“How are you?” we ask everyone we meet. It is our introductory question to friends, colleagues, neighbors, even strangers. The answer I most often hear is “busy!” I even say it myself! With busy schedules, busy families, busy jobs, and busy lives, I hear a sense of people feeling overwhelmed.

As the holidays get closer, we get even more overloaded. A good practice is to remind ourselves of what is “necessary” of us and what is “preferred” (read:  perfection).  Talking to ourselves about letting go of our need to do things perfectly all the time and remembering that it is just our sense of what we “should” do rather that what is required.  “Shoulds” are other people’s voices in our heads that we take on as law, but these “shoulds” need to be re-evaluated by us. Do we really need to subscribe to these expectations?

An example is this:  I always host Thanksgiving for my family which includes family from out of town and approximately 15 people.  I am an “alright” cook, but it is not intuitive for me, or what I derive pleasure from. I do enjoy having a beautiful spread and being a gracious hostess though. And as such, I have in my mind that I should make the entire traditional dinner, decorate my house, have a beautiful table setting and add one new food item each year to make it special.

To do this, I take the previous day off from work, and spend two full days shopping, cooking and getting the house set up.  It always ends up beautifully, but I am stressed out and exhausted by the time we eat dinner – which only lasts an hour!

Last year, I ordered side dishes from a restaurant, which was mashed potatoes, gravy, stuffing, green beans and pies.  I made the turkey and a few other special dishes that I like to add:  stuffed mushrooms, sweet potato casserole and homemade cranberry sauce.  I cannot tell you how much easier it was to not have to make those other dishes. The amount of standing on my feet cooking, pots and pans to clean, etc. was cut in half!  It allowed me to not be stressed and focus on what I wanted to focus on – creating a lovely experience and enjoying my family.

To do this, I had to let go of my “shoulds” of making dinner completely by myself.  In the end, those side dishes are no different than what I would have made … and they are not the main event! Spending a nice evening with family giving thanks for our blessings is the important thing. I had to decide, do I want the meal to be perfect by some arbitrary definition, regardless of the cost to me, or do I want to enjoy my time with my family?

What are your “shoulds” and sense of perfectionism?  What are your true priorities and what can be put aside as “good enough”?  Something to think about as we move into a busy time of year.