The kids are off school, the crazy sweaters come out, weather permitting there may be a bit of sledging, there are carols and tons of chocolate – Christmas is great. But I didn’t always feel that way. I was one of those adults that dreaded Christmas. But now I’ve got three little children, five years old, three and one, and I love it! (I also have an adult child too but she’s a bit grumpier about Christmas!)
I love the ‘sparkle’ it brings to an otherwise cold and dreary time of year. Winter is tough for many of us, but Christmas can be a high point. I also love that I get time off work to enjoy time with my lovelies (my name for my children). We put our decorations up in mid-November because we just couldn’t wait to revel in the joy the festivities bring.
It got me thinking about what types of sparkles and joy we could all bring more of into our lives, businesses and to our work colleagues this coming year using classic Christmas elements.
There are people that go absolutely nuts with Christmas lights, and I can see why. You can’t help but be happy when you see impressive Christmas lights. I’m not talking about the single strand over the mantlepiece but the Christmas lights that can be seen from space! I recently watched a firework display in Llandudno and was in awe of how wonderful the display was. I’m not sure why but they help me feel happier and watching the children’s faces was just magical. I think lights are like people and how amazing they are. Sometimes we just need to be ‘switched on’ to shine and illuminate.
Take a minute and appreciate the people you know who light up your world. At work make a concerted effort to show your appreciation for the work everyone does. Aim to say thank you to at least one person at work for the rest of the year. But mean it. Be sure to be specific on what you appreciate about that other person. Say thank you to your partner and kids too. Everyone has tough times and Christmas can be challenging for many to spread some light and appreciate others. But do your very best.
Whatever shape, form or material it’s made from look at the tree as a metaphor for gratitude. I’ve got a reusable tree and each year there is so much excitement as I get it out of the attic and me and my lovelies decorate it. To be honest, they decorate it and I just enjoy watching their little faces light up.
I don’t see it as a tree full of Christmas decorations but as a symbol of ‘love, hope and joy’ for them, me and the world. It represents all that is good with the world and all that we can be grateful for. I am certainly grateful for them as they squeal around the living room, deciding what bauble or ornaments needs to go on which branch. And what to put on the top? Decisions, decisions.
The whole process has enormous meaning for us as a family. We have Mr Men and Little Miss characters, baubles from Frozen, and umpteen animal figures made from felt, plus countless homemade hangings that each tell their own story. It often reminds me of the nativity play from the film Love Actually that featured a lobster!
Whether at home or at work, every time you look at the Christmas tree, instead of rolling your eyes are muttering, “Humbug”, use the tree as a trigger for you to think of one thing you are grateful for in your life.
It used to be that there was only one type of Christmas cake, and technically there still is but we now have so much more variety and difference in how we choose to celebrate and what cake we choose. It all depends on the ingredients and how you mix them together.
Business is a lot like a cake too, loads of different varieties, all made up of different people in different roles all working together to create a different finished cake. Whether the outcome is in line for ‘Star Baker’ or given to the dog depends on how they’re put together, mentored, coached and utilised.
Take, make or bake a minute to think how you can create a better cake in your department, at work or at home. And remember, none of us is the finished article and never will be. I was recently involved in a conference with Pobl, a Welsh group of companies offering great homes, care and support that make a big difference to people's lives. The keynote speaker was Nigel Owens MBE, someone I’ve always admired for his honesty. One of the things he said was that "none of us is perfect, and never will be. And that’s ok!” He’s so right, so let’s be the best we can be and help others to be the best they can be too.
A key focus of Christmas is the presents. It’s one of the reasons I didn’t like Christmas for so long, as it seemed to be less about being thankful and spending time with family and friends and more about what someone got for Christmas. It also used to depress me a bit that all this money was wasted on gifts that no one wanted or that were pointless when so much of the world had nothing.
I was moved by an article I read in the Guardian by June Eric Udorie who at just 14 decided not to ask for any gifts for herself but instead she asked family to buy gifts for children at the local orphanage and she delivered them on Christmas morning while her sister was unwrapping her gifts. For a moment she was jealous and regretted her noble gesture, but she witnessed the joy that giving can create. Adding, “I learned that the joy I felt at Christmas was not something to be taken for granted”.
It really stopped me in my tracks. Not only was I impressed that she would do something so selfless at just 14 years old, but it called me on my own behaviour and made me think about how lucky I am that I have presents to give, and to receive. One quote from the article really resonated - "It ought to be a right, but it is a privilege to feel safe and loved at Christmas”.
Take a moment to consider what you received for Christmas last year? Where is that stuff now? Maybe we should all buy a little less and share a little more. It only takes a moment to give a kind word or a gesture of encouragement and those gifts last a lifetime. Even a simple smile can make someone’s day.
I am a total word nut and I love the word joy. I can’t even say it without smiling 🙂 For me ‘joy’ is up there with ‘love’. It’s visceral. We feel these types of words in our body. The joy I see in my children’s eyes when we’re playing 'tuff and rumble' on the bean bag is better than any present or festive goodie. Tuff and rumble is also known as rough and tumble but I like their version better!
Take a minute to find the joy in the day to day. The last few years have been challenging for most of us but even amongst the chaos, there has been joy. There is always joy in nature. Visit the beach, watch a squirrel dart between trees, spend time with a friend. Laugh. Be mindful, don’t just buy things because you need to buy something. Think, what will give this person more joy? It may not even be a present. Focus on the small gestures that spark joy.
This Christmas I’m going to focus on these things. I’m not going to worry about toys that may or may not be available or whether I can get a big enough turkey, my lovelies won’t care. Christmas is a time for us to recharge our batteries, and hey if we eat a little too much chocolate - it’s winter - who cares!
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Sid Madge is a transformation and change specialist and founder of Meee. Meee draws on the best creativity and thinking from the worlds of branding, psychology, neuroscience, education and sociology, to help people embrace change and achieve extraordinary lives.
From pupils to CEOs, we’ve helped thousands find their magic to transform themselves, their communities and their organisations. From leaders of PLCs and SMEs to parents, teachers, students, carers, the unemployed and prison inmates we help people excel.
Sid Madge is also author of the ‘Meee in Minute’ series of books which each offer 60 ways to change your life, work-, or family-life in 60 seconds.
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