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’Tis the season to be jolly. If you decide it is…

Dec 04, 2023

Where you really want to be

Many people choose not to celebrate this time of year, and this can be for many reasons. It could be due to their culture or religion; some don’t wish to be caught up in the potential mayhem and preparation; perhaps it’s a difficult time of year and they’d rather not acknowledge it, and would rather the festive season hurries on its way.

For those who do celebrate Christmas, they might not feel it’s joyful and jolly as it can be a time for a huge amount of stress.

Here’s the thing… It’s important to know that you are always exactly where you want to be, doing exactly what you want to do. But does it always feel like it? Possibly not, and especially so at Christmas.

However, people always behave in a way that is consistent with their emotional needs and what dictates what those emotional needs are? Your values. In other words, when you make a choice, it's always the easiest for you emotionally at that time, compared with any other option. You always choose the option with the consequences that are easiest for you to bear emotionally.

This is a concept that some people who attend a Winning Edge course can at first struggle to comprehend. They might intellectually accept it, even if emotionally, they may be resisting it. Knowing that you don’t have to do anything is worth bearing in mind when you think you have to have the out-laws round for dinner; when you think you have to go to your partner’s work Christmas ‘do’, or even your work’s Christmas ‘do’; maybe you feel you have to have everyone round to your place on the 25th December because it’s ‘your turn’, or maybe because nobody else wants to host, so you offer AGAIN.

You don’t have to do any of it though. You always choose the option with the consequences that are easiest for you to bear.

The stress you might feel during the festive period is down to your thoughts and your interpretation of a situation. And you interpret things based on… let’s circle back to… your values. Ignorance of knowing what your values are means that you leave yourself open to experiencing negative stress without knowing why. You put yourself under stress – people don’t do it to you.

Using ‘victim’ words such as have to, must, should and got to, demonstrates to others (and more importantly to yourself), that you are donating control over your life to external factors. If you think you’re not in control of your life, then you won’t be. It’s the person who checks whether it’s raining or not before deciding what kind of day they are going to have.

These victim words are dishonest and disempowering because we do have choices. We are only a victim of our own…. values. So, if you don’t like the choices you are making, it’s time to check in with your values.

Using empowering words such as want to, choose to, like to, and one which completely shifts your mindset is get to, gives us an internal locus of control – we know we have choices, and we are in control.

We don’t of course always like everything we choose to do because sometimes we might have the option of two pretty awful options, but we will always choose the option with the consequences that are easiest for us to bear.

When we know we have the control, we don’t feel trapped; this might mean we can be more solution-orientated and can think of other options that might be available to us.

Family ties

It’s important to be proud of your values because after all, they define you. However, if you don’t consciously know what your values are, you don’t know why you do what you do. We had a course attendee who said he felt every year he had to have his mother-in-law round on Christmas Day because she lived alone and his wife didn’t have any siblings, and there was no other family. He was asked about other options such as his mother-in-law could spend the day alone, or she could perhaps have some respite care. Would there be people in the world who would choose each of these options? Yes. And he could choose either of these alternative options, as opposed to her being at his house every year for Christmas. However, he did choose for his mother-in-law to be with her daughter and son-in-law. And there would be a value behind his choice – perhaps loyalty to his wife, valuing his marriage, maybe compassion for his mother-in-law; values to be proud of, rather than feeling trapped by his own choice.

The easy way to find out where you really want to be is to check out where your feet are – they will tell you. Every. Single. Time. Where your feet are will tell you what you value the most. If you don’t like where you are, then it’s time to re-evaluate your values and thus your choices.

Telling porkies

‘Sacrifice’ is a word bandied around at this time of year: ‘I sacrificed a night out with my friends to come to your work ‘do’, ‘I sacrificed a day with my family because you wanted your brother and his family here today’ etc etc. In Winning Edge terms, sacrifice means to surrender something of value as a means of gaining something more desirable based on your values. More often than not, ‘sacrifice’ is used as a way of making out that that person has lost out when in fact, in truth, they found something more important to them based on their values. 

‘Compromise’ is another one often used: ‘I compromised so you could get your own way.’ No, you didn’t. You agreed because that option sat most emotionally comfortable with you, or else you wouldn’t have settled on it. Compromise is a negotiation where two or more parties are happy with the conclusion reached, as opposed to making concessions which makes it sound like you’ve both lost out and reached an agreement whereby what you want is somewhat diluted.

The language we use has such an impact on how we feel in a situation- rather than feel ‘done to’, ‘put upon’, or that we’ve somehow ‘given in’, it’s knowing that it’s entirely our choice.

Just desserts

Every day, (unless you have a major event going on in your life such as a serious illness– for yourself or a loved one, bereavement and so forth), if you’ve had a relatively good night’s sleep, you wake with a freshly baked emotional pie. As the day goes on, you get to decide how your slices are given away. So, for example, your journey to work is peppered with hold ups, perhaps less than cheerful people and you maybe arrive late at work. How much angst, anger and stress you decide to donate to this, will determine how much emotional pie is given away.

The festive season is a great time of year to be more consciously aware of your emotional pie and how carefully you are guarding it. It’s deciding how much emotion and energy you dedicate to present-buying, Christmas card writing, deciding whose turn it is to host Christmas Eve drinks/the Christmas Day family meal/Boxing Day, how much you do or don’t spend, and so forth. If you choose to get stressed about any or all of these things, the emotional pie will be dished out left, right and centre. There will be crumbs left for minimal self-care, or for anyone who needs your time or attention.

We all have our own emotional capacity according to what’s going on in our lives; sometimes we feel better equipped to deal with the curve balls; sometimes it can feel like the smallest of things can tip us over the edge however, we do get to choose– as challenging as that might feel sometimes. It’s choosing one thought over another – which intellectually sounds simple but emotionally – putting this into practice, it can feel far from easy sometimes.

One acronym that we use on The Winning Edge course which sticks with attendees is MUMMS – To Make Up My Mind Slowly - by consciously choosing how you want to think and feel about a person’s actions, or a situation, you can choose whether the emotional pie slices stay with you or are given away. It’s about creating a space before we respond which MUMMS gives you the opportunity to do; this enables you to feel calmer and to think things through with a quieter brain. By creating that space when you MUMMS something, you can decide how you want to respond to a person or situation, and thus you can be a lot calmer and have clarity; you can make a considered and informed choice.

Mindset tips

With preparations ramping up for what is essentially only 48 hours of celebrations, I would encourage you to:

  1. Reflect on what’s important to you- your core values, because all your decisions will satellite around those values. And if you don’t like what you are choosing to do more than you do, re-assess your values. Knowing what your values are makes decision making a whole lot easier.
  2. Be aware of the language you are using to describe to yourself and to others, the choices you are making. Ensure that rather than using victim words, you feel empowered when you say that you ‘choose to’ and ‘want to’ do something.
  3. Guard your emotional pie around the choices you are making – in terms of your thoughts, feelings and actions – thus your choices. Ensure you have more than crumbs at the end of the day.

By thinking about the way you are thinking about what you are thinking about, you can take the stress out of Christmas – or at least, a large proportion of it! Mindset is after all, a work in progress…

On that note, on behalf of The Winning Edge team,

I wish you a very enjoyable month of December,

and all that you wish and strive for in 2024.

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