Mariah Carey keeps singing to me – She really wants me for Christmas, and that’s all she wants. Gift cards are flying off the shelves. If you do anything for a living that requires selling a product or experience, your life is especially busy during the holidays; endless sales, marketing efforts, and goal setting meetings are a big part of your life. Kind of like Mariah wants to be part of mine, apparently. Sales pressures are tough, and to top it all off, people seem to be more stressed out than normal.
This isn’t always the case – the holidays can be a happy time. People get each other cards where they write nice things, family comes to visit which can warm your heart (not always, but it can), Christmas trees smell amazing, the neighborhoods are beautifully lit up and decorated, some of us even welcome the cold weather. So, lots of things to be happy about.
I would say that overall, the Holidays bring out the extremes; the highs are high and the lows can seem lower than normal. We have a constant sense or urgency – at work, and at home. During our personal time, we are buying and wrapping presents, getting ready to travel or to have guests over. We are buying trees, lighting menorahs, baking pies and basically aren’t doing a lot of slowing down.
To slow down, to change the perception of time, to reconsider the things that seem urgent. According to Business Insider “In a Buddhist culture (e.g., Thailand, Tibet), not only time but also life itself goes around in a circle. Whatever we plan, however we organize our particular world, generation follows generation; governments and rulers will succeed each other; crops will be harvested; monsoons, earthquakes and other catastrophes will recur; taxes will be paid; the sun and moon will rise and set; stocks and shares will rise and fall. Even Americans will not change such events, certainly not by rushing things.” This circular way of looking at time described above is different than the linear way that most Westerners look at time. We are driven by future goals, lists, and basically a linear money driven push push push to get through the day and they year.
Have you heard the expression “Time is money”? A Spaniard sitting on his porch drinking coffee and eating pastries at two o’clock in the afternoon on a Tuesday would disagree. He would tell you, this is “Only in America,” and then he would finish his pastry slowly as to fully enjoy it and probably be late to his afternoon meeting. I think a Tibetan monk would back him up from a mountain top somewhere, though his time perception is also different than the Spaniards.
Point is – the Western perception of time is not the end all be all. If we were to think “circularly” about the holidays we would consider the cycle of the holidays and what it represents for most of us which is family, love and warmth. We would try to indulge in those people and experiences instead of indulging in possible travel pains, “people staying with us” annoyances, and having to return presents “time sucks”. Maybe we would embody the spirit of the holidays as we drove our cars in traffic. Look, I’m not saying this doesn’t happen now, but it would be nice to see more of it.
In our work lives, the holiday sales pressures could use some Eastern “cyclical time perception” softening as well. Over the years I have experienced a great deal of reinventing the wheel when it comes to sales at work. “Let’s get together and talk about how we can improve numbers, how we can drive sales to be better than last year.” This discussion will happen, even if the company met and exceeded goals the previous year. Still, the sales have to increase even more; and we have to reinvent the wheel on how to do it. It’s a cycle of greed really, and it’s very linear. Do more, sell more, make more money. Until all human components are taken out of the product. We see it happen in so many corporations – regardless of how humanitarian their mission may seem in the beginning.
In a cyclical, more Eastern inspired sales discussion, the company would remember the energy of the previous year and how well the sales went. They would then somehow bring that energy back to life. They would talk about how our success last year can drive success this year and what that means for future holidays. The energy around the whole sales experience would shift, even if the monetary goals were the same as in a Western organization.
The holidays are hectic every year, this year there’s an added stressor of all the things happening around the world as well as the dramas of the presidential primaries. If we could all become less attached to what we think is important, to what we think is real, and truly consider our time on this planet and how we want to spend it. Just for a moment, can we contemplate how we fill our days and what we put pressure on ourselves for.
Maybe, our personal life would be filled with less fear and more joy for the things, people and experiences directly at our fingertips. Maybe, our work life would put emphasis on mindfully honoring what is already working rather than pushing and sweating for more more and more in a way that instills fear and stress. Maybe we can see and honor the cycles in our days, seasons, and relationships and soften just enough to feel a connection to it all – the East, the West, the South, the North. Basically let’s just open our eyes a smidgen to the humanity and imperfection of our own experience. Maybe then, we could see life as a combination of cycles, of linear goals, and sometimes of really good reasons to be late to a meeting as we are too busy fully engaging with something and forgetting time exists at all.
*Lewis, Richard. “How Different Cultures Understand Time.” Business Insider. Business Insider, Inc, 01 June 2014. Web. 19 Dec. 2015.