Putting Positive Spins on the Stories We Tell Ourselves Every December

December 23, 2021Insights

The end-of-the-year rush leaves you with little time to think, much less time for reflection into your way of thinking. With so much to do and seemingly everyone relying on you, it’s easy to fall into a pessimistic mindset. As the screws tighten and the pressure builds, you become the protagonist in a story you’ve created.

It’s Murphy’s Plough at work. The parable illustrates simultaneously the importance of positive thinking and the pitfall of negative thinking as farmer McGinty walks through fields to ask his neighbor Murphy to borrow a plough. Along the way, McGinty’s self-dialogue goes from hopeful his neighbor Murphy will lend him the plough to convinced Murphy is a terrible person who will coldly deny him the plough. Read the short story and laughable outcome, then use the takeaway to reframe (and perhaps reclaim) your holiday season by questioning the unfounded stories you may be telling yourself.

Is It True?

Your perspective shapes the way you view the world around you. It impacts your mood, how you treat others and how you see yourself, all without any control or confirmation outside of your brain. Flip negative thinking on its head by asking yourself, “Is it true?”

For example, a business owner might think employees are working hard at the end of the year only because they want bonuses. But is it true? If the business is doing well enough to give bonuses, it’s likely due in large part to the employees having worked hard all year. They’re just on the same sprint as the owner to enjoy the holidays. This shift in perspective completely changes attitudes and removes internalized friction for owners. The employees don’t just want bonuses; they’ve earned bonuses.


Is It Due?

Many deadlines in business are artificial. Humans construct timelines to give purpose to our days and meaning to our lives. The end of the year is the ultimate, perennial, universal, artificial timeline. We want that end-of-year win and that new year runway.

Sure, there are some things that truly do need to get done on a December 31st deadline. Most projects, however, don’t have a January 1st expiration date. If you’re feeling overloaded with work, identify the serious December priorities and move others into January. Also recognize that you might not necessarily have more work than usual, but rather, more commitments and more that you want to accomplish in a shorter time period.


Is It About You?

Why isn’t so-and-so answering your calls? Are they vacationing while you’re working? Do they not care about your (possibly artificial) deadline? And what’s with this other person? Why are they being so short with you? Are people just out to make your holidays stressful?

You never know what someone else is going through; it’s one of the simplest reminders in life. Maybe they have you down on their list to get back to next week. Maybe they missed your email and a polite follow-up is appropriate. Or maybe they just lost a parent, a child, or a close friend. Don’t let intensity get in the way of emotional intelligence. Prioritize the long-term relationship over the short-term task.

Small Switch, Big Difference

When the rush gets real, so does the need to self-regulate. You deal with pressure every day and you get through the Q4 madness every year. Along the way, you’re telling yourself stories. The questions above will help you make those stories positive—especially down the holiday stretch—so you can be present and find a positive point of view no matter what this crazy world throws your way.

By Andrea Steinbrenner, Chief Operations Officer, Exit Consulting Group