Pre-deciding to have a less sucky holiday season


The other day, I talked about designing daily routines to support your personal mission. Ma boy Stephen Covey recommended in The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People that, if you want to get something done – if you’re committed to including it as part of your well-designed life – then dammit, you better schedule it.

I mostly agree with Covey, though I personally like to work in a slightly more flexible/modular system day-to-day. However, for the Big Important Things that I know will bring me lots of value, you better believe those babies go in the calendar. In pen. Ohhh yes.

I’ve also talked about my affinity for what I call Pre-decisions. What better pre-decision than booking something – especially something hard to back out of? Even if it’s something I’m a little unsure about, booking things makes me get outside my comfort zone, fills up my life with things that are aspirational (in a good way!), and moves me closer and closer to #livingmybestlife.

Pre-decisions and Living a More Artful Life

You see where I’m going with this, right? If you want your life to have more beauty, depth, and richness, you’ve gotta schedule that shit.

Sure, sometimes you might say “hey, we should go to the symphony tonight!” Or, “I think I’ll see what’s on at the museum this weekend.” In fact, I really, REALLY hope you’ll get to the point where those things are automatic queries when you’re trying to figure out what to do with your time. But I bet right now they aren’t automatic. So, fire up iCal, bust out your Bullet Journal, sidle up to that embarrassing calendar from your realtor, and let’s make it happen together.

Lucky for you, it’s literally one of the busiest times of the year for arts organizations, and therefore one of the EASIEST times to find awesome, approachable, rewarding stuff to go see. So let’s get started.

How to Design a Less Sucky Holiday Season


1. Sniff out your “why”

You’re damn right I picked that subtitle so I could use this pic

The first thing to do is figure out why you want to take in some art this holiday season. Just this once, I WILL allow the answer “because Kayleigh told me to.” Because I do. But the reason I do is because I know each and every one of you can get something awesome out of an interaction with the fine arts this month and every month after.  

If you can figure out your own “why,” you’re going to be way happier with whichever offering you decide to pay for.

Let’s take a quick, related tangent. I try to apply “why” thinking to all spending. For example, at the beginning of each season I pull a capsule wardrobe from my already-small total clothing collection. This means pre-deciding (woot!) on the 30-40 pieces of clothing (including shoes, outerwear, and accessories) that I’ll wear for the next three months. When I’m planning my capsule for the next season, I allow myself a couple of new purchases – and that’s it for clothing shopping for three months. To make sure I spend my dough – and my choices – on things that will really add value, I ask “what problem am I trying to solve this season?” Maybe it’s “unlocking more of my blazers by buying a black blouse”, or “replacing my destroyed boots so I can wear skirts through the winter.” I find a compelling “why,” which guides my purchases AND makes me way happier with what I end up buying, meaning no buyer’s remorse. 

So what could be the “unlocker” pieces of fine arts you might stick into your already-busy calendar for December? Start with what’s missing – that’s your “why.” Do you need more silence in your month, because it’s SO full of family and friends and craziness? On the other hand, do you need an excuse to go out with your girlfriends, because otherwise you won’t see them until January and you’ll be totally family’d out? Or, do you get a little lonely every holiday season and you could use a sense of community for a few hours?

Find your why and the next steps are easy.


2. Scan all the offerings

“Are all these for me?!”

You’ve got your why? Good. Write it on a sticky note and set it to the side for a sec.

Go on the internet. (Oh wait, you’re there already. Good job!) Search for fine arts offerings in your city for the month. It’s easy – just Google the name of your city, then “art”, “museum”, “symphony”, “theatre”, and “dance.” Peruse. Have fun! You might be lucky enough to stumble upon articles from your local paper about holiday offerings in your city, you might find recommendations from bloggers or journalists, and you might also find a diamond in the rough offering from an independent theatre company or little gallery that just speaks to you.

Follow that little heart of yours, and make a short-list of things you might be interested in that look like they could fit into your calendar.  


3. Don’t cheat, I see you!

So does this Good Boy, and he’s judging you

Right about now you’re looking at your December calendar and thinking “oh dear, I really am so busy this month I just cannot fit another thing in.” Don’t quit now! Instead, look over at that little sticky you wrote a second ago. What did you figure out that you need more of this month? That’s even more true when you think about how busy you’re going to be. If you need something, be pre-kind to yourself and pre-decide to pre-book it. Future you will thank you-of-the-past later. 


3. Match up with your Why

Find the silver bell that rings just for you

Now that you’ve re-grounded yourself in your Why, look at your short list and see what really, truly speaks to whatever need you’re aiming to satisfy. Here are a couple of suggestions, but I really encourage you to be creative in choosing what resonates for you.

  • Are you looking for something special to do with family? Try a symphony concert! Symphony holiday concerts are family-friendly events full of tunes the younger members of your clan will love, and – spoiler alert! – a lot of them include a visit from Santa. You’ll love the opportunity to all come together somewhere other than your house, get dressed up enough for a cute lobby pic, and have hot chocolates together at intermission. Grandma’s happy, kids are happy, and you can pre-order Baileys in your cocoa, so you’re extra happy.

  • Are you looking for a respite from the holiday madness? If you’re like me, the holidays can be a bit of sensory overload. Just like I love to read something non-holiday related during December, I also love to go to a museum and see a thought-provoking, non-holiday-themed exhibition to break up the red and green bonanza. Also great about the museum at Christmas: sweet, sweet silence. One place you’ll be safe from hearing Mariah Carey.

  • Do the holidays hold a special place for you, in terms of spirituality and/or religion? Regardless of your practice, try a performance of Handel’s Messiah or Bach’s Christmas Oratorio. These are moving, holy, brilliant works of art and devotion. Be drawn in by the text, the human voices, and the sheer epicness of the experience. If you’re looking to be uplifted, or to gain more insight into your own spiritual heart, I can’t recommend the big choral works highly enough.


4. Book that shit


Figured out what you want to see? Linked it to your Why? Getting PUMPED?

Buy your ticket(s) and put it in your calendar, in pen. Don’t just pencil it in. Don’t just put it on your “if other things don’t come up I’ll maybe do it” list. Spend the cash, lock down people to go with you (if appropriate), and firm that shit up. Pre-decide to thank yourself later.


5. Enjoy!

Your holiday season just got way more awesome

Now you not only get to enjoy the actual thing, but just like Christmas, you also get the joy of looking forward to the thing as well.

Google whatever you’re going to see and read up on it. Pick out a special outfit for the occasion, just as you would for a holiday party. Book a blowout, get a shoe shine, make a reservation for dinner before. Whatever you want! It’s YOUR thing!

Then just enjoy – because you’ve just designed a richer, more beautiful holiday season for yourself.

Happy Holidays, everyone!