Thursday, November 29, 2012

How to Coach Your Marriage (and family) through the Holidays!

If the holidays go as well as possible, what will you be able to celebrate after they’re over?  In other words, what are you hoping for, and what (or who) do you hope to avoid?

Holidays seasons are usually mixed experiences for most of us.  We have wishes, hopes and dreams about how they will go, and what we will do.  Some desires end up being fulfilled but some aren’t. Proactive planning can increase the probability of getting what we want. 

Our suggestion for Happy and fulfilling holidays is to specify desires. You can do this individually and as a family.  Ask yourself, “What do I want?”  This is a relatively simple, yet powerful exercise. Try it now. See how many bullet points you can come up with.

For example:

Jeff: What do you want for the Christmas Season, Jill?
Jill: I’d like to have an open house for friends and family before schedules get too crazy.
Jeff: What else would you like?
Jill: I’d like to plan an evening we could take Gabby (granddaughter) to the Clifton Mill to see the lights, and have hot chocolate by the waterfalls
Jeff: What else would you like?

You get the idea.  You keep asking your spouse and other family members what they would like.  Pretty soon, you have a great list of everyone’s desires.  Now you can begin to discuss and negotiate how to make these a reality.

This same exercise can be done to identify what you don’t want or what you would like less of.

Jeff: What do you not want for the Christmas Season?
Jill: I don’t want to be so busy that we don’t have time to enjoy it.
Jeff: What else do you not want?
Jill: I don’t want to get exhausted shopping.  I want to be strategic about the times and places I go, and get shopping done early in the season.

Sometimes emotional topics surface, such as strained or difficult relationships with people you’ll see at holiday celebrations.  A great question to ask yourself or each other is “If your interactions with _____ go as well as possible, what would you like to be able to say afterwards about how you did your part to be pleasant.”

Once desires have been shared and discussed, the next step is to brainstorm action-steps to accomplish them.  This can be done efficiently by coming up with and evaluating options.

Could's (could do's) What could you do? What ideas have you thought of? What have you considered? Try to list 5 options for each desire that you would like to become reality.

The task in step #1 is to generate as many ideas as possible. This is green-light brainstorming. Everything is on the table. No idea is too ridiculous to mention. Often an idea that isn't realistic gives birth to an idea that will work.

Wants (want to's) - The second step is to evaluate the list of options from step #1.  . Which ones do you like, and why? What do you like about them? Which do you not like? What are the advantages or disadvantages to each one? What are obstacles or barriers? Which would you like to try? Which do you think have the best chance of being helpful? 

The idea with #2 is to check in with your heart and mind. Which ones are you motivated to try, and which ones do you think will work? Scratch the options from #1 that don't make the cut.

Will's (will do's)Now that the list of possible solutions has been shortened, it's time to make a decision about what you will do. Which of the possible action-steps/solutions do you want to do?

The best way to handle the holidays is to get out in front of them by thinking about what would like and what you would like to avoid; forethought in other words.  The simple questions suggested above surface desires and the brainstorming process leads to potential strategies, solutions and action-steps.  This is the essence of the coaching process for any life circumstance.  Begin with the end in mind by thinking about the ideal outcome, then explore your thoughts, feelings and desires around that outcome.  Finally, brainstorm possible action-steps to make your desires a reality.

We hope this helps!

Happy Holidays, Jeff and Jill Williams

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