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Do What Brings You Joy and Redefine Your Expectations: An Exercise in Self-Awareness and Social Awareness

Do What Brings You Joy and Redefine Your Expectations: An Exercise in Self-Awareness and Social Awareness

Whether you are celebrating or not (and most of us are aware of the pressures of this time of year), November through January brings special challenges. Many of us enter this holiday season and the new year with all kinds of expectations, including societal, family, and personal.

Society bombards us with messaging to convince us of what we need, what we should want, and even how to feel. Families often must make hard choices around whom to spend time with and when and how long. And depending on our childhood experiences, we can struggle with emotions around gifts, our time, and our role in the family landscape.

We hold expectations that the happiness of others depends on us—to get the right gift, cook the right dish, show up at the right time, or know how to put together that complex toy or bookshelf. There is also the pressure we put on ourselves to reinvent our bodies and increase productivity as we enter the new year. It is no wonder that, amid joyous moments, many can feel lonely, isolated, and overstretched.

Redefine Your Expectations

One thing that the COVID-19 pandemic has led many of us to do is to strip back to the essentials: household necessities, regular virtual connection to our supporters, concentration on our immediate surroundings and people, and ways to find new coping skills and nourish ourselves.

At nearly two years into the pandemic, it can be hard to see the silver lining, but I like to focus on positive intent and reframe challenges into opportunity. Did you know the Greek origin of the word crisis means to separate or sift? I feel like this year has been one where I am constantly sifting out what is important, what messages are meaningful, what my expectations should look like, and what truly brings me joy.

Rediscover Your Joy

So, here are my two cents as we enter the end of the year. Do (or rediscover) what brings you joy! In our house, we are building up to a day of celebration. For us, being present to the daily moments of our favorite things is renewing. We have chosen to focus not on gifts but on togetherness:

  • the collective search for a holiday decorations
  • the perfect cup of hot chocolate
  • favorite music by different people each day
  • watching cheesy movies or classics
  • playing with our new kitten
  • a fire outside in the snow

We have collected favorite board games and puzzles to gift to our extended family to help support their time together and will continue to utilize video conferencing (to which we’ve all become more accustomed) to highlight the talents within the family. Across our extended family, we have worked to redefine our expectations and have found that they are often more aligned with where we wanted to be when we had troubling breaking away from tradition. We have now planned new traditions that fit the changing needs of families growing up.

Joy is personal, and changing expectations takes work. I wish for you the opportunity to hear your own heart and the ones of those you cherish. No matter if or what you celebrate, these months can be a time for sifting and sorting what is important—a time for caring for ourselves and for those we love. We may not be able to be together in the old ways, but we can still listen to each other and ourselves. And without all the typical trappings and expectations, perhaps we can listen more deeply.

We know that you work hard as an educator to keep your students learning throughout the school year. Treat yourself, and enter our holiday giveaway, where we’re giving two lucky educators a $500 gift card to Target!

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Jen Perry

Jen Perry currently serves as the Director, Whole Learning and SEL at Edmentum. Jen joined Edmentum as the Learning Designer for Social-Emotional Learning after 30+ years of work with youth in educational and community settings. As a teacher, administrator, and trainer, her passion has been to help educators develop an understanding of the importance of social and emotional learning and build trauma-informed responses and systems. This work has included supporting youth, administrators, and schools in understanding behavior and implementing transformational change through strength-based approaches.