With the holiday season, many of us are currently rushing to purchase our final gifts. It is the season for giving. Yet, from my perspective, it is a time to be giving more than just presents; it is a time to be giving more of yourself. If the average working parent spends 4-20 minutes daily 1:1 with a spouse or 1-20 minutes daily 1:1 with each of the children, what really needs to be given? More time with your loved ones, not another box under the Christmas tree. Yes, with time off during the holidays, the family time will increase for the next two weeks. But what happens after the holidays? Back to work? Back to less time with the family? For this year, why not make the holidays be a time for a giving style that lasts?
What do you need to do first? You need to learn to let go. Confused? Have you ever heard the story of how they trap Rhesus monkeys in Indonesia? A native will find a coconut, carve a hole at the top of the coconut, and then carve out the entire interior of the coconut, leaving only the shell of the coconut. The coconut will be staked to the jungle floor, and then it will be filled with goodies like peanuts and rice. A monkey will eventually find the coconut, smell the delicious goodies inside the coconut, and then squeeze its hand through the narrow opening at the top. The monkey will grab those goodies, forming a fist. The (now larger) fist cannot squeeze back out through the opening at the top of the coconut. What does the monkey do? Let go? No. Many monkeys will stand there for an hour, ready to be captured.
Does that seem ridiculous? Freedom is one movement away (e.g., letting go of that fist of goodies), but that action is not taken. Now, does the same predicament apply to you? The answer, much too often, is yes. What are you holding that you cannot let slip through your fingers? What is on your ‘life’ plate that you have been unwilling to let go? You cannot add something new to that plate unless you take something off that plate. Life is not like a holiday feast where you can stack items on top of each other. A day has so many hours. Your ‘life’ plate has only so much room, so much time. My point? If you are going to give more time to your family, if you are going to give more of yourself to your loved ones, you often need to make a conscious choice. What can I delete? What can I give up?
For many people, it is time at the office. It is those extra hours of work or possibly the hours of overtime work. Trust me: less can be more. Fewer hours at the job, even if that equates to less income, can lead to greater happiness at home. Which do you want more? Money or love? Cash or happiness? A more expensive car or a more balanced life? A higher income or a better, more grounded, child? Those are real choices that parents have to make. Those are real choices that any couple has to make. More time together? Or more money to spend? From my perspective, I think that our country puts too much emphasis on the money. We look at the famous and want their wealthy lives. We forget about the statistics. We fail to read the tabloids. The rich have nicer houses, but they still have broken homes. Their children have higher, not lower, rates of problems, including substance abuse. For those families, that higher income does not equate to a better or happier life.
For this holiday season, don’t you think it is time for a change? Time for giving of a different nature? Time for a pattern of giving that lasts longer than January 1st? After all, what gives most of us our greatest happiness? It is our relationships. It is the quality of our marriage. The closeness with our children. Our friendships with the people who populate our lives. Give yourself a gift. Give them a gift. Let go of those things that keep you from spending more time with them. Just a few minutes daily 1:1 with your loved ones? Is that a formula for happiness? Sorry to be the bearer of bad news, but your employer is not interested in your happiness; your employer (unless you are extremely lucky) is much more interested in your productivity. Do you want to work for their goals or your goals? Well, I suggest that you make giving of yourself (and your time) to loved ones a higher, life-long priority. For your happiness, can you really argue for keeping your hand stuck in that coconut? Can you really argue against extending your hand to your family?