Today’s post is the featured article from the December 2008 issue of The Front Porch Newsletter. If you would like to automatically receive The Front Porch e-newsletter on the last Thursday of each month just click here to sign-up for your complimentary subscription.
I remember, as a child growing up, “waiting my way” through the season of Advent. It was the longest four weeks of the year as we waited for Christmas! It was certainly a good lesson in having patience since there was nothing we could do that would get us to Christmas any quicker. Not that we didn’t try! All we could do was keep ourselves distracted and hopefully pass the time away just a little quicker. Of course, the Advent Season was designed to be a time of reflection, discernment and preparation. I was thinking … are you kidding me? All that discernment stuff would just make time go slower. Our formula was just to keep busy … and the busier the better. I think the reason we were so impatient was because we were experts at the other side of Advent.
Advent was the season on anticipation! And we were anticipating the arrival of Santa Claus! I didn’t say our expertise of anticipation was focused in the right direction, but nonetheless we were masters of anticipation. I don’t remember ever being disappointed … and I also don’t know if I could tell you one gift I received on Christmas morning in those early years of my life. But I can remember the magical feeling of that anticipation as if it were yesterday. And the closer we got to Christmas … the anticipation only increased. My brother, Steve, was my anticipation buddy. He was older than me and was the grand master of anticipation! By Christmas Eve night he was so full of anticipation he couldn’t even sleep. And since we shared a room … that pretty much left me sleepless in Memphis too. Steve would probably tell you I slept quite well. Maybe I did since I knew Steve would wake me if anything “happened” … like Santa showing-up or something! But if I was sleeping it was through dreams of anticipation.
The years have passed and in these precious final days before Christmas we find ourselves possibly in one of the most challenging times of our life. We are a nation fighting a war on two fronts and experts would tell you we are walking a fine-line on the point of no return in energy and the environment. We have an economy in shambles, household-name organizations that have failed, and hardworking people all across our nation who have lost their jobs. Many other employees (and employers) are far more worried about a winter blizzard of pink slips rather than mounting mounds of white snow. It hardly feels like Christmas.
But for me, Christmas was never about what you got. It was simply about the anticipation!
What scares me far more than a difficult economy is becoming a people who have lost our sense of anticipation. I am not talking about blind hope (and yes, I have heard that hope is not a strategy). I am also not thinking about unrealistic feel-good optimism. Nor am I trying to downplay the significance of the challenges we face. I have met many people who were in the midst of a successful career and now face complete uncertainty. And more than ever … I think, this Christmas, we need to look inside and unwrap a genuine sense of anticipation.
Anticipation plants the seeds of action. And there are plenty of those seeds within us … even in the midst of our most challenging times. It is in our most difficult times that we begin to feel overwhelmed and a mental paralysis sets in. It can happen when we are in the midst of job search, trying to market in a stalled economy or needing a major scientific break-thru that will redefine our use of energy and environmental resources. It is easy, yet disastrous, to feel there is nothing more you can do. It’s not that we mentally give-up … we just stop our actions!
Mark LeBlanc, my good friend and long-time business coach in my speaking business, has to remind me on numerous occasions to think about what you can do … rather than what you can’t do. Anticipation keeps our eyes open to what is possible. It inspires us to keep moving, wasting not even a minute, while doing what we can do.
One of my most cherished memories of Christmas is my brother’s unbridled anticipation. His excitement spilled over to inspire me to anticipate as well. And, finally, in a year where the calendar gives us almost a week less time between Thanksgiving and Christmas, I think I finally like the insight of patience because I am thinking slow it down … wait, I am not ready yet! With only hours left to go before Christmas morning, your gift-giving creativity can become paralyzed. But then I remember … think about what you can do rather than what you can’t do!
May you unwrap your spirit of anticipation this Holiday Season. And may you share it with all as we begin this New Year.
Merry Christmas …
… and Happy New Year !