December is perhaps the craziest month of the year. There are parties to attend, gifts to purchase, thank-you notes to write and year-end deadlines to meet. Sometimes in the hubbub and excitement of this season, we forget the true meaning of Christmas. Christmas is one of the most important days of the year for people of the Christian faith as we celebrate the birth of Jesus Christ and His ultimate gift of everlasting life. Regardless of your faith, this is an excellent opportunity to take a moment and recognize how blessed we all are. Certainly we live in the greatest country imaginable and enjoy a lifestyle unequaled in most parts of the world. While we’re expressing our gratitude for our many blessings, let’s also take a moment to celebrate our many successes in 2010. Too often we focus on what is imperfect in our lives rather than what is going well. One suggestion for turning the Christmas Day meal into a powerful conversation is to have everyone comment on what they consider were their top two or three accomplishments for the year as well as at least one thing they would like to accomplish in 2011. Take a moment to celebrate with them their successes and encourage them for the coming year.
While we’re on the subject of encouragement, why not consider encouraging some folks outside your normal circle? There are plenty of people who need encouragement this year…people who have lost their jobs, people who are financially disadvantaged, and people who are in poor health. You can give a few hours at one of our local charities; you can donate food, clothing or money to one of our local shelters or you can pay a visit to someone who does not have a large support group.
When you give the gift of encouragement to someone else, you’ll also receive the gift in return. How does this relate to personal finance? When you feel encouraged, you are in a positive state of mind…a positive attitude. Having worked with and studied self-made multimillionaires for the past thirty years, I have found that this elite group has certain characteristics in common. Among these traits is a willingness to reach out and encourage others. How can you maintain a state of encouragement? Ultimately, you can maintain a state of encouragement by focusing on what is going right in your life and expecting the best. As you face your daily challenges, think of how you can turn each challenge into an opportunity. At a minimum, every challenge is an opportunity to grow in experience and knowledge. This “positive attitude” may be an overused and clichéd phrase but it is undoubtedly one of the key elements to the success of self-made multimillionaires. It’s also just a much better way to live your life.
It is impossible to consistently focus your attention on your blessings and encouraging others and not have a positive attitude. Receiving presents is a lot of fun but perhaps the greatest Christmas gift of all is the gift of encouragement. Merry Christmas!