If you arrived at the end of the holidays last year saying, “Thank goodness that’s over,” you might decide to take a different approach this year. Although the holiday season is supposed to be a time of celebration, many of us find it the most stressful, even depressing, time of the year.

Since the holidays will go on with or without your participation, why not make them the happiest, warmest time possible? 

Begin by giving yourself a gift or two.

Here are some ideas for extra special gift-giving that will eliminate the hassle and expand the pleasure in the busy weeks ahead.

° Give yourself the gift of plenty of time. The sooner you begin to organize your activities, the more relaxed you’ll stay. Start by spending an evening making a list of everything you’ll have to do. Make a list of ways to save time such as shopping off-hours or online.

Set deadlines for activities and put them on your calendar.

° Give yourself the gift of saying no. Part of the overwhelming feeling that comes with the holidays is thinking we have to accept every invitation, bake every cookie from scratch, and run ourselves ragged in the process.

Decide to say no to all the activities that don’t add pleasure. Keep “Less is More” as your motto. Your holidays will be more special if you go for quality, not quantity.

° Give yourself the gift of simplicity. The less complex you can make things, the more time and energy you’ll have to enjoy this season.

Pick one knockout outfit and wear it over and over again to parties. Simplify your shopping by having a theme or giving the same gift to several people.

° Give yourself the gift of extra pampering. Pay more attention to soothing activities like a long, leisurely soak in the tub. Pamper yourself, too, by watching what you eat and drink.

Your nutritional well-being may dissolve when faced with a Yuletide dessert table. Moderation is your friend.

° Give yourself the gift of a new tradition. You may carry around warm memories of holidays in the past and your current reality doesn’t match up. Your holidays will be more wonderful if you create some new traditions for yourself.

If you are far from family, plan a celebration that includes others in the same situation. Or plan a celebration unlike any you’ve ever had. Last year, my sisters, brother, brother-in-law and I spent the week of Christmas in San Miguel de Allende Mexico. It bore little resemblance to our usual holiday, but it was every bit as wonderful.

° Give yourself the gift of hired help. Many enterprising folks start service businesses to help around the holidays.

For a reasonable fee you can get assistance with party-giving, shopping, errand running. If you normally clean your own house, splurge on a cleaning service.

Don’t add to your stress by trying to do everything yourself.

° Give yourself the gift of laughter. If you want this year to be merry and bright, keep your sense of humor.

When things go wrong or not according to plan, don’t forget to keep laughing. Joy, delight and wonder show up when we make an effort to welcome them.

Determine now that you will, indeed, make this the best holiday season ever. Relax, smile and enjoy all the giving and receiving that comes with this time of year. You’ll give yourself and the people you love a holiday season that they’ll remember fondly for years.

Recently a Facebook friend inquired about self-help books and wondered if others found them helpful. There were comments on both sides of the answer.

It got me thinking about this short piece I wrote some time ago.
When I first discovered the literature of personal growth and development there weren’t many titles to choose from. I read The Power of Positive Thinking, Think and Grow Rich, The Power of Positive Thinking over and over.
That’s all changed, of course, and today there are thousands of self-help titles. I always have a title or two in my current reading pile since there’s so […] Continue Reading…

When I was growing up, my incessant questions were often dismissed with a reminder that curiosity killed the cat. The message, intended or not, was that shrinking was preferable to exploring. This repeated warning has an impact that goes far beyond the deceased cat.

The death of curiosity is the beginning of a lackluster life. Without curiosity we avoid challenges, growth and new experiences. Our world gets smaller and smaller as our fears grow bigger and bigger.

According to researchers, curiosity is more important than intelligence. In fact, there’s nothing silly about it. Here are some easy ways to keep feeding yours.

° […] Continue Reading…

Every year more than a million Americans—and thousands of people in other countries—embark on the entrepreneur’s journey. Yet this renaissance of self-employment remains a Quiet Revolution. It’s time to start making some noise.

Banners and bumperstickers will have to wait. This revolution needs to begin with getting informed. Get the big picture. Load up on facts. Make it your hobby to learn about as many entrepreneurs as you can.

Here’s a question I’ve been stumping my friends with lately: “What percentage of all businesses in the United States qualify as micro-businesses with 1-5 people working in them?” The answer surprises everyone—including […] Continue Reading…

I have had a lifelong love affair with the post office although it’s been sorely tested recently.

The fallout began late last summer when another USPS branch was evicted from their space and all their boxes suddenly took over the space next to the built-in boxes in my post office.

Of course, all those new postal patrons also drove cars so parking was also part of the chaos.

The service was also impaired. Days would pass with no mail in the boxes and then a week’s worth would be crammed in.

When regular patrons grumbled they were told it was a temporary measure and […] Continue Reading…

Several times a week, I grab a copy of  Seminar in a Sentence, a little book I published a few years ago that contains some of my favorite quotes. When I was tracking down a half-remembered bit of wisdom today, I reread the introduction to the book and decided to share it here.
Although I don’t know when I began collecting quotes, I do know that I learned about the power of words early in life. As a student at Trinity Lutheran School, I began memorizing Bible passages as so as I entered first grade.

As I got older, I discovered […] Continue Reading…

After a conversation with a delightful stranger, I shared the experience on Facebook saying, “Oh, I love serendipity.” After I’d posted, I began to wonder if calling it serendipity was accurate.

While the common understanding of serendipity defines it as unexpected good fortune, it goes further than that. In The World of Serendipity, author Marcus Bach explains why some people enjoy a large measure of unexpected good while others rarely have such experiences.

He writes, “Once upon a time, there lived an Englishman named Horace Walpole. He was best known for his passion for writing letters. For most of his life, […] Continue Reading…

When my Aunt Marge was alive, I visited her as often as possible. She was eager to hear about my travels and recent adventures. Somewhere in the conversation, she would exclaim, “Oh, you meet the most interesting people.”

I totally agreed, of course.

While I have a long list of things I love about being self-employed, Meeting Interesting People is one of my favorite perks. People who are passionately engaged in what they’re creating are pilgrims on the road to Being More.

That may not have entered their mind when they began following their ideas, but it is a powerful bonus of […] Continue Reading…

I know Halloween is long past, but I came across this piece I’d posted on my blog five years ago and decided it was worth another visit. I also shared it in Joyfully Jobless News in November. It’s a reminder that the learning never ends when you’re building a dream.
My mailbox has been getting some truly spooky messages lately. It’s not the first time, of course, but I’m still startled when I get one of these cries for help.

The scariest of these messages goes like this: ”I think I want to start my own business. What should I do?”

I […] Continue Reading…

It’s National Boss’s Day, a day that I celebrate heartily since I have the perfect boss. It took her awhile to figure things out, of course, but lifelong learning is one of the gifts of self-employment.

When I started my first business, I didn’t know another self-employed person who was creating something unique. There was no internet and not many books that were written for someone wanting to start a one-person operation. It was all trial and error…lots of error.

Today there are abundant resources, but some of the most important things I learned still aren’t being acknowledged. Here are eight […] Continue Reading…