Because of my work and travel schedule, I was feeling especially behind on all of the things that I needed to get done before Christmas this year. I decided that I was going to do an experiment in how I approached my task list so that I could bring more peace and joy into the season.
The experiment that I designed was simple. Whenever I caught myself saying, I “should” do that, I replaced the “should” statement with the question, “What could I do?”
One tradition that I have had for many years is making homemade cashew caramel clusters and sharing them with family and friends. When I caught myself in the “should” thought pattern about making them, I felt burdened and overwhelmed. When I asked myself what could I do, it made me remember why I make the candy and helped me identify different ways of sharing the treat that energized me.
As a child, some of my fond memories of the Christmas season are centered around Cashew Starkles. That was the name of the incredibly delicious cashew caramel clusters that could only be purchased once a year through my dad’s steelworker’s union. My sisters and I were each given an equal allotment of the candy and we judiciously rationed how much we consumed at any one time to stretch the enjoyment out over the entire month of December.
After the Cashew Starkles were no longer available and we could not find any replacement to buy, my dad recreated them. As my sisters and I dispersed across the country, we took the recipe and started making them part of our individual family traditions. When I explored why this tradition is meaningful to me, I realized that making the Cashew Starkles is partially a tribute to my dad. As I was making them this year, I thought of him often because I had reconnected to why I made them through my shift in thinking. This made making the chocolates enjoyable instead of tedious.
I also wanted to share my chocolates with my new colleagues and knew that it would be impractical to individually give away chocolates because there are too many people. Asking myself, what could I do opened up my thinking. My solution was to distribute tins of the chocolates to groups which worked beautifully and allowed me to share more broadly than I have previously, which was fun.
The real payback came as I shared them with people who I have given them to previously. As I delivered the candy to friends that look forward to their arrival each year, I loved seeing their pure joy and excitement that mirrored how I felt as I child when I got my Cashew Starkles.
Shifting from “should” to “what could I do” helped me simplify all parts of this holiday season, including my gift giving, decorating, and social obligations. I have felt peace and joy as the holiday approaches.
It is a principle that is directly applicable to all parts of our lives.
I invite you to try the same simple experiment. Next time you find yourself saying “should” to yourself or others, change the statement to the question “What could I/we/you do?” and see how it shifts your thinking and energy.