Align your expectations

'Tis the season! The season to be jolly, hopefully! But for many it's also the season to be stressed, disappointed, exhausted or broke.

Often our disappointment stems from expectations not being met. So this year consider taking time to align expectations. Take a few minutes to identify what is most important to you this holiday season. And then find out what's most important to your loved ones so you can plan together.

Consider these questions:

What holiday tradition do you like the most? The other day my son said, "My favorite part of Christmas is making cookies at Aunt Sarah's" and my daughter agreed so I reached out to my sister to see if she was going to host this year. I really enjoy looking at Christmas lights and my husband does too, so I'm going to make sure one night this winter we drive around for a while oohing and aahing.

What would make this a great holiday for you? I can get a little nuts when it comes to holiday shopping; walking into stores loaded with endless gifts leaves me feeling more stressed and more broke as I end up overspending on stuff nobody needs. It will be a great holiday if I focus on the true reason for the Christmas season instead of mindless gift giving. So when our church announced a family event called "The Christmas Experience" I signed us up right away. And I'm making a commitment to staying out of big box retailers as much as possible, supporting local businesses and focusing on experiences and consumables instead of traditional gifts. A bonus is that this will lead to less wrapping too, which is one of the things that leaves me feeling exhausted.

What is a holiday tradition that isn't that important to you? Selecting the Christmas tree is one of those things that don't mean that much to the kids and me, so last year my husband chose one while the rest of us were at a rehearsal for a Christmas program at church. Instead of all of us expending energy on that task we divided and conquered and that gave us more energy to actually decorate the tree, which all of us enjoy.

Having a conversation to align expectations doesn't just help at the holidays. I know couples who have these types of discussions before each weekend, or before vacations and birthdays. When you take time to make sure you are on the same page about what's most important, you can increase the happiness and decrease the stress of everyone involved.

Photo by Kelly Sikkema on Unsplash

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