December is a strange month

December is a month surrounded by, and defined by holidays…

By Morf Morford

Tacoma Daily Index

December is a very strange month when you think about it.

December is a month surrounded by, and defined by holidays. From Thanksgiving to New Year’s Eve, there is barely a day in December not dedicated to some event, holiday or cause. *

From traditional feasting and family gatherings on Thanksgiving (also the busiest travel weekend of the year) to the resolution/goal setting/reflection associated with New Year’s Eve, December is not only packed with events and commemorations, but also reassessments of what has passed in the previous year and hopes and intentions for the coming year.

December is also a month when schedules shift. Some businesses have reduced hours, while others have expanded hours.

Some government offices and agencies have different winter/December/holiday schedules.

Schools and businesses have holiday parties, galas and events.

In other words, our December schedules, from work to school to shopping, are upended and look nothing like any other month.

And now we have December – 2020 style.

Many family “gatherings” are via Zoom, and Santa, if available at all, sits behind a plexiglass screen or is seen on video.

2020 has been a tumultuous year by anyone’s definition, and now as we find ourselves in the last few weeks of probably the most challenging year we have ever seen, it is time to reflect and make some decisions or resolutions suitable for 2021.

Here are a few guidelines to making a plan that should actually “stick” and make a difference.

First of all, don’t call it a “resolution.” If it’s true that only eight percent keep theirs, it means the other 92 percent feel they failed.

If there is any way you DON’T want to start out a new year, it is with a sense of failure. Choose a more positive word like “goal” or “plan” and take it in tiny pieces. Small steps will take you a lot further than no steps at all.

Don’t choose a goal that includes negative words like “quit” or “stop,” and don’t use absolutes like “never” or “always.”

Break a larger goal down into smaller steps that are easier to meet. Don’t just say, “I want to save money,” outline specific ways how you want to save money.

Put together a solid plan, like investigating ways to cut household bills first, then having a percentage of your paycheck automatically sent to a savings account.

If you have trouble setting aside savings, have your employer do it for you. Increase your withholding. Many employers will match what you set aside, but even if they don’t, you probably won’t notice the deduction and when you really need it, you are likely to have more than you would have thought.

Call your insurance agent to review all possible discounts. Once you achieve a small goal along your journey, you’re more likely to set another, and another, and so on, until you end up meeting the larger goal anyway.

Instead of proclaiming that your resolution is to quit smoking forever, or lose 25 pounds, for example, try something like “My goal is to find ways to lead a healthier lifestyle, and that includes eventually eliminating cigarettes and reducing my weight.”

Get others on your side. Repeat your goals in front of others and you’re more likely to stick to them, because you’ll feel accountable. Surround yourself with people who will encourage you with “How’s your plan going?” or even better, find a partner or even a team of people who will go along side you as take on a new plan.

A walking, dieting (or un-smoking) partner will keep you focused and on task.

Reward yourself. If you make it to the end of January with your goal met, time to celebrate!

Choose a little reward completely unrelated to your goal, if your goal is to lose weight, don’t reward yourself with sweet treats or snacks, or if your goal is to save money, don’t splurge your budget on some sparkling bauble that will sit in a drawer as it sabotages your budget.

Then do yourself the best favor of all and formulate another plan for the next month. And the next.

You might even break up your goals or outline the year and look at it strategically.

How do you want your life different a year (or so) from now?

But most importantly, don’t give up!

If you followed any or all of the tips above and you still didn’t meet your goal, don’t worry about it. At least you made the goal in the first place, which means that you know it’s a change you really want to make. You can fine-tune it, and recalibrate your moves more effectively next time.

And remember, you don’t have to wait until the next new year rolls around to get back on track.

There’s nothing magic about January. You could re-start your goals during Chinese New Year, or summer or the school year.

The real goal is to take control of your life – especially the parts that seem to be drifting out of reach.

Reconnecting with family, online or otherwise, commemorating historic and cultural holidays and resetting your life course is where we truly and fully find ourselves.

2020, by any standard, has been a year of challenges.

Who knows if the rest of the ‘20s will be any easier, but they will certainly be different, and the more prepared we are within ourselves, the better we will be able to face whatever the next several years will throw at us.

As I mentioned at the beginning, December is a very strange month; we look back and we look forward, we look at what has been and what might be. We embrace traditions and we vow to be different from now on.

Nostalgia and new beginnings merge into one. Friends and family members (for better or worse) remind us who we were and maybe even help us become who we want to be.

Farewell to 2020, and onward to 2021.

***

* Other December celebrations

There are all kinds of special days in December, including a long list of Christian saint days. Many other religions celebrate in December, and there are secular celebration days as well. Most of the following were found on Wikipedia, but be sure to check out https://nationaldaycalendar.com/december/ where you too can find out what days are National Whiners Day and National Bicarbonate of Soda Day. Who knew such magnificent days existed!

Buddhism celebrates Bodhi Day, the day of Enlightenment, on December 8th.

Christianity has Advent, Christmas and other saint days, but also Krampusnacht, which celebrates St. Nicholas’ companion Krampus, on December 5th.

Hinduism honors Ganesha with a five day festival from December 21st to 25th.

Hanukkah celebrates the rededication of the 2nd Temple in Jerusalem, and can occur from late November to early January.

Many other winter or solstice festivals occur in December, from the ancient Roman Saturnalia to the Pagan Yule.

Kwanzaa celebrates African-American culture from Dec. 26th to January 1st.

For the rest of you, Festivus is celebrated on December 23rd, and you can air your grievances then! – DN

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