If you have sat in my office, you will hear me refer to the Magic Question. It is one of my favorite practice interventions. Here it is:
WHAT MATTERS MOST?
I believe in giving credit where credit is due and this idea as a practice intervention came to me from author and podcaster Kendra Adachi and her book The Lazy Genius. “What Matters Most?” is one of her Lazy Genius Principles. Go get the book. It will change your life.
How can we Magic Question the holidays? I don’t need to give you a cute and sassy intro to WHY we might need extra support at the holidays because of all the demands, emotions, family patterns, and dynamics that drive us nuts and not good-pecan-pie-nuts. You all have deep experience with that. Let’s jump right in.
You can Magic Question pretty much any situation.
Let’s use this example which has occurred in my family this year. This year only my mother, husband, daughters, and I were in the Hudson Valley for Thanksgiving. Because of our reduced number, it was suggested by my sister-in-law that we all join my husband’s side of the family at her house for the meal instead of prepping and eating at my mom’s and seeing them in the evening. This is the first holiday that we will be spending without my stepfather who has recently gone into care for dementia. How do we make a choice that feels good for all of us?
Let’s Magic Question the situation! First, ask each contender in the decision the Magic Question. Then, analyze the response.
Husband: I would like to see my mom and sisters, but I prefer OUR feast to theirs. I am happy to see them any time during the day, we don’t need to have our meal together. What matters most to me is that we eat a really good meal and get to see everyone at some point during the day.
Mother: I am feeling a little tender with the change of having your stepdad be in care this year (he was only placed two weeks ago). I am not sure I feel comfortable being an add-in to the Georges Thanksgiving. If that is what you decide I will be fine being there for a few hours. What matters most to me is that I get to see you all.
Me: Thanksgiving is my absolute favorite holiday and it is important to me that I spend it with my mom. If my dad, little brother, and sister stop by after being with their people, I want to be able to see them, too. Also, I have celiac disease and the only holiday where I don’t have to prep my own food and worry about what I eat is Thanksgiving because we always cook the meal ourselves. What matters most to me is that I get to enjoy sharing a meal and not feel like a burden or left out because I can’t eat what everyone else is eating. I don’t want to have to be the celiac at yet another family meal and I don’t want to be burdened with the worry of maybe being glutened.
Now we review the responses. It looks like eating OUR traditional meal and being together is the number one priority for my husband and me, my mom just wants to be with us. Therefore, the decision was made that we would politely decline the invite, stressing that it is important for me to have the pleasure and stress-free holiday of a special 100% celiac-safe (note: gluten-free is not the same as celiac-safe) meal.
Above is just one example of how to Magic Question the holidays, but this question can be served in many different ways.
Perhaps you are expecting or just had a baby and the idea of hosting the holiday is as exhausting and daunting as traveling to your people. Ask what matters most?
Maybe your answer is eating with family and resting. If that is the case, maybe your people come to you, and you all order food instead of someone feeling burdened by having to cook an entire meal.
Maybe being together is important but schedules don’t coincide–the answer could be celebrating on the Friday or Saturday of the weekend.
It is so important to remember that we are blessed with choices (most of the time) and in having choices, we can decide what is best for us and our people. Sometimes, the idea of disappointing people can feel overwhelming.
Using the Magic Question can be a great strategy for getting down to the true need we are feeling!
I hope this gift to you facilitates a more connected and peaceful holiday season. Try it and let us know!
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Anna is currently seeing adult women & LGBTQ+ members ages 18 and up, in-person & virtually to residents of Maryland.
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