This is a wonderful time of year. The bright lights, cheery music, parties, festive atmosphere, good wishes, and great food add to the fun of the Holidays. It’s a wonderful time for warming our hearts with the love of family and rekindling our spirits with friends. It’s a magical time of year when we even welcome snow as we dream of a white Christmas.
Two of Heather and my favorite holiday traditions are watching Christmas movies and refocusing our vision, values, and purpose. For over 25 years, Heather and I have found that spending a quiet evening of uninterrupted time ‘daydreaming’ during the Holidays has kept our marriage strong and our lives in focus. We spend time visioning our ideal circumstances in the coming years for family, house or home, our careers, our physical health, our financial health, community involvement, spiritual growth, and social life.
One of my favorite holiday movies is It’s a Wonderful Life starring Jimmy Stewart. It’s a 1946 classic that tells a very compelling story about making a difference in the lives of many others. Years ago, I first rented the video after reading that a judge ordered someone who had tried to commit suicide to watch the movie. In the movie, Jimmy’s character, George Bailey, becomes a reluctant leader in his small hometown of Bedford Falls. Engulfed in a personal financial crisis by the evil business tycoon, Mr. Potter, George prepares to jump off a bridge so his family can collect on his life insurance policy. Then, Clarence, George’s guardian angel drops in. Clarence shows George what life would have been like in Bedford Falls (without him it became Potterville) if George got his wish and he had never been born. The town and the many lives George touched (and even saved) so positively are much poorer because George was never there. In true movie fashion, George joyfully returns to his real life, and grateful friends and family resolve the financial crisis.
A powerful message in It’s a Wonderful Life is about finding our life’s meaning and purpose. The preeminent leader of happiness research and the Positive Psychology movement, Martin Seligman, writes in his book Authentic Happiness, “…if you find yourself stuck in the parking lot of life, with few and only ephemeral pleasures, with minimal gratifications, and without meaning, there is a road out. This road takes you through the countryside of pleasure and gratification, up into the high country of strength and virtue, and finally to the peaks of lasting fulfillment: meaning and purpose.”
- In a very powerful Harvard Business Review article, "How Will You Measure Your Life?", Harvard business school professor, Clayton Christensen, summarizes the key lessons he teaches aspiring MBAs on building better lives. He explores key purpose and meaning questions like: How can I be happy in my career? How can I be sure that my relationship with my family is an enduring source of happiness? And how can I live my life with integrity? Here are a few conclusions:
- “The most powerful motivator isn’t money; it’s the opportunity to learn, grow in responsibilities, contribute, and be recognized.”
- “If you’re not guided by a clear sense of purpose, you’re likely to fritter away your time and energy on obtaining the most tangible, short-term signs of achievement, not what’s really important to you.”
- “The key is to define what you stand for and draw the line in a safe place.”