I just opened our holiday cards. Yes. From six months ago.
I find the Thanksgiving and Christmas season overwhelming. Particularly since having children (for us, requiring Santa), and I am usually hosting.
About five years ago, my husband and I started what has become a meaningful ritual.
One year, between work and parenting, I couldn’t keep up. Thanksgiving came and kicked off the holiday card season. They started arriving in spurts and then tidal waves, and I guiltily tucked beautiful gold, red, and white envelopes of all shapes and sizes away, unopened, in a corner of our kitchen for safekeeping.
Just after the new year, after the stockings and the majority of pine needles were swept out, we created a special date night around the cards.
We went to one of our favorite watering holes and one by one, opened each. We mulled over images of friends, children grown beyond recognition, read stories of glory and tragedy. We thought of that person, couple, family, our memories and how we first met, the last time we saw them, the need to reach out and check in or fun opportunities to see them in the coming year.
This year, we went way past our normal timeline and opened the cards a couple of weeks ago, just after Easter/Passover. It was the best belated holiday present ever.
To everyone, especially anyone who is kind enough to send us holiday greetings and news, please know how meaningful this is.
This is exactly why we have this tradition. With the myriad of duties at the holidays, I find it impossible to enjoy what should be a true spirit of connection. Friendships. Family.
One unique card I received this year came from my friend and colleague Martin Lindstrom, who pointed out that the average goldfish memory is nine seconds.
Compared to the human attention span, which has become seven seconds. I was delighted to beat the goldfish this year.
So my question for you is — where in your life should you be more like a goldfish? Where would you like a few more seconds to add meaning and direct your precious attention?
And how can we better direct our focus? I recently read Stanford neuroscientologist Andrew Huberman’s research about how our eyes are actually two pieces of brain — they do more than just see; they serve a balancing mechanism “telling the rest of the brain whether or not to be more alert or more relaxed.” This has tremendous implications — we can control, through our environment, the type of attention we need in the moment.
For example, when you need to focus on a work task, you don’t want to look too far out of your visual region. As Dr. Huberman mentions, you can further enhance the focus effect by moving to a low-ceilinged room and wearing a hoodie or a hat to restrict the visual window of height.
When you need to think more expansively, go to open areas outdoors or rooms with taller ceilings. “This creates the “cathedral effect” wherein our cognitive processes become more open to exploration, to loftier ideals, and higher aspirations.”
I’ve started a small ritual in response to this — after a batch of focused client coachings, I go outside, stretch my arms wide, take in the sky and nature around me. Let the sun soak in and feel my toes on the grass. My thoughts broaden, open, and relax. Try it anytime you need a break from focused work.
Take license to move more slowly through moments that matter. Work will always be waiting in the wings. Thrive! Amii
PS I was recently on featured on The Morning Brew, and you’re welcome to read the two cents I give here.