Hard to believe, given that I’ve been seeing Christmas decorations in some stores since before Halloween. But now that it’s December, why not celebrate Christmas?
Because it’s not Christmas…yet! It’s Advent. And regardless of your faith tradition, or if you have none, there is something valuable to be learned from this season.
Advent marks the beginning of the Church year, four Sundays before Christmas Day, and we’re invited to do three things:
1 – slow down
2 – reflect
3 – prepare
It’s the antithesis of virtually every piece of content I come across. I’m being urged to crush, kill, mutilate, annihilate, dominate and own everything that I take on. There’s certainly a time and place for that, though I’m a far bigger advocate of the “embrace the challenge” way of doing things.
It’s also the antithesis of what society urges us to do, as we get swept up in the frenetic countdown to Christmas Day. “Only 14 shopping days left until Christmas!” Instead of slowing down, we’re typically winding up.
Advent issues a different call, and it’s aligned with the seasons. The days are getting shorter and colder. There’s a kind of stillness and silence that comes with winter, and Advent urges us not to resist what nature is doing, but to unite with it. To slow down. To turn down the ongoing chatter in our brains. To let our minds rest.
Once you’ve slowed down, you’re in a place where you can think deeply, with care and consideration, about where you’re at and where you’ve been. You can take stock of the year past, and where you’ve succeeded and where you’ve failed.
Better than a drunken New Year’s Eve resolution, four weeks of reflection during Advent gives you the most exquisite luxury of all: time. You have a month to dig and explore, to celebrate and to mourn. Make no mistake: done right, this is work. Telling the truth about your personal and professional life at this moment in time is no easy task. But it’s necessary if you want to grow and develop.
I journal during Advent. It’s the best way for me to process everything that comes up as I reflect, and to make plans for the new year. I follow three-steps:
1 – Give thanks.
You lived another year, so you’re already ahead of the game. Consider everything that happened as coaching, even what you would normally define as “bad.” The solution always lies within the problem, so be grateful for the challenges and look for the lessons they contain.
2 – Repeat and expand success and minimize failure.
What came up during your reflection? When you had successes, be they at home or at work, WHY did they happen? Only in asking “why” will you be able to replicate success. Likewise, when things failed, what was the reason? Only in knowing the reasons for your failures will you be able to mitigate them.
3 – Create a written plan.
Many years ago, when I was significantly overweight, I committed to a nutrition and exercise plan. I wrote out my 90-Day Challenge, stocked the house with appropriate food and supplements, and posted the plan on the refrigerator. I made sure I had shoes and clothes to workout in, and I shared my goals with my husband and my friends and asked them to support me. It was a smashing success.
Advent is a once-a-year invitation. It’s a gift. If you’ve never taken the time to observe it, do so. There’s literally no downside. Happy Advent to all.