12 Days of Zen


It’s that time of year again… THE HOLIDAYS. Yep. Cue: family craziness, crowded shopping malls, and overbooked schedules. I’m not a scrooge by any means. I love Christmas. As an entrepreneur, this is really the only time of year I have to relax & refresh for a brand new year of kicking butt.

The problem? The holidays can get really stressful. It’s easy to get caught up in the mania, and, before you know it, it’s time to get back to work.

12 days of Zen is a mini-series with daily tips stay mindful this holiday. Don’t let the holiday season whiz by you in a hectic blur. Use this time to rejuvenate, celebrate, and be happy.

Day 1: Let go of expectations


Things turn out the best for people who make the best of the way things turn out.~John Wooden

Drop your expectations of what you think this holiday season should be like. We’re bombarded with ads, movies, and social media that our perspective of what the holidays are actually like is tainted.

The truth is, the holidays are… messy. There’s a reason why this is the only time of year you see some extended family of yours.

It’s not always going to be perfect (or even enjoyable) the whole time, but if you can adjust your expectations, you can still be happy. How? Change your thoughts, adjust your perception, and decide that this holiday season is great.


Day 2: Stop obsessing over outcomes


Let go or be dragged.- Zen Proverb

Entrepreneurs are obsessed with outcomes. Our discipline constantly keeps us in check. Right now, we’re more focused on outcomes than ever as we plan for the next 12 months.

Our passion for defining what success looks like and making a plan to get there carries over into our personal lives, too. This time of year, it’s hard to get our heads out of that mindset. Self-criticism can dominate your thought process & perspective.

Here’s the truth: Things won’t go as you planned. That’s okay. Your family might not get along the whole time. That’s okay. Instead of spending this entire holiday season trying to make things perfect, take time to enjoy the experience, no matter how chaotic it might be.

Let it be.

Day 3: Cut your family some slack.

If someone isn’t what others want them to be, the others become angry. Everyone seems to have a clear idea of how other people should lead their lives, but none about his or her own. -Paulo Coelho, The Alchemist

You know those dysfunctional family members of yours? It’s like they live in a completely different world (or universe, for that matter) than you.

From the outside looking in, it’s easy to judge them, as if you’ve suddenly become an expert in family psychiatry. It’s just as easy for them to judge you, too. In fact, they probably think your family is dysfunctional & weird, too.

Instead of judging them, embrace your differences. Let things slide, avoid taking sides, and try to be a peacemaker. You’ll have more mental energy to put into what you can control, your happiness.

Day 4: Giving Back

No-one has ever become poor by giving. - Anne Frank

As an entrepreneur, you’re in a constant battle to make it to the top. It can be hard not to always think about “what is in it for me?” when doing just about anything.

There is so much more to have in mind though, Others.

Think about the last time you were going through a difficult situation and how powerful it was to have someone offer you help. Putting people before profits leads to a life richer than you can ever imagine.

This holiday season remember how powerful it can be to give. This year I encourage you to ring a bell for the Salvation Army, donate to Toys-for-Tots, find a way to get involved and give back. Do it with the right intentions, of receiving nothing in return, and you will find a much-needed moment of peace.

Day 5: Enjoy Doing Nothing

Beware the barrenness of a busy life.- Socrates

There’s always a little part of me that feels guilty whenever I’m not being productive. I’ve found out, however, that always being busy can actually be counterproductive.  If you can never turn your brain off, you can never get some real rest.

Going through your mental to-do lists when you’re trying to get into a good movie is the opposite of relaxing.

Burn-out is real. The good news? It can be easily avoided. Take some time this season to shut that mind off. No family stress, no work, nothing. Take a walk and admire Christmas lights, make hot chocolate to sip by the fire, or curl up and watch your favorite holiday movie. Enjoy doing nothing, even if it’s for just 15 minutes a day.

Day 6: Realize It's Okay to Say 'No'

It's only by saying 'no' that you can concentrate on the things that are really important. - Steve Jobs

In the age of FOMO and not wanting to miss any opportunity that comes your way we have all become ‘yes’ people. Sometimes you just have to say ‘no’.

Instead of feeling like you have to go out of your way to make others experiences great, try to put yourself and your experience first. You don’t have to go to every holiday party, get together, or gift exchange you’re invited to. It’s okay to sit it out and get some much needed R&R time to yourself.

Holidays are a time for rest and relaxation, running around like a chicken with your head cut off will just make you more insane.

Day 7: Schedule Time for Yourself

It’s not selfish to love yourself, take care of yourself, and to make your happiness a priority. It’s a necessity. - Mandy Hale

It’s just as important that you take time this holiday to attend to YOU. With only a few days left until Christmas and New Years, your calendar is probably full (if not overbooked).

Block out a few hours over the next few days for yourself. Catch up on to-do’s, get some last minute holiday shopping done, or simply watch a few episodes of your favorite Netflix show. Whatever will make you happy and ready to take on the rest of your festivities full-throttle.

If you don’t designate this time for yourself in advance, something will come up to take its place!

Day 8: Embrace Instability

Change is never painful, only resistance to change is painful- Buddha

We’re at a pivotal point in our lives where nothing seems to be stable. Friends graduate, move, & get real jobs. Families grow up. Traditions change. Chances are, the holidays aren’t the same as they were when you were a kid.

I’m all for nostalgia, but sometimes, dwelling on the past can backfire. It’s hard not to miss the carefree days of winter break when our biggest concerns were what made it on our Christmas lists.

Instead of letting change make you feel unsteady, embrace it.  Change opens the door to let something new into your life. It’s up to you to make the most of it. The holidays are a time to go with the flow, not get caught up in play-by-play plans or expectations (see day 1!).

Day 9: Adjust Your Perception

We can complain because rose bushes have thorns, or rejoice because thorn bushes have roses- Abraham Lincoln

Your life is what you perceive it to be. Whether your life is good, bad, or in between is completely up to you.

For example, I made a lot of mistakes during my first year as an entrepreneur. The fact I’m still living at home is enough to show you I haven’t figured everything out quite yet. I can look back on this year and think about what I didn’t do right. I could look at this year as a failure.

Or, I can change my perception & make this year a success. I can choose to focus on the progress I’ve made. The fact I was able to launch my first beta test, make my first dollar on my own, and inspire other student entrepreneurs is worth celebrating.

It takes a lot of discipline to get control over your perception. You constantly have to play devil's advocate to your own mind and opinions. Like everything, it takes practice. Meditation has done wonders for me, but simply being mindful of how you perceive something is enough to start getting control of it.  

Day 10: Take a Break From Social Media

Comparison is the thief of joy - Theodore Roosevelt

Social media alters our perception to see the world through a filtered lens. Right now, your social feeds are probably flooded with pictures depicting the perfect holiday season. As you scroll through, you might compare your holiday experience to theirs.

Just remember you’re seeing a filtered version of reality. You’re seeing what people want you to see, not how things really are.

This is a time for you to mentally prep for 2017. Taking a break from social media allows you to come back to the present moment and focus on you and your own happiness.


Day 11: Start Visualizing 2017

Every great dream begins with a dreamer. Always remember, you have within you the strength, the patience, and the passion to reach for the stars to change the world. - Harriet Tubman

There are less than 48 hours (!) until Christmas. You’re knee deep in family & festivities by now, in dire need of a little TLC for yourself.

For an instant uplifter, start visualizing what your want 2017 to be. In the midst of the hustle & bustle, let your mind drift to your biggest hopes and dreams for the next year.

Tune out your bickering nephews, drunk uncle, or nagging grandma & use that time to conjure up your best year yet.

Day 12: Count Your Blessings

I cried because I had no shoes until I saw a man who had no feet. Life is full of blessings. Sometimes, we’re just too blind to see them. - Unknown

As entrepreneurs, we’re always looking for new opportunities. We’re always chasing the next best thing. We have to pause and remember what we have accomplished in both our work and personal lives. This time of year is truly about celebrating the good in our world.

Count the blessings that you have in our life; loved ones, friends, family, food, a roof over your head, even having internet to read this. Our culture makes this season about receiving new gifts, instead of remembering the ones you already have in your life.

This Christmas, remember the reason for the season. Find some peace in the blessings you already have in your life & prepare yourself to receive new blessings, no matter how big or small, in 2017.

Happy Holidays!