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Harmonious Holidays, Part II (The Job Jar Game)

Do you tend to over function during the holidays? Have you ever felt that you were channeling Martha Stewart at midnight as you dressed the turkey, basted the ham, designed the holiday table or decorated the mantel?If you over function, that’s OK, but you need to know the full ramifications of doing so.

At the start, over functioning isn’t a problem. You’re willing to spend untold hours (whatever it takes!) perfecting everything your family “expects” for the holidays – it’s even enjoyable. But when it comes to the end of several long days and your family is in turkey coma not having lifted a finger for three days, dirty dishes are everywhere, the glow of the holiday is dimmed for the over achiever.  Suddenly it’s not OK.

When it’s late, the company has gone home, and you’re left with a disastrous homefront, you’re tempted to hate every last one of your family members and relatives. After you’ve slaved over every detail of the dinner, meticulously wrapped a mountain of gifts, shined the silverware and fine crystal, baked 20 kinds of cookies and fudge–only to have the locusts descend, give a nod to your perfectly presented table, and devour everything you’ve worked so hard to perfect.  THEN they push away from the feast groaning about being stuffed as they flop down on the couch to watch the football games….like they’ve worked so hard and now it’s time to crash.

What an afront! The lazy louts. Lazy no good kids. Dirty rotten husband. Good for nothing relatives.

What most over achievers don’t realize is that there’s a big down side–an angry slippery slope–to over functioning. When we over function we have a vision of perfection. We want reality to match the perfection we can see in our mind’s eye. We really WANT it. The creative urge is tapped and we want to express everything that wants to be expressed. So we do our thing – ignoring that others aren’t helping. In fact, we’re glad that they aren’t pestering us. After all, it’s faster to just do it ourselves!

But when energies are spent, and all that remains is a dried up turkey carcas or naked hambone, it’s just AWFUL that people aren’t jumping up to clear the table, do the dishes, pick the meat off the bones, and pack up the leftovers. Makes you feel like nobody cares and “I have to do EVERYTHING around here!”

I don’t know about you but I’m happy to under function when somebody else over functions. It gives me a break from over functioning–which most of us do at one time or another.  At last a chance to sit on my duff and do nothing! Yes! Life is good. And that’s how your spouse and children feel when you choose to do it all. They subconsciously give thanks that mom or dad is still willing to do everything while they revert to their selfish, childish selves–even if they are full grown or . . . middle aged.

So what do you do? You want your perfection . . . and you want some help and acknowledgement. Afterall, you do these things FOR your family and you want acknowledgement – big time. And after you lose steam, you want help. The problem is everybody else has lost steam too – even if they haven’t done anything. So at the end of the day, nobody is very likely to jump up and offer to help. They’re hoping that they can digest their turkey in peace while you forget that they exist. 

Why don’t they help?  As Dr Phil is famous for saying, “We teach people how to treat us.”

Here’s your secret weapon to turn all this around (if you  want to). Create a Holiday Job Jar Game before the holiday hits.   Creating a Holiday Job Jar Game can let you over function in some areas if you want to, but create a fun way to get help in other areas.

In brief, everyone in the family gets to choose several slips of paper from the Holiday Job Jar that are either a work task or a fun thing.  Tasks might include washing dishes, clearing the table, or taking out the trash.  Fun things or wild cards might include taking the afternoon off, taking a nap, doing whatever they want to do for the designated number of hours.  If you want to over achieve on some tasks but not others, you can “load” the job jar according to your preferences.

If you have a fairly cooperative family, I recommend creating the Holiday Job Jar Game as a family. Everybody can brainstorm to see what “jobs” go into the jar and what fun “wild cards” get thrown in just to make it interesting. The wild cards give everybody a feeling that they can win total freedom. If all the slips to be drawn were work tasks, nobody would want to play. But if the players know their chances are pretty good of winning a fun thing or wild card (e.g., total freedom for 4 hours, a massage, or the afternoon off to do with as they wish), everybody will want to test their skill at choosing their slips. The ratio of work tasks to fun things should be about 4 o 1 so the odds of winning seem worth it to play. 

Let the game begin!  If you make it a game, everybody will want to play.  On some level everybody thinks they’ll win–until they lose, and then they moan “I never win.” But we’re always hopeful that we’ll win. It must be hard wired. That explains the success of the lottery and of gambling. People love an opportunity to win. Give it to them by creating the Harmonious Holiday Job Jar Game

When you download the worksheets (below) for the Job Jar Game, you’ll get instructions, a full sheet of tasks and fun things to jumpstart your thinking, and a blank sheet to fill in with your family.  You can use my ideas, or you can create your own. I encourage you to get your family into the act of creating the game because they’ll be much more willing to play.

Does it sound like fun?  Let me know how it goes – write your comments in the comments link below.  Isn’t this a great way to get somebody else to do the dishes!

Get the Harmonious Holiday >>Job Jar Game instructions included

Harmonious Holidays – Part I

If you missed Part I of the Harmonious Holiday series >> read it here

Reduce Stress by Planning Your People Zones >> get the worksheet

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