Personal Agility and Surviving the Holidays with Family

Article contributed by Terry Hildebrandt, PCC

I have found in my own experience that the holidays can wreak havoc with my schedule, my budget, and with my emotions. Our daily routines of work and school completely change. While the holidays can be a time for connecting with loved ones and taking a break from work for reflection, they can also be the busiest and most stressful time of the year due to purchasing presents, travel plans, cooking elaborate meals, and juggling the expectations of all those involved. Personal agility is a key competency of social and emotional intelligence that we can practice to help us cope with the added stress of the holidays.

The Institute for Social + Emotional Intelligence (ISEI)™ defines personal agility as: “the ability to anticipate and respond rapidly to changing conditions; acknowledging we live in an era of global permanent change; agility means taking a proactive approach to change, anticipating challenges and opportunities, a willingness to rethink past assumptions, and readily, willingly, rapidly and effectively adapting to change.”

Let’s explore how skillfully using personal agility can help us survive the holidays with family

  1. Anticipate and respond rapidly to changing conditions – We all know how fast things can change during the holidays. Traveling can especially be challenging due to unpredictable weather, fight cancellations, and hazardous road conditions. You also may find yourself unable to find that popular new toy that your niece just had to have for Christmas. Maybe the year-end bonus that you expected was not as large as you hoped for due to lower sales at your company. While we cannot always predict these challenges, we can do our best to have contingency plans that will enable us to respond in case things don’t work out as planned.
  2. Take a proactive approach to change, anticipating challenges and opportunities – Rather than being a victim of change, we can take control by proactively reflecting on what might go wrong ahead of time. While I am naturally an optimist, I also have in mind a backup plan in case my plans don’t work out. This could include buying travel insurance to deal with lost luggage or airport delays. I also try to have a list of several gifts that my nieces and nephews might like, in case I can’t find that “perfect gift” that I had in mind. I always build in extra time in my schedule, knowing that lines will likely be longer everywhere I go during the holidays.
  3. Rethink past assumptions – We all carry certain expectations for how the holidays “should be” based on years of assumptions. Perhaps this year you could rethink what it means to have a successful holiday with family and friends. For example, this year, I am going to have a Skype party using the group video call feature to connect with old high school friends, since none of us are traveling to Texas to be with our families of origin this year.
  4. Readily, willingly, rapidly and effectively adapt to change – Let’s face it, our plans will not always work out, no matter how prepared with think we are. Being willing to go with the flow, as opposed to digging in our heels and complaining, creates a better experience for all involved. Adapting quickly enables us let go of expectations and enjoy what is happening right now.

Being forced to deal with unexpected changes can give us a new perspective on what the holidays are really about. We have the opportunity to reflect on the deeper purpose of why we celebrate with family and friends in the first place. This deeper meaning can help us maintain a willingness to adapt readily, rapidly, and effectively to whatever comes our way.

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