Vail Daily column: Holiday magic and mayhem

Here comes Hanukkah and here comes Christmas. Wait … first we get to enjoy Thanksgiving, don’t we?

Studies show how much better retailers do when they begin promoting the holidays sooner. However, I wonder how we all do as consumers during the rush and crush of the holiday season. Do we focus on the magic or do we get swallowed up by the mayhem?

I can’t think of a “Black Friday” in recent years where we didn’t see some type of news report where someone was trampled or where chaos erupted in an effort to make sure that people were first through the door and would be guaranteed a newly released game, toy or gadget.

Our desire to “have what we want” instead of “wanting what we have” feeds the instant gratification demons within us. And sometimes the result is a demonstration of behavior that strips others of their dignity as we take out our anger and disappointment for not getting what we want when we want it, on some very nice, unassuming and undeserving employee.

Advertising and marketing, cause and effect, right? The ad agencies and marketing wizards do their jobs extremely well and drive the hype. In turn, that hype contributes to the mayhem. Again, companies will point to top line revenue and profitability that keeps them in business and gives them a stronger position that enables them to serve us better throughout the year. I totally get that, I guess I just wish we could find the right balance between the magic of the season and the mayhem that comes along with it.

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Now there are many people who have figured this formula out. They have become adept at shopping throughout the year so that when the holiday season hits, they have no need to fight the crowds on Black Friday and for the following four or five weeks. There are others who have become masters of online shopping and have minimal need to compete or wait in line. And when I see how the online shoppers and early bird shoppers appear emotionally and attitudinally as compared to their frenzied counterpart shoppers, the calmness is discernible.

Now shopping may only be a part of the mayhem. Others experience a real anxiety when it comes to the holidays. They have developed a perfectionist mentality and everything from the decorations, wrapping paper, the lights, the music, gifts, dinners and parties must be absolutely perfect. And the dread that something might just be excellent or even average sets them off into their own despair. If we can just remember that mayhem is akin to panic as it can be our worst enemy. Instead, we can focus on the fact that nothing is ever as bad as it seems and that all will be well. Magic.

What if we focused on the magic? The magical moments found when we share a meal with our family and friends, the true magical feeling that comes as we volunteer to help others, the magic of giving instead of receiving. You see, pacing is everything when it comes to managing the magic and minimizing the mayhem that comes with the season. Are we participating at the pace that makes us feel comfortable, maybe even magical? Or are we the victim of the pace that has been created for us? Mayhem.

The good news is that the choice is up to us regarding the pace and path that we choose.

As Thanksgiving approaches, I encourage you to give some consideration to what the upcoming season really means to you, your family and your friends, and what your personal pace will be. Let’s enjoy this holiday for everything that it is meant to be, let it set the foundation of gratitude and appreciation in our hearts and minds so that when we have finished that last piece of pumpkin pie and sipped our final cup of coffee or cordial on Thanksgiving, we are mentally and spiritually prepared to enter the rest of the holiday season.

So is it magic or mayhem for you? I would love to hear all about it at, and when we focus on the magic instead of the mayhem, it really will be a better than good holiday season.

Michael Norton is a strategic consultant, business and personal coach and motivational speaker. He writes a weekly motivational column for the Vail Daily.

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