s customs and decided to randomly adopt them. I wouldn’t get a menorah just because I like candles. I feel like that would diminish the importance of the symbolism for the Jewish religion. Last year, after asking myself this question, I started to focus more on the winter solstice, the shortest day of the year. After looking at some of the customs I felt like they made sense to me. To celebrate I thinly sliced an orange and dried it in the oven. It made the house smell wonderful and when I hung the dried slices in the window they were a bright reminder of the longer, sunny days to come. I’ve actually always liked the shortest day. I’m not a winter person and I love the idea that on that day we turn a corner and little by little start moving back to more sunlight and warmer days. The new custom felt so much more personal and significant.

What customs do you follow that you’ve never questioned? Are they still valid? Do they add to your family time or detract? Do they help you connect with friends and family? Are they significant in your life? Comment below and let me know if asking why changes anything for you.

P.S. I’m still going for less (see last week’s post). I’ve been tackling my closet and the junk drawer. The growing donation pile reminded me that this is also a great time to get last minute tax deductions for donations. They can make a huge difference come tax time and someone can enjoy the things you no longer need–win/win!

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Working from Your Gut

I’ve written a few blog posts about working alone, at home.  I have three jobs (Mom, Writer and Instructor) and none require I actually go to an office.  There are drawbacks, loneliness being the biggest one, but that is eclipsed by the benefits.  I love my flexible schedule and non-existent work uniform, the quiet work area and fully stocked lunch room.

Having so much flexibility can be great, but it really puts all the weight on my shoulders to get results and define what kind of results I want.  It’s an exciting challenge but I’m starting to get a better feel of the daily choices necessary to be a CEO.  I’m having to filter out more than I let in or I’ll just keep spinning my wheels in place.

I have fallen into the wide sea of book marketing sources.  Once you put it out there that you are a self-published author, idea and programs start pouring in to help you market your book.  Some of it is great, some of it is crap, and I could spend (waste?) days sorting through it all.  At some point I have to stop researching, make some decision and move forward.  Of course, the minute I do I receive a new article telling me that the option I just chose was the worst one another author ever used.  (frowney face)

I have definitely made some mistakes while self-publishing and most have been due to a lack of information. It gets tempting to over-read and over-research my next move when I run into one of these errors.  I could easily get into a mobius-strip cycle where I might think I was getting somewhere, only to find I’m actually just running in circles.  

But I’ve learned another thing along the way (this just recently). I have to listen to my gut, to the way something feels, and base my decisions on that.  What was a bad move for one author, might not be for me.  Books are like fingerprints, each unique, so they need a fingerprint marketing plan.  I created my book so I am the only one who can get a “feel” if I am on the right track.  

By self-publishing I moved myself from worker bee to CEO.  No one can give me a list of tasks that need to be completed.  There is something so satisfying about crossing tasks off a to-do list and patting yourself on the back that you are on track.  But it is so much more satisfying to study, research, plan, implement, analyze then start over again, learning from my mistakes along the way.  I’m developing my CEO gut instincts with each move I make and it’s a thrill ride.