I was originally going to send out this newsletter next week, but then it dawned on me that it’s Thanksgiving in the US this week, which is immediately followed by Black Friday and Cyber Monday. I suppose there’s no point in delaying the truth, which is that the holidays aren’t around the corner anymore—they are here.
For years now, I’ve been reluctant to write much of anything about the holidays for one reason: I don’t have answers. My holidays are never perfect, it’s a tough time for many, and I refuse to write something that offers solutions that won’t work for most. Or worse, solutions that are way too simple. Like so many other topics discussed in this space, we offer advice that is really general: say no, take time for yourself, give your presence vs. presents. And it’s not wrong. I would say that’s all part of how I handle the holidays. But in order to make that happen, I had to do one thing first: have tough conversations with family/friends.
I feel like this is the most danced around topic in any blog post about how to change your life, and I understand why: it’s not easy to start tough conversations. It feels even more difficult during the holidays, when perhaps some of the things you want to change have been traditions passed down for years or even generations. Nobody wants to tell their parents or grandparents that they want to opt out. (If you read The Year of Less, you know my grandma didn’t love the idea of having a minimalist Christmas.) So we write a sentence or two and acknowledge this is something that has to be done, but then move on because omg it’s not easy to navigate those conversations. But what if it could be?
I’ve had a lot of tough conversations over the years, but especially this one. If I’ve learned anything from them all, it’s that you’ll get the “best” reaction when you are open, and when you come from a place of love and integrity. (Best is subjective.) It’s not about being right vs. wrong. It’s about sharing your thoughts and feelings, being open to hearing what other people have to say, and going from there. Because the thing about starting tough conversations is that that’s all you’re doing: starting them. You might find a solution the first time, but often it takes multiple conversations to reach one. So, you need to start somewhere—and I’ve written 20 questions you can use to begin.
To ease in, I’ve included some questions based on this season of the newsletter that you could use to spark conversations with family/friends! These are meant to be a way to bring up the topics for the first time and get everyone thinking. Heck, if you’ve been quietly enjoying this newsletter by yourself, it could just be a way to share some of your thoughts offline and find out if anyone’s thinking about the same things you are. From there, I’ve written more questions about how to practice mindful consumption and be intentional during the holiday season. Pick and choose the ones you feel could help you + your loved ones create a season that is in alignment with your values.
As you sift through them, you may notice that most questions are open-ended; that means it won’t just get a yes/no answer, but instead creates space for people to share more. This is a really important part of starting any dialogue, and signals that it’s not about being right/wrong. Anyone who has been part of a tough conversation knows there is no quicker way to end it than to pass judgment or shoot down someone’s comment. If you’re going to wear the hat of “conversation starter,” please take the role seriously and make sure that everyone feels like they can speak and be heard. If a conversation starts from a place of love and integrity, that’s also how it should end.
I feel a bit bad about leaving you with so much homework in one newsletter! But honestly, this is the newsletter I’ve been most excited to share this season. My “solution” to managing the overwhelm might be tougher in the short-term, but it’s healthier for the future of your holidays. I hope you can create something that feels really good for everyone and, if nothing else, have some interesting conversations!
Questions About Being a Mindful Consumer (In General)
- What does the term “mindful consumer” mean to you? Have you ever thought about the fact that we, as humans, are consumers? What are all the different things you think we consume?
- How do you think your environment (location, culture, people) impacts your mindset and consumption tendencies?
- How do you think you influence other people to shop/binge consume? How do you think you influence yourself to shop/binge consume?
- Tell me about something you bought this year that you really enjoyed using.
- What did you buy and not end up using? How did that feel? What are the lessons you can take from that experience?
- Which book(s) or other pieces of content changed the way you think/act this year?
- If you could only recommend one book to read, one podcast to listen to and one TV show to watch, what would they be and why?
Questions About Practicing Mindful Consumption During the Holidays
- What role do gifts play in your current holiday traditions? Is there anything you want to change about that this year?
- What are the stories you have told yourself about why you should buy X many gifts or spend Y amount of money on gifts? Are those stories still true for you today? Which ones do you want to rewrite?
- How do you feel about money right now? How do you want to feel about money at the end of this holiday season?
- How do you feel about your health right now? How do you want to feel about it at the end of this holiday season?
- What could you/we physically live without during the holidays?
- How can you/we create less waste this season? Waste less money, waste less food, waste less physical stuff.
- What do you want giving to look like during the holidays—and all year?
Questions About Being More Intentional During the Holidays
- What is your favourite holiday tradition and why?
- Are there any new traditions you want to create this year? What would they mean to you/us? (This post compiled of all your suggestions from last year is filled with great ideas!)
- Are there any old traditions you want to let go of? What would it take to make that happen? Why is it worth doing?
- What would make the holidays less stressful for you? Are there any commitments/expectations you really don’t want to take on? How can you/we handle this?
- How can you/we get to the end of the holiday season feeling some of the words that are so often used to describe it: joyful, merry, peaceful. <3
- How would you like to document this season (even part of it, or whatever feels right for you)?
I have just two more newsletters to share this year, both of which I’m sending out next week. So for now, I will leave you with these questions and wish my American friends a Happy Thanksgiving. And I would love to hear how some of these conversations go, if you want to share your stories with me later this season. :)
This was originally shared in my newsletter.