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The Surprising Gift of the Season

The holiday season seems to bring out the best in some families and individuals but also the dark side. With some reluctance, I will occasionally play Christmas music on the piano, and although these classic tunes may bring back fond memories, many individuals struggle with this time of the year.

I was stumbling through the iconic Andy Williams song, “It’s the Most Wonderful Time of the Year.” For many individuals, this is a myth.

We are bombarded with the Norman Rockwell picture of the perfect family and the perfect tree, but the reality is divorce, fractured families, adult stepchildren who don’t even know each other, and bitterness about past grievances that have never been resolved.

As I was packing up my tattered sheet music, a gentleman with whom I was remotely acquainted volunteered, “This is a tough time for me.” I do not have every answer but respectfully listened while he shared with me that he was the youngest of four siblings. He could never match up to the athletic and professional prowess of his super-star sibs. He was not athletic, rarely got picked to play on the varsity, and sort of stumbled through life never really maximizing his potential. I humbly answered that this is indeed a tough time so we do the best we can.

This gentleman’s story reminded me that we are the product of our decisions; we are the product of our choices. Life is not a roll of the dice or spin of the roulette wheel, and with a focus and determination but especially with a mentor or trainer (like my piano teacher), there is the expectation that our life can be better than it is right now.

This gentleman reminded me of so many others whose gifts and talents are never maximized. We often reflect on those people who have done far better than their peers: Tom Brady, playing professional football into his early forties. Michael Jordan still on top of his game in his thirties. Roger Federer, the tennis player who continues to perform at a top level despite his age. Serena Williams who continues to dominate the professional tennis tour.

What do we learn from them that we can do in our own lives?

  1. A fanatical focus on flexibility.

  2. The importance of strength and resistance work either in terms of free weights, dumbbells, or resistance bands.

  3. Mindfulness about nutrition. Most recognize the importance of a balanced diet. Some follow a plant-based diet, and in general there is an awareness of avoiding processed food and following a reasonably scheduled mealtime practice.

  4. A mentor, coach, tutor, or confidant. Without exception, each of these performers has someone whom they trust. Someone who has their best interest and someone who genuinely cares for the performer.

The message for us, especially at this (maybe most wonderful) time of the year, is this: Some of us cannot afford the luxury of personal trainers and a personal chef, but we certainly can become mindful and recognize that each of us needs to invest in ourselves—or our gifts and skills may be squandered.

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