December is here once again, Thanksgiving is already 8 days past, and the calendar is quickly filling up with all of the events, occasions, and happenings leading up to the holiday celebrations. While the songs on the radio remind us about this being "the most wonderful time of the year", that the city sidewalks are dressed "in holiday style," and that somehow--it's turkey and mistletoe that help make the season bright, there's a lot that goes on behind the scenes.
As the calendar fills up, the list of things-to-do gets longer and longer, and exhaustion and frustration begin to set in, our thoughts may turn to the time when everything about the holidays will be over and done with.
You see...we might look to the holidays (and everything associated with the holidays) as just another thing to get through. We tend to focus more upon what needs to be accomplished (shopping for gifts, writing out Christmas cards, decorating the house, baking cookies, wrapping presents, driving to holiday get-togethers, making beds for guests, and so on) rather than paying attention to and appreciating what's around us leading up to the holiday. When we're focused too much on the end result (what needs to get done), we're more likely to become frustrated and bothered when something interferes or gets in the way.
In Acceptance and Commitment Therapy (ACT), there's a distinction made between GOALS and VALUES. Our goals are something we might seek to attain or accomplish, while our values are those things we find meaningful in life. When we live a goal-focused life, we run the risk that if we don't attain or accomplish our goals, we end up frustrated. When we life a values-focused life, whether or not we attain or accomplish what we seek, we find that living out what we find meaningful is worth the journey and effort.
So, if time spent with your children is of value to you, even if the goal of baking five dozen perfectly baked Christmas cookies isn't met, there can still be a sense of fulfillment and joy knowing that this time was spent with the kids. If finding beauty in nature is meaningful to you, then it's okay if you take 15 minutes away from your 4th hour of Christmas tree decorating to look out the window and watch the snowflakes fall softly to the ground.
Living out a values-focused holiday season makes the difference between saying with great annoyance on December 2: IS THIS HOLIDAY OVER YET!!!??
Or with great realization and wonder: "This holiday...wow."
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