Tag: family

Have Your Best Holiday Yet – Plan it Backward

Imagine it’s January 8th. You’re back in the office, sitting at your desk, reading through emails and checking items off your to-do list. You’ve successfully gotten back into the swing of things, and yet you can’t stop thinking about the holidays. Just last night at the family dinner table, everyone agreed that this had been the best holiday season anyone could remember.
But wait, it’s only December 10th!
Most of us plan from where we are, looking forward. That’s normal. Sometimes it would be more useful to plan from the future back to today. Like solving a children’s maze puzzle, it’s faster and you make fewer wrong moves if you go to the center of the maze and then work your way back to the beginning.
I recommend that you consider this approach in thinking about the holidays. Design backwards from the desired outcome to create the necessary conditions.
Here’s how you plan backward from a desired future:

Start by imagining the conversation among family members after the holidays are over, then ask this question: What 10 things made this holiday the best ever? Perhaps:

everyone got time for what they wanted to do
no one felt left out
the work got distributed more evenly than normal
we found something each day for everyone to be involved in

Then ask yourself this question: What conditions would almost guarantee these outcomes if the conditions were in place?

if we knew what everyone wanted to find time for
if we didn’t make any arbitrary decisions without asking others
if we asked for what we wanted instead of hinting

Then ask yourself: What’s needed to make sure those conditions are in place?

asking everyone to list three things they want to do
having the conversation early about what’s most important to each of us
giving people permission to take care of themselves

These won’t be your exact answers, but you get the idea. Whatever you come up will get you close to what you can do today to make sure the holidays turn out to be special.
The holidays hold such promise for wonderful times with our friends and family. We can – and should – plan so that they will turn out as we hope. It’s as simple as taking a few moments now to decide what you want, and then being intentional about producing that future. Clarity and action—powerful stuff!
Who can you have a conversation with now to ensure that next couple of weeks create the memories that will last a life time?

Start a new holiday tradition: Conversations to remember

My grandmother, Esther, was wonderful. I remember her as strong, caring, and hardworking. I remember taking friends to the creamery where she worked. She handled large milk containers with ease and manipulated the large steam hoses like they were nothing. Of course, the best part was being taken into the freezer and being allowed to pick out an ice cream bar. Pretty cool when you are six.
During the holidays, she had only one request—that for two hours at some time during gathering, everyone would be in the same room for a conversation. No games, television, or distractions were allowed. Only one person could speak at a time, and the youngest person got to start. After that person finished, he or she would pick the next person to speak. Sure, people got excited and jumped in from time to time, but for the most part the conversation flowed as intended. Those where the conversations everyone in the family remembers fondly, even though it took the iron will of my grandmother to make it happen.
You can buy sets of cards with questions that can get the conversation started, but it’s more fun to create your own. Start with a few—things you’re curious about or would be fun to learn what your family thinks—and ask family members to suggest others. People always love the questions they come up with on their own.
Here are some possible questions to get you started. It’s fine if people take the conversation in different directions—that’s part of the fun.

What did you like best about your favorite room growing up?
What did you collect—stamps, dolls, Star Wars characters…?
What were your favorite games and who did you play them with?
What was the neighborhood like where you grew up?
What was magical about your childhood?
What do you remember and like about your grandparents?
Ten years from now, what would you like to remind yourself about life?
Who is the most famous person you’ve met or what famous person would you like to meet someday?
What was the biggest moment that you missed out on?
Who were your best friends? What were they like?

Given the pull of our lives these days, you will probably need someone to say, “I want to do this, and I want everyone to join in.” Give people some advance notice on when you would like to do this and perhaps start with 30 minutes and one question if it is a departure from the normal way that your family interacts.
It seemed easy for my grandmother to get everyone into the same room and paying attention. I wonder how she would have handled technology. Back then, it was only the television and there were only three channels. Now, we’ve got smart phones, tablets, computers, video game consoles, and umpteen TV channels. Somehow I think she would have pulled it off—the question is: can we?