How to Survive (and Thrive!)
this Holiday Season

Picture your happiest holiday, your most idyllic scene. Whether it’s Kwanzaa, Chanukah, Christmas or the New Year…close your eyes for a moment and envision what the “perfect holiday” would be for you.

holiday season


Does it look like a serene scene right out of your favorite holiday movie? Or maybe it looks like a Norman Rockwell painting…?

We all have an idea of what the “ideal” holiday looks like. Just like a fairytale romance, this scene has been ingrained into our minds by thousands of similar Hollywood tropes, saying, “This is what the holidays should be. This is what a perfect holiday looks like.” In Hollywood, even the stressful holiday moments are part of the storyline—they always work out with a laugh and a happy ending.

You may be feeling a certain amount of stress or pressure to live up to these expectations, so when the holiday doesn’t turn out exactly as you planned or when it feels less meaningful than you’d hoped, it can feel defeating and disappointing…even depressing. Compound these expectations with the additional stressors of the season, like end-of-year work pressures, time management issues, dark days, cold weather, financial strain—it’s no wonder you might be feeling more “bah humbug” than “fa-la-la-la-la.”

According to the APA, at least 69% of people are stressed out over the holidays! Yet, what do we do? We repeat the process every year! We take on the same expectations and ideals. We set the bar higher and higher to find the perfect tree, cook the perfect dinner, hold the most festive party, or give the most amazing gift.

I’m going to let you in on a little secret—it’s not about reaching the singular pinnacle of the “perfect moment,” it’s about finding the joy in all of the moments throughout the season!

Truly Feeling Joy All Season Long

When we put too much pressure on ourselves or build up an ideal scene in our minds, we might be removing the joy, wonder, and excitement from the other moments surrounding it.

Instead, practice mindfulness this holiday season. Wrapping gifts with your daughter, decorating the tree with your spouse, or lighting holiday candles might be just as satisfying as carving the turkey and raising a glass. The weeks before Christmas can be just as festive and filled with happiness as the moment you unwrap gifts from under the tree. They don’t have to be jam-packed with Santa and literal bells and whistles either. The quiet moments and connections can have the most meaning.

In fact, sometimes the anxiety over that pinnacle “perfect” moment can be built up so much that we can barely enjoy the moment itself. Brides and grooms often describe their wedding day as going by really fast or “a blur,” and it’s even common to feel a little letdown after. It’s for the same reasons: when we become narrow and singular in our vision, working on an ideal day or even a single moment for months, we take the joy and satisfaction out of the journey and the learning process.

Planning, shopping, cooking, preparing—these rituals of the holiday season can bring satisfaction, too. Engaging in a great conversation at a party or really connecting with a loved one over the season can be the true highlight. You might not have a Tiny Tim “God bless us, everyone” moment at your dinner table…and that’s okay. You can still have a wonderful holiday season.

Redefining the “Perfect” Holiday

Instead of picturing the single perfect holiday moment, try to picture what your ideal month would look like. Are there family members and friends who you really want to engage and connect with? Are the activities you’d like to do to celebrate the season?

When you have the opportunity to see friends, really listen, and engage with them. Express your appreciation for them and make time for those who elevate you and bring out your best. Make these friends your priority, especially during times when you can otherwise brush off social engagements because of too many other commitments. These are the moments that will renew and revive you.

If holiday lights really give you the sense of magic you long for, make a priority to take a winter walk with your spouse and enjoy the lights around your neighborhood. If you love the windows downtown, keep a place in your shopping schedule to take a walk by all the shops and really be present in the moment—take it in. Treat yourself to a sensory delight like a peppermint latte or a gingerbread tea, and really focus on the memories and feelings it conjures. Don’t worry about snapping the “perfect selfie” or documenting the “perfect” moment. Simply enjoy it!

During these busy days we can forget about self-care and giving ourselves little “gifts” of mindfulness and renewal. Listen to music, get outdoors and get some exercise. Don’t zone out with too much alcohol and food to quell your anxiety—enjoy a treat, and move forward. Keep yourself mindful and in the moment, getting plenty of rest and keeping your schedule from becoming too jam-packed.

Encouraging Meaningful Connections & Engagement

The best part of the holiday season is the opportunity to connect and engage with friends, family and those around us in a meaningful, deliberate and celebratory way. Make the most of it!

Rather than tackling baggage and confronting every issue when you go home, approach even strenuous situations with honesty. If you’re worried about a confrontation with a sibling or dreading criticism from your mother, set up the situation for success. Tell them, “I want to spend today appreciating each other and focusing on the joy of the moment. We have some things to talk about at a later time, but let’s enjoy each other’s company for now.”

Before you head into a particularly stressful family situation, take the time to think of, and even write down, what you appreciate about your family member. When you spend time with them mentally refer back to your list, tell them what you’ve discovered and what they mean to you. Make the holidays about appreciation and connection.

Does this mean you have to let go of rude behavior or become a punching bag? No way! You can express your emotions and feelings (and should)! Just know that once-a-year around the brisket, you’re probably not going to resolve deep-seated concerns and personality conflicts.

If there’s something eating away at you that needs to be addressed, or if a family member gets out of line or does something upsetting, step in and be the voice of reason. Let them know you’d like to discuss things after the New Year (if you feel it needs to be addressed and can be resolved), and for now, you’d like to focus on appreciation and building connections.

When it’s all said and done, there may be family members that we just don’t get along or agree with…perhaps we can’t come together on our core beliefs or attitudes. During the holidays, however, we may end up in each other’s presence because we both care about the same people (other family members). Use this commonality as a platform for connection, and if worst comes to worst, you can both agree that no one wants to ruin Christmas for Grandma, and make the best of mutually appreciating and enjoying her.

Take time to give yourself a break when you need one. Go for a walk. Build your intimacy and bond with your partner by making them your ally. Turn a stressful moment into a challenge you can tackle and use to learn and grow from.

Throughout the holidays we’re given opportunities to stretch ourselves and really tap into our emotional intelligence. We can worry and stress out, or we can rise to the occasion and come through the holidays with a greater understanding of ourselves and those around us—building some great memories to boot!

This holiday season, commit to really engaging in those moments and learning opportunities. Stretch yourself emotionally and express appreciation for the people in your life. Listen, engage, and grow all season long. Look at this season as an opportunity to build your momentum and propel yourself into a successful New Year of transformation and connection!

For more on making the most of the season, please join us for a special Holiday Workshop this Thursday, December 8th—Home for the Holidays: Creating Meaningful Moments Throughout the Season. We’ll help you get the most out of your holidays!

About the Author

Dr. Bob Wright is an internationally recognized visionary, educator, program developer, leadership and sales executive, best-selling author and speaker. He is a co-founder of Wright and the Wright Graduate University.

Wright Living is a division of the Wright Foundation for the Realization of Human Potential, a leadership institute located in Chicago, Illinois. Wright Living performative learning programs are integrated into the curriculum at Wright Graduate University.
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Holiday Mayhem:
Your Guide to a
Great Season

During the holidays, it’s easy to lose sight of your focus. Family patterns emerge, feelings come up to haunt us from Christmases past, and your New Year’s Eve plans might not go as you hoped. You’re off routine and surrounded by people that stir up your feelings.

Maybe you love the holiday season, but feel it’s too commercialized or that you can’t connect with others in a deeper way. Maybe you hate the holidays or avoid them because you’ve had a rough year, or you feel you aren’t in a financial place to give people lavish gifts. Maybe you don’t celebrate Christmas at all and you’re sick of everyone shoving Christmas in your face.

Well, no matter what your belief framework—Christian, Jewish, Atheist, Muslim, Buddhist, or Agnostic—you can still see this as a time to end the year on a high note. It can become a time to express your appreciation for others and spread tidings of goodwill towards your fellow men (and women). It can be a time of transformation and growth for all of us.

I think of the holidays as the time of year to express appreciation to my loved ones and tell them just how meaningful they’ve been to me. I like to hear about their memories and the positive experiences the season brings up. I also like to hear about the negative things and let my loved ones work them through by expressing their feelings—getting them out, confronting those fears and regrets, and letting them go. This is a powerful time of year.

As we close the season, our thoughts turn to transformational living and growth as well. Give your loved ones the gift of transformation by sharing our book, Transformed: The Science of Spectacular Living.

What It’s All About: Showing Appreciation

People beat themselves up wanting to buy the perfect gift, when really, the perfect gift is what you give of yourself. Before you feel like you can’t give your loved one a new car, television set, or whatever commercialized “next big thing” is out there, take a moment to reflect on what you CAN give to those you love.

Tell your significant other that although you can’t afford what you wish you could give, you want to express all the things you appreciate about them and the reasons you’re grateful your partner is in your life. Then, tell your loved one you’d like to hear what they want from you for the upcoming year. What are their desires, their yearnings, and their hopes for your relationship? Engage in activities and meaningful moments.

We get in this mindset that the only way to express our love is by giving grand gestures and big gifts. Truly the most meaningful gift is appreciation. Tell others what you appreciate about your relationship with them. Explain the impact they have on your life and the blessings you desire for each other in the upcoming year.

Home for the Holidays Can Be Hard

We all have feelings of inadequacy and longing to be seen for who we really are. We want others to know us and to care about us. No one brings that out quite like family and those closest to us.

When we find ourselves back home for the holidays, old patterns and resentments can die hard. Maybe our parents and siblings dredge up frustrations and regrets. We can fall back into our roles from childhood and all of the feelings that entails.

This year, declare a vacation from resentments. It’s not about being phony or pretending everything’s great. You can even let your parents know that while there are plenty of things left unsaid right now, you do want to address them in the future. However, in the spirit of the season, you want to declare a resentment-free zone. Put the feelings aside. If something comes up or occurs during the holiday, address it and move forward.

Get the conversation rolling by asking your family members to reflect on their best memories of the season. Express your gratitude to your parents for giving you life. No matter how difficult things might have been in the past, your life is of great value to you and you appreciate that.

Pose the same question to your family that you posed to your partner: what can you do for your parents, siblings and family members in the upcoming year? What are they looking forward to in the next year? Even if your family members shut you down, roll their eyes, or get uncomfortable, see it through. Acknowledge the awkwardness and move through it.

Avoiding Burnout

When you’re pulled in different directions and trying to pack in too much stuff, take a step back to engage with those around you. Ask family and friends about their favorite holiday memories. Engaging with a loved one and discussing what the holidays mean to that person can be a powerful way to move the conversation to a deeper level.

Engage with those around you in a meaningful way and you’ll bring the meaning back into your holiday. For example, look at your extra work hours as a way to better serve your clients and help them make the most of their holiday as well. If you’re trying to finish up end of year quotas and close your books, think of all the ways you’re making your business better for next year, and doing your due diligence to close the year properly and on a high note.

Remember, even though it can seem difficult, the holidays are a beautiful time to appreciate all the things we love about each other. It’s a time to express gratitude and think of ways we can give back and care for one another.

Use movement into a New Year as an opportunity to start your own transformation. See this as a time to elevate yourself and the world around you. Engage with others and discover your best self. Start living a life that touches all those around you and discover the ways you can go out and make the world a better place.

Listen to this episode here on BlogTalkRadio or here on iTunes.
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Learn more about our More Life Training. Engage with others and discover ways to bring out your best self. It will give you the tools you need to go forth and ignite your world.

You’ll be able to read all about these ideas and more in Dr. Bob and Judith’s Wright’s book: The Heart of the Fight: A Couple’s Guide to Fifteen Common Fights, What They Really Mean, and How They Can Bring You Closer. (Available now from Amazon!)

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Want to learn more about more satisfying dates and relationships? If you’d like to learn more about what the Wright Foundation for the Realization of Human Potential has to offer check out:

About the Author


Dr. Bob Wright is an internationally recognized visionary, educator, program developer, leadership and sales executive, best-selling author and speaker. He is a co-founder of Wright and the Wright Graduate University.

Liked this post and want more? Sign up for updates – free!

Blog post image courtesy: Flickr user michalo.

Wright Living is a division of the Wright Foundation for the Realization of Human Potential, a leadership institute located in Chicago, Illinois. Wright Living performative learning programs are integrated into the curriculum at Wright Graduate University.