You must learn to let go. Release the stress. You were never in control anyway.Steve Maraboli
I continue to be so grateful to all of you that are reading my blog and also following my daily positive messages. Please keep the feedback coming and share with others that would like these posts.
If you have any leadership or self growth topics that you would like me to write about, please make suggestions in comments, DM me on social media or email me. And now onto this weeks story…
Mad dash to the end of the year… sprinkled with back to back holidays…
The holiday season is in full ramp up. The countdown clocks, loudly ticking the days until Christmas and Thanksgiving is just a few short weeks away. We are in a mad dash to finish the year strong, creating extra stress on every front of life.
If you were already feeling overwhelmed earlier in the year, hang on because this is the season of super charging your stress and highest danger for burnout.
Women especially feel the high expectations of pulling off a perfect holiday to make EVERYONE happy, while they drive themselves to exhaustion and then tightly cling to the memories created by the wonderful experience going on around them.
Now, add to that juggling your career, with tight deadlines, travel, trying to navigate your career and all the various other things, and you’re probably on the brink of exhaustion.
This week’s focus is on managing stress and avoiding burnout, as well as, being okay with “less than perfect” and “somewhat ideal”.
I thought that looking at stress and burnout through the lens of the holidays, may be easier to apply de-stress tactics in your whole life to ease the stress and risk of burnout.
Do Men and Women plan differently? 🤔
Here is my perspective based on thousands of hours of observing the male vs. female party planner… please know this is generalities and focused on many conversations with both genders about how they approach planning the holiday and/or a party. It might be biased, so guys and gals, please comment if you have other experiences to sway my view. 😄 (I have experienced men who are amazing at parties, however they do have a different approach.)
If men were left to plan the holiday events, there probably would be a vague recollection, an hour before company came, that people are actually coming over. They perhaps thought to have pulled together something to grill, some chips and beer. They would have done a modest effort at a clean up prior. There would be no panic before, no week of planning and certainly no stress. They would have a very high level plan… beer, some food and depending on the season a game. Done!
Their interest is more focused on the social experience, and if they did expend any worry, it would be about getting the game on the TV. Nothing wrong with that, they have different expectations of a party.
Women, on the other hand, would be mortified if the visiting family or friends walked into all that, even if that was how they actually managed each day with all that was on their plate. You dress things up for company and you certainly have more planned, than beer, snack food and sports.
I was such an aspiring Martha Stewart, (southernized), as many other woman I know who aspire to perfection. I mean if Martha can make jam in prison, I can certainly put on an awesome party!
The level of crazy I have put myself through to pull off a perfect holiday, only to have it ruined by some stupid thing, is epic. And that stupid thing, is only something I knew about, like I forgot to cook the vegetables, when there was already so much food on the table, that there wouldn’t be any room for it anyway. 🤦♀️
So if your that girl, hang on, this may make you uncomfortable, but hopefully you will also add some additional joy and shed some stress.
The parents are coming to dinner.. what do you mean there is no plan?
When my husband and I were first dating, he had his parents coming over for dinner. This was the first time “we” would be hosting them. (Enter panic 🤦♀️)
When I arrived early to help make said dinner, he had yet to go to the grocery store. It was T -2 hrs until they arrived. I went from chilled to high alert stress zone in 0-60 seconds. I couldn’t believe it.
In my world, the menu would have been set days before, the procurement of ingredients purchased and a detailed schedule laid out for timing of prep all the way thru to dinner on table. Very structured process. It never failed me and now I was adrift in chaos!
He was so chilled about it and shrugged his shoulder like “no worries”. He had it all in his head. After my initial panic, we ended up getting everything and dinner was on time and a success. They were happy, we were happy and it was more about the company anyway.
Lesson #1: perfect is only in your mind and you have to be open to other peoples process. Once you let go, you shed a lot of stress and open opportunities for joy. At work, are you holding onto to a “perfect plan” – Try letting it go.
What do you mean abandon the perfect planning approach?
Well this experience didn’t shift me one bit, for a very long time. I kept to my course of careful planning, attending to the details and focusing on how I could make everyone else happy. I love to put on parties and cook, so I couldn’t figure out why my energy would be so drained after the party was over. I just thought it was the hard work.
I finally realized that it wasn’t the work of planning and pulling it all together, it was the fact that I was outside of the experience I was working so hard to create.
I was a worker not a participant.
I was stressing out on how the guests and family would like it, instead of doing the best I could and trusting that they came to spend time with us.
I also missed out on delegating to them when they asked to bring something or help in the kitchen.
I thought I was being a terrible host by asking a guest to help cook the meal.
And why was I being inconsistent. If it was just a few friends or family over we all jumped in, but when adding the “party” or “holiday” monicker to it, total new stress level.
When I look back on this, I was doing much that same, early in my leadership journey and career. Especially feeling like a bad boss if I delegated to much. It wasn’t until much later that I realized that without delegating I was robbing them of growth experiences for them to thrive in their careers and maximize their potential.
Lesson #2: invite people to be part of the process. Don’t take on all of it yourself. Delegate and enjoy the process. At work, do you feel like you are outside of the teams around you? Perhaps busy working away, trying to get things perfect? If you are, evaluate how that’s working for you? Relationships are the currency of a career, not how many perfect plans you create.
Kicking back and enjoying…
One day I finally woke up and realized that I had been taking this all on myself and not making it a participatory experience.
Sure, people had a great time, and they always wanted to come back, so that was cool. But I wanted to enjoy the experience too!
I had to break my pattern of “perfect control” and find a way to embrace “good enough” to enjoy. With that shift, I am open to more experiences and more of the wonderful differences in how people approach different way to engage.
Even though I still like to plan ahead and make sure things are somewhat organized, I don’t get stressed when things go tilt or if I forget to make something planned. I also ensure that I am part of the party, that I have time to enjoy the experience and spend time with our friends and family.
Lesson #3: learn to go with the flow and adjust in the moment. Focus on the joy of the experience and not thinking perfection is the experience.
In your career, apply the same approach. Have a plan so you know where you can ebb and flow as things change. And I promise you, they will change.
I also learned that when men and women work together, leveraging their strengths, they have an unbeatable team. My husband is a tremendous team player and helps me chill out and catches me when I am stressing out or in danger of burnout.
Remember that “Perfect is the enemy of good”. I never fully understood this until perfection became an obstacle to my own growth and ultimately my happiness. I was enamored with the process of perfection, the quest for it, only to be dropped into the pit of despair when my perfect world wasn’t perfect after all.
So, beware of chasing perfection.
At the holidays, don’t let stress be the catalyst to burnout. You can decide how much, and to what extent, you want to do, on top of your other obligations.
Use this time to shift to a new way to infuse your life with the cadence that works for you. Be mindful to not get defeated, and set new expectations for yourself.
Be okay with imperfection and measure yourself against how much joy and happiness you have. That joy and happiness will radiate to surround those around you.
Defeat stress and burnout with allowing in imperfection and Shine Brightly!