As the festive season approaches, the challenge isn’t only managing time but also determining which activities genuinely deserve our attention and energy. The Priority Protection Tools are your guide to defining and preserving the essentials of your holiday experience. These tools help filter out the noise of less meaningful pursuits, allowing you to focus on creating a holiday that resonates with your deepest values and brings genuine contentment. We often think the holidays must be joyous, but that can set unreasonable expectations for ourselves and others. Joy is something experienced in a moment. Contentment lingers. Working towards a holiday that makes you feel warm, satisfied, and content is more attainable. Defining your successful holiday is essential.

Priority Protection Tools:

  • Reflect on Past Holidays: Pinpoint what’s most important to you this holiday season. 
  • Visualize Success: Imagine what a successful holiday looks like for you. 
  • Set Clear Goals: Prioritize contentment as the centerpiece of your holiday planning.
  • Align With Your Goals and Set Boundaries: Let go of what doesn’t serve you.
  • Redefine “No”: Changing your perspective on declining an opportunity may be the key to contentment.
  • Find Contentment In The Less Than Ideal Holiday: Even when your holidays don’t meet your ideal, you can find pockets of peace and happiness.

Defining what a successful holiday looks like is a personal endeavor. For some, it might be a health-focused holiday season where maintaining a fitness regime and eating well are top priorities. For others, it might be family-oriented, ensuring quality time is spent with loved ones, or career-driven, aiming to wrap up the year’s projects with finesse.

Priority Protection Tool #1: Reflect on Past Holidays:

Holidays are often laden with traditions and expectations, but not all are essential to your contentment. Determine the aspects of the holiday that are non-negotiable for you—those elements you’re not willing to compromise on. It could be anything from attending a religious service to having a quiet dinner with close family. Knowing these priorities sets the stage for a holiday that fulfills you.

After years of hosting huge family gatherings for Thanksgiving, we decided to have a much smaller celebration for our daughters’ first year in college. They craved some peaceful time at home. We discussed what traditions from the larger gathering we’d continue, what food we each thought “made it Thanksgiving,” and what we wanted to add, just for us. Since then, we have continued to discuss what we each value for that holiday and other celebrations. Being clear about our non-negotiables and respecting other people’s is why we make two kinds of turkey – which makes us all content!

Tip: This post delves deeper into making decisions that honor your non-negotiables.

Priority Protection Tool #2: Visualize Success:

Take some time to envision a holiday where you are content. What does it look like, and how does it make you feel? Defining what a successful holiday looks like is a personal endeavor. For some, it might be a health-focused holiday season where maintaining a fitness regime and eating well are top priorities. For others, it might be family-oriented, ensuring quality time with loved ones, or career-driven, aiming to wrap up the year’s projects with finesse.

By creating a clear picture of your successful holiday, you provide yourself with a blueprint that guides all your planning and decision-making. This vision serves as a compass, keeping you on the path to a meaningful and content holiday. 

Tip: Create a vision board, list, or journal about this ideal to keep you focused. 

Priority Protection Tool #3: Set Clear Goals:

Think about it. What do you really want in this holiday season? What healthy habits do you need to protect? Who are the people you wish to connect with and honor? What challenges do you want to minimize or avoid? 

Making three firm goals will focus your efforts on what is most important. 

Examples include:

  • Making a gift-buying budget and sticking to it.
  • Getting enough sleep.
  • Getting 20 minutes of exercise every day.
  • Make time for a deep conversation with someone important to you.
  • Completing a year-end project at work
  • Avoiding social obligations, you don’t wish to attend.

My three goals this holiday season are:

  • Take a 60-minute break on our big celebration day to rest and get ready. (So I don’t feel disheveled and frazzled)
  • Sit and listen to the people around our table rather than rush on to the next task.
  • To serve all of the food I prepared. (e.g., don’t leave the green beans in the microwave)

What three goals would prioritize your vision of a successful holiday?

Tip: These goals should be specific, achievable, and the centerpiece of your holiday planning.

Priority Protection Tool #4: Align With Your Goals and Set Boundaries:

Once you have a vision for your holiday, it’s time to align your activities with it. Every potential plan or event should be weighed against this vision. Does it contribute to the holiday you want to experience? If not, it may not deserve a place in your schedule. This alignment is vital to a holiday season filled with contentment and cheer.

Putting your sanity, health, and enjoyment first is okay and completely healthy. Suppose you are feeling too tired to go out, don’t. If you are too stressed to host a big meal, find a different way. Perhaps changing up what has always been will allow a new tradition everyone enjoys. 

Boundaries are essential for a low-stress holiday. They help protect your time, energy, and holiday vision. Communicate your boundaries clearly to friends and family. Whether limiting the number of guests at your home or choosing not to travel, setting boundaries is a powerful way to protect your holiday priorities.

Tip: Be clear and consistent with your boundaries for them to be respected.

Priority Protection Tool #5: Redine “No”:

The ability to say ‘no’ is critical to protecting your holiday priorities. We can often feel obligated to attend family or social events, so we don’t hurt other people’s feelings. We don’t want to seem antisocial; saying no is often uncomfortable.  

However, with every no to an activity that does not support your goals, you are saying emphatically yes to what you value. It’s not about being negative but about affirming your vision for the season. Turning the no into a yes may make it easier to protect your priorities.

Tip: Chapter 1 offers a Time Protection Tool that allows you to answer honestly, “I have other plans” to any invitation.

Priority Protection Tool #6: Find Contentment In The Less Than Ideal Holiday

Sometimes, life upends your holiday. You sometimes say yes to an event because you value your relationships enough to endure a less-than-comfortable experience. It is still possible to find contentment.  

For example, if you know your uncle will make inappropriate comments, make a deal with your favorite cousin to make eye contact and raise your eyebrows and your glass. That may become one of your favorite traditions.

Or, plan your own celebration before or after the event to enjoy your way. Many people have a “Friendsgiving.” The best part of your holiday may be getting home, eating ice cream, and dishing about what just happened.

Tip: This post offers tools to deal with interpersonal challenges.

Sometimes, your plans fall apart. Last year, my mom became very ill and went into the hospital on the day before Thanksgiving. The following 22 days were spent driving back and forth to the hospital. It was very stressful during those first few days. I got home that first night, and we discussed what to do about the holiday. To me, not having Thanksgiving would have made the whole situation much worse. Luckily, I’d already done the shopping, and my husband and daughters are amazing. They put Thanksgiving together, and it was there when I got home the next day. I was so grateful and content – even in the midst of the worry over my mom. 

Tip: This post offers tools to focus on the positive

By implementing the Priority Protection Tools, you ensure that the holiday season remains a time for contentment rather than overwhelm. These tools guide you in crafting an intentional holiday experience and empower you to maintain the essence of what the season means to you. In the next chapter, we’ll explore the Self-Care Tools to help you stay energized, centered, and content throughout all your holiday endeavors.

Concluding Encouragement:

As you consider the Priority Protection Tools, remember that the holidays are a time to celebrate life and love in the most meaningful ways. With these tools, you can confidently craft a holiday that honors your values, respects your limits, and maximizes your contentment. Take these steps to heart, and watch as the season unfolds in a way that feels right for you.


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