This time of year can really be the pits. There’s so much pressure to look and act like something out of a Norman Rockwell painting. So many of us overcompensate and experience a ton of unnecessary stress just trying to hold it together. 

Sure, plenty of us experience the joy of the season, but for others, it’s bittersweet at best.

To ease some of the mental and emotional fatigue of the season, I like to turn to the stop-start-keep method. 

In a nutshell: stop what isn’t serving you, start whatever needs to be done to get you closer to your goals, and keep what is currently moving you in the direction — and serving your true needs. (You can also read more on this in my last post.)

Easier said than done, right? We rarely do this in our real lives. Just look at the holiday season. 

We set up our traditions and keep adding things over the years, but we rarely remove any. And I wonder, why? How much of that is a) really necessary and b) truly desired? Do the things we ask or require of ourselves still serve us? 

I’ve considered this in my own family. Our kids are largely grown, 17 and 21, and don’t need, enjoy, or engage with the same things now that they did at age 6. Are there traditions we should have quit a year or two ago when it still felt good and nostalgic and magical and created fond memories? Can we create a new tradition today that is equally meaningful, though different and let go of the ones that once served us with children, but less so with adults?

By holding onto things that no longer have the same meaning for us, we run a risk of diminishing the value of the past when something else might serve us better at this stage in life.

Many of us seldom stop and pause. Particularly at this time of year, and I think the meaning of what we wrap up into the season could stand to be reevaluated. Are we too caught up in expectations of what this is “supposed to be” rather than who we are and what we want to be?

Years ago, I did a segment on AM Northwest called, “Deck the Halls, Not the People!” (And I still stand by that advice!) We get so consumed with decorating and gathering and festivity-making that we can lose perspective (as well as our tempers). People tend to get decked — emotionally if not physically — as much as the halls because of the expectations — seldom realistic or fulfillable — that we have of ourselves and others.

That’s why it’s so important to take time to assess our decisions and employ the stop-start-keep method even in our personal lives. And it isn’t just good for each of us individually; it can have a major impact on our relationships and family dynamics, too.

How many people go through divorce and end up remarrying someone just like the person they divorced, duplicating the negative relationship they just left? 

Or how many times do we parent the way that was demonstrated to us without thinking critically about why or whether we actually want to parent our own kids that way? 

We repeat the same mistakes because we don’t stop to assess, often because doing so feels painful. But if we don’t look at the parts that harm us, we’re likely to do the same. (Man, I wish I’d learned that lesson a couple decades ago.)

All of this applies as much to assessing a business decision or process as it does to relationships, traditions, and what we value or make space for in our lives.

So stop what isn’t working. Start what will help you close the gap. Keep the things that serve you.

Happy holidays, my friends.


Photo by Tyler Delgado on Unsplash