Dec
28

The Day After Christmas

by  John E. Smith  |  Self Leadership
The Day After Christmas

Happy Holidays to one and all, however you choose to celebrate during this festive time of year!

One of my personal holiday traditions involves watching the many films based on A Christmas Carol, the Charles Dickens classic short story, as often as possible and with an open mind. According to Wikipedia, the original book published in 1843 has always been available in print form and the story itself has been filmed and re-imagined over the years.

Through stage, radio, television and film, animation and live, even in a musical, some variation of this remarkable story and these memorable characters has been available to us for almost 175 years. Click on Ebenezer Scrooge to see a full listing of all those who have brought the crusty curmudgeon to life in one form or another.

Something about this tale sticks with us and has remained in our hearts and minds for over seven generations, through good times and bad, as technology and culture has shifted our worlds, and as we have continued to live our lives.

If  we could travel back through time, we could discuss this story at length with around seven generations of our ancestors. I can’t think of too many other topics that would be familiar enough to both me and my great-great-great-great-great grandfather to talk about, besides the big issues like love and health.

One of the themes carried throughout the various versions is that Scrooge ends up with a deeper appreciation for his past, his present, and his future, because of what he has witnessed on that one very long and challenging night. Of course, all the lessons were already there to be learned, but he had to be led to them, dare I say by the three spirits of Christmas Past, Present, and Future, who function much as coaches as they observe, question, and challenge Ebenezer’s perceptions.

Just like Scrooge, we who work with change often discuss the roles of our Past, Present, and Future.

THE PAST IS PROLOGUE

Sometimes we see the past as a negative force, holding us back through misconceptions of our abilities and behavior or being locked into unproductive or even harmful activities due to the weight of our personal histories. As we know intellectually, just because we have acted in a certain way in the past does not mean we do not have the ability to choose to act differently into our futures.

Of course, we often turn right around and claim loudly that “past performance is the best indicator of future performance,” as I am sure many well-paid consultants have stated.

Remembering does not mean repeating … sometimes we look back and rightfully recognize how we might have done better.

THE TIME TO BE HAPPY IS NOW

We also often find ourselves so darned busy getting through each day and meeting all the imagined demands (especially the ones that we place on ourselves) in order to live into our sometimes exaggerated self-perceptions. Yes, I am talking to the workaholics and driven souls among us. We often find ourselves in the role of challenging another’s memories or even encouraging them to disregard their past behavior.

We insist that we are not locked into our past behavior and sometimes make great efforts to act differently, forgetting the value of some of our past behavior. This is why some of us seem to need alcohol or other drugs sometimes to relax enough to have fun playing games at a party.

Stopping to appreciate today is one of those behaviors which cannot easily be overestimated in its ability to renew our souls and our bodies, giving us strength for the challenges that still lie below us. I am thinking now of the physical and emotional rehabilitation of the actors in those versions I enjoy, who display such energy as they step into Christmas Day and begin their new, more thoughtful and sharing roles.

The trick is to actually enjoy the “Now”, without letting doubts and thoughts of other things intrude. This is hard to do for many of us and is also why the practice of mindfulness is experiencing a mini-revival of late.

TO THE FUTURE AND BEYOND

Finally, we are faced with the reality that some things in our future will not change. Scrooge did not live forever and that grave with his name on it became a reality at some point.

What we might learn from this Carol is that when we are honest with ourselves about what roads we are choosing to walk down, we get a glimpse of what might be around that next bend or at the end of the route.

Of course, we cannot control everything and life has a certain definiteness to it. We simply have to try to do the best we can, choosing to live with our eyes toward the best selves we are capable of aspiring toward, and hope for the best.

It is left unsaid in the original story as to how long Scrooge lives after that night, but the changes that come over him and which benefit so many others are clear and compelling. Apparently the lesson for us here is not about redemption so we can live a longer life, but redemption so we can live a better life.

What does the story of Ebenezer, Bob, and Tiny Tim say to you?
Photo Credit: Prawny/Fotolia

About The Author

Articles By john-smith
I enjoy helping people learn and grow through intentional, strategic, and social interventions. I coach, teach, train, facilitate, organize, write, speak, design, and lead at the intersection of leadership, learning, and human behavior. I am a CCE Board Certified Coach (BCC) with specializations in both Leadership/Business and Life/Personal coaching. My primary blog is The Strategic Learner on Wordpress.  »  View Profile

What People Are Saying

Paul LaRue  |  28 Dec 2016  |  Reply

Merry Christmas John!

You have challenged us again with a great thought, and not only in understanding our past, present, and future opportunities. For me, you gave us a great example of how we should be openly aware of any possibility to learn and grow. How many times have we read a book or watched a movie to “tune-out” and miss the latent lesson(s) that await us?

And in that context, we can look back on the past and present of those events, even those books, movies, or minor life experiences, and allow them to shape us more positively by seeing them in a different light. (Not to neglect the major lessons we’ve been through as well). As with Scrooge, it may take a series of “wake up calls” to take any event and transform our lives into a more meaningful existence that impacts others. But at the least, if we can reflect often throughout each day of our past and present with an eye to the future, we can change our trajectory and appreciate what life has given us in shaping better lives for us as leaders and people, even if we didn’t appreciate it before.

Have a tremendous 2017 my friend! Thank you!

Paul

John E. Smith  |  28 Dec 2016  |  Reply

Hi, Paul – thanks for your lovely words and thoughtful comments:)

I completely agree that films and stories have much of value for us, if we only pay a little deeper attention and engage in some reflective thinking around what we are seeing and hearing. Explosions are fun, but the human (and in some cases, non-human) interactions are where the real learning lies, at least in my experience.

On a related note, I think the Star Wars saga has enough content to fuel an active blog for at least a year:)

John

Mary C. Schaefer  |  28 Dec 2016  |  Reply

Hi John. It is so good to see you back. You graced us with such a powerful analysis of A Christmas Carol. Thank you.

Your post led me to an unexpected place. I spent the holidays with a friend’s family. One attendee at the festivities was really bothered that I wasn’t with MY family — my siblings who are spread across the country. I didn’t understand why she kept coming back to it. Then toward the end of the evening she told a story about how she had not been very close to one of her brothers, but was grateful to have had the opportunity to spend a lot of time with him before he passed. Ah.

I do need to ensure I am at peace with my past, and present, so I can contribute to my fullest and be at peace in my final days.

I’m starting to get confused with all this time travel! Thank you for all this thought-provocation, John.

John E. Smith  |  28 Dec 2016  |  Reply

Hi, Mary – thanks:) I am happy to be back, even if not at full strength and I have missed interacting with you and our other colleagues here. Hopefully 2017 will allow for more of this.

I am not surprised by your story, as it reflects some of my life experiences with family. We have to live a while sometimes, before we can appreciate those to whom we are closest. It has been especially gratifying to me to watch our children, who were “boisterous” with each other while still at home, grow closer as adults, especially around parenting and other life experiences.

The bottom line here seems to be that we are always better off when we are at peace with where we have been, where we are, and where we are headed.

Thanks again for your welcome comments:)

John

Jane  |  06 Jan 2017  |  Reply

Thank you for this trip through The Christmas Story of Dickens. I always enjoy reading your articles. Past, Present, Future no matter how we look at it, we’ve been there or will be. I’m sure I’ve heard that the past is a predictor of future performance but yikes! I don’t believe it. What the past does is give us lessons learned. We can then either prevent a repeat or purposely repeat behavior depending on if past results were favorable or not. I am a big fan of living in the present. I believe being present in our moments is important because they create our memories. Setting goals for how we want our future too look is great, but we can’t live there. I have many ‘if only’ and ‘when’ friends who try to live in the future that isn’t there yet. They miss out on today. One of my best friends told me recently, “I wish I had appreciated what I had then.” Yes, we need to appreciate what we have when we have it.

John E. Smith  |  07 Jan 2017  |  Reply

Thanks for the thoughtful comments, Jane. I agree with your assessment about the “past as predictor” idea – what we have done may influence what we do into the future, but it sure does not mean we’ll do the same thing. If this idea of “past as predictor of future” really worked, it would reflect a significant inability on our part to grow, learn, and change. I think we are generally more capable than that apocryphal figure who continues to beat their head against that concrete wall.

Of course, we also have “No matter where you go, there you are” by as stated by either Confucius or Buckaroo Banzai. We do travel with our past – it just does not have to determine our route or where we end up. As Bob Newhart beautifullly stated when playing a therapist working with a young woman who was experiencing angst “Just STOP it” … words to live by:)

Appreciating what we have or had is a bittersweet, but essential thing … since things always change and we humans are constantly adapting to new things and new environments. Sometimes I wish I were back on the farm as a wee lad, with the knowledge of all that was to come so I would enjoy those long-ago moments a bit more:)

John

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