12/23/2011 11:06 am ET Updated Feb 22, 2012

Holiday Happiness -- Be Here Now

So many people grumble and gripe about the holidays -- too much family, too much food, too many obligations. But what if you approached it all with another perspective -- as though this might be your last time to be together. Would you overlook some of the annoyances? Would you focus on what amused you about specific people instead of what drove you crazy? Would you choose to make the moments special and have a deeper connection?

This time of year reminds me of my father-in-law. He was with us one year, and by the next holiday season, he was gone, so quickly and unexpectedly to pancreatic cancer. I don't harbor regrets as we all got to be with him at the end, but it gets me thinking of how impermanent life can be. It can also be something as simple as having the whole family together one year, and the next year someone may be working a new job that prevents them from being home during the holidays. Do we really know for sure who will be around the table next year?

Here are some thoughts that come to mind:

1. Find one thing to appreciate about every person you are with.

2. Let them know that you have a funny or poignant memory of a time that you spent together.

3. Savor the moment -- enjoy their company right now!

4. Tell them that you appreciate having them in your life.

5. Allow them to do the same for you.

At the end of the day, everyone is trying to do their best -- some muddle through it more than others, flailing and crashing into people along the way. Some exhibit grace and inspire you to your depths. I sometimes think that all humans are in a dance between intention and surrender. It's easier for some than for others -- that's just the way it is.

Can you focus on the goodness, the beauty and the capacity for love in the person you are with at that moment? Can you see something greater in them than they may even see in themselves? Granted this may only be possible in very small doses, and it may be excruciatingly difficult with some people, but it could be worth a shot.

Even in classes, students tend to rise to the level that the teacher sees them at. If someone is always told they are not good enough, that's often what shows up. If someone is seen as special and gifted in some capacity, they often rise to the occasion. This holiday, consider an experiment -- treat a few people as you would want to be treated yourself, and see what happens. You may be amazed by the response.

If you treated this family time as if it could be your last, what would that change for you in your life? How can you make this holiday season not only tolerable but one that creates memories to cherish later on? What are your secrets to an awesome holiday experience?