It’s here!  The holiday season has arrived!  Can’t you feel it all around you?  The traffic is heavier, finding a parking spot can become next to impossible, the on-line order you want cannot be found in the size you need, everyone wants to “get together” once more before the holidays, and the project you were assigned a week ago now needs to be completed before the new year.  And let’s not forget, the holiday concerts that must be attended, the parties (those you want to attend, and those to which you feel obligated), the last minute shopping, and then the icing on the cake, the call from VISA questioning the $1454.00 purchase made at some obscure on-line store in Australia; you’ve been hacked!  Feeling like Ebenezer yet?  How’s your frustration level?  

Frustration is defined as the feeling of being upset or annoyed, especially because of our inability to change or achieve something.  It is often brought about by a perceived belief that something is preventing the progress, success, or fulfillment of something we desire.  From a psychological perspective it is “an emotional response to opposition, related to anger, annoyance and disappointment.”  In other words, frustration is not about what others need, more often than not, it’s about not getting what we want, and that does not make us happy.  Thus an emotional response; not something normally associated with effective leadership.

Frustration is a sign that rather than serving the needs of others, we may be focused on ourselves. As a leader (and remember, we are all leaders), feeling frustrated should be a warning sign!  Whenever you feel frustrated, it is critical that you remember that your first calling as a leader is to serve others. So what does this look like during the holidays? Here are a few ideas:

  • Remember, the Holidays are a Time to Celebrate: Four major religions (Christianity, Judaism, Hinduism and Buddhism) all recognize a period in December as a time of decorating, gift giving and practicing peace and goodwill toward mankind.  Make it a point to be a part of the celebration.

  • Pay it Forward:  Put a little jingle in that Salvation Army collection bin.  Bring a little holiday treat to work for no reason whatsoever. See that parent struggling with the three kids?  Why not offer to buy them some coffee and hot chocolate. Hit Goodwill and buy that homeless guy who is always at the stoplight a new coat or gloves.

  • Express Gratitude and Thankfulness:  Make it a point to be grateful and thankful as you move into the holiday season.  Expressing our gratitude and appreciation for others changes our perspective on things.

  • Use “Frustration” Time:  Are you stuck in traffic or waiting in a long line?  This becomes perfect time for mindful breathing. A recent study published in the Journal of Neurophysiology seems to indicate that consciously thinking about breathing can help activate certain parts of the brain – parts that are linked to greater focus, calmness, and emotional control.  Eyes open, breath deep, feel calm, give thanks!

  • Focus on the Here and Now:  Too often we let the future frustrate our present. Focus on what you can do right now to serve others.  Get constructive about what frustrates you by asking what is one small step I can take right now to improve this situation and create a positive for others and myself?

  • Recognize Others’ Frustration and Lift Their Load:  Servant leaders focus on the needs of others.  At this time of year it may be a simple smile, offering someone else the opportunity to go in front of you, letting that guy merge into that small opening in the traffic line, or simply wishing someone a Merry Christmas, Happy Hanukkah, or as George Costanza’s father would say, “Happy Festivus”

This week’s newsletter is sent to you as a pre-holiday package of hope, goodwill and joy.  Now you must share it with others In doing so your holidays will be memorable in the most positive way, because you served the needs of others.