These final weeks of the year bring about anticipation, excitement, and for many a lot of additional stress. For those of us in the Northern hemisphere, the shortened daylight hours can evoke an additional sense of pressure to get even more done.
Thanksgiving came early in 2017 and with that, an onslaught of holiday advertising in the U.S., planting seeds for all the things we should buy for our family and friends. Our calendars have quickly filled with holiday gatherings, shopping, decorating and other activities. At the same time, we are finishing out the fiscal year for many organizations, working extra hours to meet goals that will magically re-set on January 1.
Winter traditions that were once enjoyable become items on a never-ending, always-growing list and are somehow not as fun as they once were.
We’ve simply been adding things without adding more time, adding expense with less value.
How does this happen?
As I was watching football on TV the day after Thanksgiving, along with the endless stream of commercials, I began to think to all that would be coming over the next few weeks. Would it be possible to experience the joy of the season and still meet the expectations we’ve set for ourselves?
I reflected on the year and thought about our trip to Stockholm. We’d been walking around the city and needed a quick refresher, so stopped in a juice bar. As we placed our order, and the proprietor asked what size we’d like. After choosing medium, he said, “How very Swedish of you!”
Of course we were intrigued – what exactly did that mean? He explained that in Swedish culture, the word “lagom” essentially represents the concept of just enough. There is no direct English translation.
Lagom is not about deprivation or excess; it’s about what’s just right for you, at this time, on this day. Enough to enjoy without being overloaded.
I loved this – we can think about this when it comes to our work, our relationships, hobbies and activities, food and drink, even the speed at which we move. This is a way of life for the Swedes, and there are proven positive impacts to the physical, emotional, social and mental well-being of individuals and communities.
This idea was introduced to us at a young age, even in woven into our fairy tales, and Goldilocks was onto something… She tried out porridge – too hot, too cold, and just right. She tried out chairs – too hard, too soft, and just right. And she tried out beds – too big, too little, and just right. She didn’t need three of everything, only the things that were just right. I wouldn’t, however, recommend looking for those things in a house owned by three bears.
Lagom can apply in the workplace as well. As leaders, finding balance is always a challenge. Demands increase, the marketplace is changing, regulations become more complex, the pressure to perform is always present, team members move in and out. The number of hours in a day, however, has not changed. While the average life span may be increasing slightly, the quality of this life is often compromised with too much sacrifice or too much excess.
It’s critical to have goals and objectives – this is how we track progress and achieve results. Too few, and not much will get done. Too many, and we get overwhelmed, paralyzed and unable to focus. Again, not much gets done, or likely not done well. What is truly important? What is realistic? We must consider how we can challenge ourselves and our team members while also allowing for a sense of gratification and accomplishment.
It's not so hard to add more to the plate, but it takes work to weed things out and it’s not easy. I’ve been told more than once, “You can’t do everything!” And from my grandmother at holiday family dinners with a table full of desserts, “Your eyes are bigger than your stomach!” Not having any dessert would have been awful, but eating it all left me feeling worse than when I started.
So, when I am finding myself overcommitted, and the activities I once loved are becoming tasks I’d rather avoid, it’s time to take a pause and consciously curate. I need to make space, allowing myself plenty of variety but not too much of anything, and leaving some space for the unexpected.
Even when I'm not overwhelmed, I know it's important to periodically re-evaluate how I spend my time, consider the possessions I choose to keep, and prioritize how I give of myself to others. It usually means cutting back in some areas, and planning more intentionally around others. Time is a gift, and we must take advantage all that we have.
With holiday season upon us, I continue to collect, and then curate. For example, the decorations in our home have been scaled back, and we leave them up a little longer. While it was a little tough giving up our own tree, we enjoy the sights and lights of the holidays in public spaces. We are able to spend more time with family, friends and each other.
We've added some new activities, and there are a few traditions I have chosen to keep – watching this every year is one of my favorites, and never fails touch my heart:
We also get few surprises. I was pleasantly reminded of the beauty this time of year brings with an early snow in Atlanta. Thankfully, I was able to be home to enjoy it, as it didn’t last too long…
I’d love to hear about your favorite winter memories and holiday traditions and why they are meaningful to you. How do you embrace the joy of this time of the year? What can we do to keep this going into 2018?