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Holiday Presents/Presence (Productive Flourishing Pulse #457)
How being present is the greatest gift you can give and receive
Steve here, stealing the microphone from Charlie this week.
Whether you celebrate it or not, Thanksgiving is the unofficial start of the end-of-year holiday season (not the consumer holiday season, which is a whole other thing. Don’t get me started.)
The holidays can be hard, especially with all the things going on in the world that make it hard to feel like celebrating anything.
Then there’s all the shopping and cooking and traditions that can fill a holiday and the days leading up to it, leaving little time for the things that most of us would really enjoy: an opportunity to rest from the pace of our day-to-day and connect with those we don’t see often — sometimes only during this season.
It’s not that those traditions don’t have their place and it’s not that those traditions don’t help build those connections. An example from my own life: one of our family holiday traditions is making gingerbread men for Christmas. Mom has done this for years, and we’ve given those gingerbread men as gifts to family and friends, who look forward to them each holiday season. I love that we’re giving something that’s made-not-bought and that our friends look forward to. Something that reconnects us to folks we don’t see often.
As Mom has aged, it’s become increasingly difficult for her to do the work of making those cookies. The tradition has changed in two ways.
For many of the friends, some of whom are distant now that we’re in Texas and they’re in Michigan (where we lived for many years), the gift became passing the recipe on to them so they could make their own cookies.
And for the few batches we still give out locally, the tradition has become Mom and me making the cookies together. It’s another way of connecting to her, of being present with her and sharing stories. Past and present connect, too, remembering other holidays and other moments. They braid together like those construction paper chains we used to make in elementary school as decorations for the Christmas tree.
What traditions give you the opportunity to be present with those you love? And how have those traditions changed over the years, because of age and distance and other life factors?
I encourage you to take a moment to consider where your presence can be the greatest gift you can give this holiday season.
I encourage you, too, to consider what you need to do for yourself so you can be fully present at those times. What boundaries might you need to create and hold firm?
Maybe it’s finishing that project before you go or figuring out how to postpone it in a way that doesn’t have you thinking about it. Maybe it’s creating time for yourself in the mornings before everyone wakes up or in the evenings after everyone goes to bed so you can recharge your batteries before diving back into #allsocialallthetime. Maybe it’s figuring out which routines you need to maintain, and which you need to take a break from, even for the day.
I’m wishing all of us a holiday season filled with connection, presence, peace, and rest.
And now back over to Charlie for this week’s other goodies…
Other News and Features
Team Habits is now available as part of Spotify Premium’s audiobook collection. If you’re a Spotify Premium member, I’d appreciate it if you'd stream and rate Team Habits on Spotify. (I learned that it was part of Spotify Premium through my own use Saturday morning and am still figuring out this whole “audiobook on Spotify” thing.)
Over the long weekend, I'll be deciding whether to change the day we publish the Pulse from Tuesday to Friday. If you don't see a Pulse next Tuesday, it's because Friday won out.
The cost for paid memberships will increase to $10/month or $100/year on December 1st. If you’ve been considering becoming a paid member, now’s a really good time to do so. Click here to upgrade.
Reads and Seeds
This new section is for great reads I’ve found over the last week and post seeds that I may or may not get around to finishing. Let me know if you like this section.
Work your body to make your brain better – In this meta-analysis of the effect of exercise on cognition, “aerobic and resistance exercise showed the greatest benefits on global cognition and executive function respectively, whereas mind-body exercise benefitted memory.”
“Self-Silencing Is Making Women Sick” – “considerable evidence has revealed that female self-silencing isn’t just tied to psychological issues like depression and eating disorders, but also to physical illness.” There’s a lot to unpack here and I’ve added it to the podcast queue for Angela and me to talk about in Q1.
“Thoughts on techno-optimism” – I really appreciated’s piece on techno-optimism, as it gave me a richer lens to explain why I’m a techno-optimist. Steven Kotler and I talked about this last year. I’ll flesh this out more and also explain why Steven and I actually consider ourselves techno-realists.
From Strength to Strength by Arthur C. Brooks – Brooks’s book starts with some affirming bad news: we peak in our careers far earlier than we’re ready to admit. But there are different kinds of strengths that are able to emerge if we lean into them. This one’s a great one for strivers, workaholics, and accidental entrepreneurs. (If the shoe fits…)