Managing Holiday Expectations: 5 Ways to Make this Year Great

Have you ever had a holiday get-together that didn't go as well as you'd hoped? With so many plans to make, holiday gifts to buy and family members to get along with, it's no wonder that people often feel a great demand to be more loving, generous and happy during this time of the year. For everyone from single parents trying to manage their children's custody schedules to those confronted with their own unresolved family issues popping up again, the holidays often fall short.

Yet it is possible to have a beautiful holiday season, no matter what your biggest obstacles are. Here are five ways to deal with the five most common holiday concerns -- and five ways to make this your best year yet:

Examine your holiday expectations carefully

Sit down with a paper and pencil and take some time to write down what you want -- and expect -- from this holiday season. Do not censor yourself. Let anything you feel pour onto the pages. You may soon be startled at what you are writing, but don't stop. Let yourself become aware of what you may have been secretly demanding all along. Also pay attention to the things that you are dreading. Many people have memories from the past, which they fear replaying. That's because the holidays are a time of memories, and a lot of emotions resurface. Usually these very memories are part of what we are expecting -- and perhaps dreading at the same time.


    Find new ways to meet those expectations

    Once we become aware of what our expectations are, it's important to find out if they are relevant now. Is it possible to have them met? Are our expectations and demands excessive? What is it that we actually want? Do we really need to receive all these gifts and invitations, or is it just love we are seeking? The basic truth is that when people feel truly loved and loving, they feel satisfied, regardless of what is happening around them. There are many ways to give and receive love. It is extremely liberating if we can let go of specific demands that things go a certain way, and find new ways of expressing and receiving the love we desire.

    Focus on what you are giving to others

    Instead of worrying about being happy and having things go as you wish, focus upon what you can give to others and how you can make the holidays beautiful for them. The greatest cause of unhappiness and conflict is feeling we have not gotten what we want or deserve. When this happens, we feel we have not made the grade or received the love we want because there is something wrong with us. This feeling is easy to dissolve. Don't focus upon what you're not getting, focus upon what others need and do your best to provide it. (You will be absolutely amazed at the joy this will bring.)


    Often the reason why it's difficult to be with some family members or other individuals during the holidays is because we are holding resentment and grudges against them, and we're unwilling to accept them as they are. Here, again, it is wonderful to give up our demands and expectations. Decide to make this holiday a time of forgiveness and acceptance, let the past be the past, and let people be who they are now. Let go of your pictures of how they should have been, or could have been, and simply be with them in the moment as they are. Not only will this clear the air and make the holidays beautiful for them, but you will feel such inner peace that you will be amazed that you held onto anger and other negativity for so long.

    Be thankful

    Spend time during the holiday season finding things each day to be thankful for. Then give thanks for them. Set aside time for expressing gratitude. Also spend time realizing what others have given to you throughout the year, and make a special effort to acknowledge it and give thanks to them as well. There are many ways to give thanks. Of course, we can say "thank you," and tell people what they mean to us. There are other ways as well. While you're sitting down at the holiday table together, have every member of the family take turns toasting to what he or she is most grateful for this year. Find special ways of your own to give thanks to special people in your life, to God, to the universe, for all the good you have received and are receiving every moment. Doing this daily will make the holidays a beautiful time for you.

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