Give the Gift of Time

Shopping for a gift for the important people in your life can sometimes seem difficult. There are so many choices from so many locations at so many price points. It’s hard to know for sure what’s just right.

True, it may be difficult to find the right tangible gift. But why is it we think that we must give someone something purchased to show them we care? Much of this comes the constant input from advertisers and marketers whose goal it is to sell what they make.

Think you’re immune to their marketing efforts? Ask yourself how many times you’ve said, “I need to get something for _________ because I am sure they are getting me something.” Or, “I have to get them something nice, I know they are getting me something nice.”

Quite frankly, that’s madness. How did we get here?

I think it’s important to go back to our roots, to remember Christmas and the holiday season as a time to be aware – aware of what is really important. And in the process of doing this, consider what we could give to or do for others that doesn’t require making a purchase. After all, the great gifts are often those that come directly from the heart.

So this year, consider giving those you care about something more from yourself. Consider giving someone the gift of time, uninterrupted and intentionally focused time. Consider what giving the gift of time could look like: meeting for coffee, going for a walk, reminiscing about past experiences, a surprise phone call or visit, or working on a project together (uninterrupted by technology).

Making time for someone, to share their space with them, is a great way to stay connected by acknowledging them and helping them feel cared for, valued and loved. To me, this seems like the best of gifts.

Take Action
We are social animals who join others not just for physiological needs but for the company and camaraderie. We need and want people in our lives. Virtually every holiday show is about reconnecting relationships and how life got better when others changed even just a small moment of their day to spend time with another.

What would it take for you to buck the gift-giving tradition this year in favor of time giving – the giving of your time, concern, interest and love? How will you remember that at the center of every holiday is not the bows, the trees, the lights or the gifts, but instead is about time with the people you care about?

Remember that what truly makes the holiday special is making time, caring deeply, being present and connecting as people. Memories come from the way you feel, not the stuff you own and eventually throw out.

Make a commitment to give the gift of a great relationship to five people this holiday. I bet once you start, you will develop a new and more amazing holiday tradition.

By Jay Forte

Consider reading Stop and Notice Works Everywhere

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How to Create a Stressless Holiday

Holidays are like a Dickens novel; they can be the best of times and the worst of times. They bring people together to share time, emotions and each other. They also come with expectations to receive and deliver that are rarely met. Up and down. Love and hate. Excited and depressed – all in the same moment.

So, how will you commit to making this year different?

Insanity is defined as doing the same thing over and over, expecting different results. Approaching the holidays the way you did last year without a clear intention or focus leaves you at the mercy of noisy and pushy marketing, unreasonable family expectations and a general sense of stress.

Imagine just for a moment that your holiday – whatever you celebrate – is loving, relaxing and memorable. Don’t roll your eyes and say, “that’s impossible.” Visualize you really enjoying the holiday. Sit with this for a minute because you will need to know what this looks like for you to decide how you and your family could work together to achieve it. If you can’t imagine it, you will not be able to create it.

So, first define it. To help with this, answer the following questions:

  • How do I/we want to celebrate?
  • Who do I/we want to celebrate with?
  • How can I/we redirect the holiday away from spending and buying? (When did we decide that to show someone you care you have to spend money on them? What could you do instead?)
  • What must be included in the holiday celebration that will make it special for me/us, my/our family, friends and colleagues?
  • What is something I/we could do instead of giving gifts to show those in my/our life/lives are important to me?

I’m not unrealistic. It is entirely possible that a holiday event may not ever be able to achieve the coveted status of not stressful. But I think holidays are only doomed to be stressful because we create expectations that are frequently unreasonable.

So, to reduce stress and make holiday celebrations more reasonable, consider adding this on to the end of each of the questions above, “and make it fun and relaxing?” For example, “How do I/we want to celebrate and make it fun and relaxing? Or, “How can I/we redirect the holiday away from spending and buying to make it fun and relaxing? The constant is that the holiday has to be fun and relaxing for everyone. This may show up in doing more than buying, spending time instead of spending money, connecting personally instead of hiding behind technology.

Take Action
Imagine what a great holiday for you. Ask others. Assemble all of the responses. Work together to ensure that everyone has something they want for the holidays, but that it cannot stress others out. A stressless holiday is one that everyone can enjoy.

Anytime you change the norm, you will get pushback. But if the change helps you create new traditions that make the holiday happy and less stressful, then the holiday becomes a great time instead of a time of worry, frustration and aggravation.

By Jay Forte

Consider reading What Does a Good Holiday Look Like for You?

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Time is The Present

By Jay Forte

‘Twas the week before Christmas, no space in the lot,
Spent driving around, just searching for a spot,
To park, to start shopping, to find those great things
For family and friends; something clever to bring.

The lines were crazy, they went right out the door.
The people were grumpy, they shoved all the more.
The great things were gone, the shelves were all bare.
No great gifts – unique gifts – to show that I care.

So, I returned to the car, started it up and turned round,
To see an old man behind me, a face with no frown. 
I got out of the car to check on this man, all alone,
Lest he be hit by busy people, so focused on phones.

He said “Walk with me, let’s have a talk and let’s sit.
I have things to share, important things, to tell just a bit
Of what this all looks like; it does not make me happy.
This rush and spend, fight for space, shove and be snappy.”

“Time is the present, not those things, oh so many.
You have enough stuff – more than enough – even plenty.
What you don’t have is time; time is the great gift.
Time with each other is power – an emotional lift.
It’s what you all need and for what you all yearn,
Not things with bold wrappings, or things to return.

Time is the gift. Time with family and friends.
Share time with each other, end the habit of ‘spend.’
What you all really want is to feel special, thought of.
After all, what you need is just to feel loved.”

I thanked the wise man and went back to my car.
Determined to make time the center, the focus, the star.
I looked back to thank him for wisdom so sound.
But he had vanished, was gone, was nowhere to be found.

Back in my car, thinking about all I just heard,
Feeling grateful and inspired by feelings so stirred.
Aware I was caught up in the big noise and distraction,
Now committed to a greater thought and a bolder new action.

Keep your stuff, keep your things, you don’t need anything more
Than to visit, or call or show up at their door.
Maybe bring food or something yummy to share.
Spend time – it’s the present; celebrate with those you find there.

By Jay Forte

Consider reading Being Thankful

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How to Not Let Your Family Make You Crazy During the Holidays

The holidays are supposed to be a happy time, a time when friends and family come together to celebrate. Celebrate each other. Celebrate life. Celebrate love. It’s a time to create new memories and celebrate old ones. 

But everyone knows family events can quickly lead to challenges. It’s so commonplace that it has been the focal point of a variety of movies, TV shows and even SNL skits. The well-intentioned aunt who keeps asking why you’re single. The uncle who indulges a little too much and brings up hot button issues as conversation over dinner. The religious or political zealot who uses the holiday to grandstand or overshare their beliefs. The relative who drops their kids in another room and departs hastily with some excuse as to why the kids are now someone else’s problem. 

It can be easy to let this behavior get the best of you, to feel angry or feel like a victim. But remember: you have the ability to choose your response, to intentionally decide how your next moment will be.

To do this in a way that is productive to you and those around you, answer these questions:

  1. How do I want this event to be? Consider the quote “Begin with the end in mind.” After leaving your family function, how do you want to feel? What memories do you want to create? Though you can’t control the entire event (or everyone’s moods), you have complete control over your own moods, emotions and actions. Consider how you want the event to be to you and make it your intention to make that outcome happen. You can feel this even if others don’t.
  2. What are my triggers? You know yourself and you know your family. Ask yourself if there is anything – behaviors, topics, etc. – that would make you angry, upset or frustrated. Know what those triggers are and prepare yourself to create a productive response to those triggers. Avoid reacting. Be self-managed. If you know your uncle aggravates you, what topics do you have prepared to redirect a conversation, or how will you make more time in the kitchen or some other area where you can stay away from the overly critical aunt? Plan ahead.
  3. Where is my line? At some point, even the greatest preparation might not be enough. And that’s ok! Everyone is unique; it’s part of what makes this world so great. But it can also introduce challenges and may result in some people butting heads. Ask yourself at what point can you no longer ignore, tolerate or try to diffuse a situation. At what point does the situation become toxic for you and any relationships in play? Identify your line and know how you will respond when that line is approached or crossed. Sometimes, it’s as easy as leaving. Sometimes, it requires a little more grace. Prepare yourself for what that could look like and have a plan when it arrives. This way you can stay calm and carry out your plan to keep yourself sane and mentally well.

Take Action
Spend some time getting to know yourself – your strengths, triggers and blind spots. Being aware of them creates the opportunity to better manage them (you can’t manage what you don’t see or know). This will help you more calmly and successfully navigate family functions. The calmer, saner and happier you are will allow you to enjoy the holidays and maybe even inspire others to do the same.

By Kristin Allaben

Consider reading Don’t Panic (Until it’s Time to Panic)

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Taking Advantage of Holiday Networking Events to Advance (or Change) Your Career

Your job plays a big role in your life. It’s the way you earn money to afford to live the life you want. It has the potential to create great experiences with colleagues and in the work you do. But it also has the potential to weigh on you, whether it’s working with a challenging boss or client, or realizing the job you do is not aligned to things you really care about.

As we approach the end of the year, you will likely have the opportunity to attend many holiday events that can be great places to network. So, whether you are attending your organization’s event or events supported by your industry, friends or family, it can provide you the opportunity for you to share your abilities, interests and goals with others. Remember that the people you meet professionally and socially at these events have the potential to connect you to new opportunities, expand your thinking about new options or directions, or provide you with contacts who may be searching for someone just like you.

With the expanded contact you will have at this time of the year, both in and out of your organization, consider these tips to get the most out of your networking efforts.

  1. Ask more than tell. Asking questions engages and involves people in a conversation, especially when those questions are genuine questions about getting to know others. Though networking events are designed to be focused on jobs and roles within an industry, attendees still have lives outside of work. Ask about their family or pets. Ask about what they like to do outside of work. Ask about any recent trips they’ve taken (for work or personal). Sometimes, these questions can inspire greater conversations that otherwise may not have happened.
  2. Be an active listener. Networking events are often touted as intimate events giving attendees the chance to meet others in the industry and connect with their peers. But networking events are considered parties for a reason. There are frequently lots of people and the combination of loud voices and loud music make it challenging to hear – let alone have – a conversation. So train yourself to be an active listener. Listen for key pieces of information when you connect with someone, including their name, where they work and what they like to do for fun. This not only helps you connect with people at a more human level, but it also opens the door for greater conversation opportunities when there is a potential to connect through mutual interests outside of work. And always remember to get their business card before you leave. Not only will this help you find them on any relevant social channels later, but it also gives you a cheat-sheet of sorts where you can write down any interesting conversational tidbits you gathered during your time with them.
  3. Know who you are.  If you were to tell someone your top three strengths – without any advanced preparation – would you know what to say? Could you deliver those three strengths with great confidence and without stumbling? What are you passionate about? What goals have you created for yourself for the new year? Many people move through life on autopilot, doing the work assigned without much thought as to the impact it has in the long run, both for the organization and for each unique person. Take some time before any networking event to revisit your list of abilities, interests and goals. You may only have a brief moment to share this information with someone else. Be sure you know how to deliver it in a concise and memorable way.

If your company, industry, friends or family host a holiday networking event, take advantage of it! You’ll never know who you’ll connect – or reconnect – with and what opportunities may present themselves as a result. To make the most out of your time there, be prepared to share who you are and what is important to you, but more importantly, be prepared to actively listen to whatever information is being shared with you. Listen for new ideas and opportunities. Listen for what great people are doing and contributing. Listen for what is new and exciting. Expand what you think about, consider and who you spend time with. Your world will increase and with it your opportunities and the ability to show up as your best self.

This article first appeared on The Ladders on November 20, 2019:

By Jay Forte

Holiday Tips: How to Deal with Your Toughest Critics (i.e. Your Family)

Are you eagerly awaiting your family holiday event? Or are you dreading being stuck in the same room with “those people” for an extended period of time?

If the latter, you may find yourself bringing this unproductive mindset and emotion to every aspect of your life. Whether it’s work, your personal life or relationships, feeling anxious or frustrated can introduce a level of unintended hostility around the holiday season.

We put together a few tips to help you stay calm and enjoy the season, regardless of what family members (or other relationships) may do to test or challenge you.

1. Acknowledge you can’t control everything. You certainly can’t control a group of unique people, especially a group that, despite coming from the same background, have unique life experiences that have made each of them exactly who they are today. We aren’t supposed to be the same – imagine how boring that would be. And others aren’t for you to control; they get to be who they are. Instead, accepting each person is who they are allows you start to see value in their differences. The brother who knows a lot about investing. The sister who is running marathons. The cousin who has a different political perspective. The critical aunt that is actually just trying to helpful. Don’t try to control it – step back and try to see the value in others. When you do this, this same group of challenging people can become a group of remarkable people.

2. Change the topic. So, you tried to see your family as remarkable people and it isn’t working. They still argue and can be critical. One of the best ways to interrupt a negative exchange or interaction is simply to change the topic. People love to talk about themselves, so this can be a very well-timed strategy to ask great Aunt Polly about that time she met Uncle Paul. And if you ask an open question that requires more than a one-word response, it can create the space for a productive conversation that everyone can enjoy. Consider having some questions prepared that you can use to keep things more enjoyable.

3. You can leave. Okay, you tried to see the value in others. Then you used some redirecting topics to change the conversation. Nothing seemed to work. So remember: you have the ability to physically remove yourself if things start crossing a line, or, if you’re hosting, you can ask someone to leave. Spend some time with yourself to identify your triggers and where your line is. Keep your energy up, even if your line is crossed. After all, getting angry or feeling victimized can only lead to unproductive outcomes.

I think holidays were invented to bring us together – and to celebrate each other. Putting a group of people in the same room who come packaged with unique abilities, interests, beliefs and experiences, regardless of the reason, will not always work out. Though you can’t control them, you can manage yourself.

Remember: you choose who you want to be and how you want to show up to the moments of your life. Develop your techniques to help others get along. Celebrate when it happens. Have a plan when it doesn’t.

Take Action
What is it about the holiday season you love the most? You dislike the most? These are important questions to answer before attending any holiday function as they can open your eyes to triggers that you may have overlooked. Prepare yourself for any holiday function by having a plan for them and a plan for yourself. Having a plan is key to making the most of every holiday.

By Kristin Allaben

Consider reading Expect the Unexpected to Make Life Better

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Being Thankful

I can vividly remember one Thanksgiving when my rather large extended family went around the table before dinner was served and each person was asked to share one thing they were thankful for. Some were thoughtful and touching, others were practical. I remember this particular year because I was caught off guard. I listened to my family members all share touching and thoughtful expressions of thankfulness and I nervously waited for my turn. Despite the vivid memory, I truly can’t remember what I shared that I was thankful for, but being about 8 years old at the time, I’m pretty sure I said some standard response of “my family” or “soccer,” or I repeated what a previous family member shared.

Regardless of my 8-year-old memory, the point is that we took a moment to stop and notice what was working in our lives instead of what wasn’t working. This is the formula for gratitude. Or is it?

The tradition of taking a moment to share a reason to be grateful has been evolving into month-long events for families to recognize and celebrate. Some families have adopted an at-the-dinner-table nightly routine. Others have created Thankful Pumpkins, where they write down something they’re thankful for on a pumpkin every day through the month of November, then prominently feature the pumpkin as the centerpiece on Thanksgiving Day. And others have used Thankful Jars or Gratitude Jars, where every family member writes down one thing they are thankful for each day and puts it in a jar to be read aloud – as a family – on New Year’s Day.

What I’m seeing is that today’s world, which is so seemingly self- and world-unaware, has moments of great awareness. Moments of enlightenment. Moments when they are so truly tuned in that they can see and appreciate the up and the downs (because the downs help us appreciate the ups) in each of life’s little moments.

And I’m increasingly seeing this in younger kids. In fact, my 3-year-old’s preschool class created “Thanksgiving trees” this year. Each student was encouraged to draw something they were thankful for, thus introducing the awareness and understanding of being thankful (granted, one student featured spiders on his Thanksgiving tree, but the conversations are being had…).

So this Thanksgiving, don’t just take a moment to reflect on what you’re thankful for today. Challenge yourself to adopt this attitude of gratitude every day throughout every year. Just think of how you would change – how you think, feel and act – when you focus more on what is good and right in life instead of what isn’t. And should that be something you do every day?

Take Action
Make some time to truly tune in to your surroundings on Thanksgiving. Where are you? Who are you with? Is someone missing that you wish could be there? How did the food taste? What extra effort went into bringing you all together? What emotions and feelings does this view of the day help you experience?

Now take a deep breath. It’s easier to acknowledge what you’re thankful for than it is to say “thank you,” so close your eyes and say “thank you.” Say it out aloud or in your head. But say it to the universe. To your family and friends. To yourself.

Then ask how you will bring that attitude of gratitude to everything you do, to learn to see and appreciate the good in every moment. You and those in your life will be changed by it.

By Kristin Allaben

Consider reading Life’s Little Gifts

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What Does A Good Holiday Look Like For You?

By Jay Forte, Coach, Author, Educator

The holidays can truly be amazing – or they can stress you out. There is an unspoken pressure to put up decorations, spend money on gifts and attend or host parties.

Frequently, we let marketers, media and the habits of others tell us how and what to celebrate. We get bullied into shopping on Black Friday, Cyber Monday and coming up with a gift list for people we rarely think of all year. We feel the need to outdo our neighbors with decorations and to fill our calendars with limitless parties and gatherings.

So this year, I challenge you to define what a great holiday looks like for you.

There are many holiday traditions that warm your heart, celebrate important things and bring out the best in you and others. Think of the traditional holiday shows, gathering with friends and family, the decorations and the special foods.

But there are also the stressful holiday traditions, those that complicate life, guilt you into spending what you don’t have, to eat unhealthy things and leave you feeling run down and worn out by the time the holidays move on.

Just for a moment, throw out all holiday traditions you have. Pretend you have a clear slate to start over, to decide what you want to do and how to do it. Your goal: create what you define as a great holiday for you.

To do this, summarize all of your holiday habits and traditions. Which are productive and meaningful? Which ones are stressful and done just because you have always done them? What could you replace the stressful ones with to better remind you of the reason for the holiday?

Have an open conversation with the important people in your life about what you want for your holidays. Be open to hearing what they want. Then, work together to redefine your traditions, those that bring you up, inspire you and activate your love of others and life.

When you’re done, you’ll have a redefined version of a happy holiday, one that you and everyone around you will enjoy so much more.


Consider reading The Greatness in the Small Things

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Enhance Your Networking Skills During Holiday Events

By Jay Forte, Coach, Author, Educator

The holidays aren’t just for friends and families gathering together to celebrate the season. The holidays also provide a great time for networking with colleagues and peers at company and industry events. For those of you considering making a career change in 2018, holiday events can provide you with a platform to tell the world about yourself.

Today’s world is built on networking. You constantly meet and connect with people – some you will work with, others you will meet for the first time. But networking isn’t always easy, especially when you need to find the delicate balance between listening and talking, frequently in a crowded room with music that always seems to be playing too loud.

The trick to successful networking is to first know – then successfully and professionally share – something meaningful about yourself. And the challenge isn’t just in what information to share, but how to do so in a concise way, knowing you have just a few moments to make that initial connection. Peggy Klaus calls these “brag bites” in her book, The Hard Truth About Soft Skills.

So how can you share your Forte Factor in the hopes of landing an interview or promotion? Tell them about your strengths, talents and passions through a story.

Our days are filled with stories, you just need to learn how to recognize the ones that highlight your strengths. Try this: stop and notice something you did this morning – what story could it create for you to share something important about you? For example, I talked about cars with a couple of the guys at my gym. In sharing how I came to choose the hybrid car I bought, I shared how organized, methodical and analytical my approach was. They told me they would want to check in with me the next time they were car shopping, or making any kind of big decision that required a little extra legwork. This was my brag bite. It was an easy share and wasn’t overly aggressive. They now know that this is who I am and it relates to everything I do, including my work. And now, if I connect with any of them specific to coaching, they already have a feel for who I am.

So what story should you tell? Stop and notice how you show up in your world. Define your inventory of abilities and build your inventory of stories. Then watch your world for the places to deliver a brief story that shares something important about you in a meaningful way, allowing others to learn about your abilities in a way that both entertains and educates.


Original article “When You Network, Use Stories To Tell Important Things About You” was originally published on LinkedIn, September 6, 2016

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