One of my favorite Christmas tales is Charles Dickens' A Christmas Carol. It's such a thought-provoking story, filled with concepts like forgiveness and compassion and taking control of the present that we should try to apply to our lives all year long. (If you haven't read the story before, I highly recommend it. You can read the full text here for free. Or watch this version that I used to watch as a kid!) For those of you who haven't read it / watched a film version / don't remember it, here's the gist:
A mean, miserly, lonely old man called Ebenezer Scrooge is visited by three ghosts on Christmas Eve -- the Ghost of Christmas Past, the Ghost of Christmas Present, and the Ghost of Christmas Yet to Come. Each ghost shows him what his life was / is / will be. The Past ghost reminds him of how he's changed (and not necessarily for the better). The Present ghost shows Scrooge how the current Christmas Day will play out, particularly for those who has treated poorly. And the Yet to Come ghost shows Scrooge mysterious scenes leading up to a man's death -- a man that Scrooge soon releases is him. After the third ghost's visit, Scrooge begs for a chance to go back to the present and right his wrongs, to embrace Christmas in his heart. Scrooge suddenly wakes in his bed and is thrilled with the chance to transform Christmas Present. He shares his newfound Christmas spirit with those he's treated badly and continues to act with kindness and generosity for the rest of his life.
I've always felt I could relate with A Christmas Carol, probably because it's a tale of transformation, a story of how someone who is "bad" can become "good." We all can probably relate in some way to being flawed, to finding flaws we want to (or do!) change. As someone who often defaults to negative thinking and who must strive again and again to master the arts of staying positive and present, I relate, in some ways, to the character of Scrooge. I know what it's like to not always have been the most positive person, to have a wake-up call (though mine wasn't in the form of three ghosts!), and to want to make the present as positive as possible because I've envisioned what the future would be like if I didn't choose to walk down a positive path.
Whether or not you've ever had some sort of Scrooge-like, a-ha moment in which your flaws were made clear, I don't think we have to wait for some big moment to think about how we're living our lives. We don't need three ghosts to come to us (or to have some sort of mind-shattering breakthrough or breakdown). In fact, I think we could learn a lot from simply pausing to ponder the question:
What if YOU were starring in A Christmas Carol?
This question popped into my head the other day and I couldn't shake it. It's one of those great questions that prompts you to ask more questions, like:
What would the Ghost of Christmas Past show me if I were to be visited by such a spirit? What would I see if I were led around by the Ghost of Christmas Present? And what would I see if I were to travel with the Ghost of Christmas Yet to Come into the future?
Plus, it's always kind of fun to imagine yourself starring in a familiar story! Of course, I'm sure this was the whole point of Dickens' book -- to inspire people to think about the past / present / future and consider how the past and the present will impact the future. I'm sure Dickens would love it if every reader put him or herself in Scrooge's shoes. But most people just read the book or watch the film, view Scrooge objectively, and feel happy when he learns his lesson. But what about our own lessons?
This time of year is often a time of reflection. As the year draws to a close, we recall what's happened over the past twelve months and think about what we want to happen in the year ahead. But I suggest taking it a little bit further and ask yourself the following questions:
- What would the Ghost of Christmas Past show you?
- Who would the main characters in your past be?
- What are the important moments / transitions in your past?
- How did the past (good and bad) impact today?
- What would the Ghost of Christmas Present show you?
- Who would the main characters in your life be now?
- How would you interact with these characters?
- What's happening in the present that might change the future?
- What would the Ghost of Christmas Yet to Come show you?
- Who from your present will be in your future?
- What will your future self be doing / feeling / thinking?
- How did the past / present influence future Christmases?
- What might you want to change to create a future you want?
I don't know about you, but reflecting on these really made me think! These question made me question what I'm doing now, recall what I've done before (what's worked / what hasn't), and think hard about what I want in the future. I hope these questions encouraged you to think about how the past, present, and future are all connected. What we do today impacts our lives tomorrow. What we've done before is influencing what's happening now. Sometimes, with striving to live in the moment, I forget how much the present impacts the future. What you do now matters, not only to your present self, but also to the future you.
And, now, for some additional inspiration from Dickens, I've rounded-up some of my favorite quotes from the book. Hopefully they'll positively influence you now -- and keep you feeling inspired in the future too.
"No space of regret can make amends for one life's opportunity misused."
"I will honor Christmas in my heart, and try to keep it all the year. I will live in the Past, the Present, and the Future. The Spirits of all Three shall strive within me. I will not shut out the lessons that they teach!"
"I have always thought of Christmastime, when it has come round...as a good time; a kind, forgiving, charitable, pleasant time; the only time I know of, in the long calendar of the year, when men and women seem by one consent to open their shut-up hearts freely, and to think of people below them as if they really were fellow-passengers to the grave, and not another race of creatures bound on other journeys."
"It is a fair, even-handed, noble adjustment of things, that while there is infection in disease and sorrow, there is nothing in the world so irresistibly contagious as laughter and good-humor."
"Some people laughed to see the alteration in him, but he let them laugh, and little heeded them; for he was wise enough to know that nothing ever happened on this globe, for good, at which some people did not have their fill of laughter in the outset; and knowing that such as these would be blind anyway, he thought it quite as well that they should wrinkle up their eyes in grins, as have the malady in less attractive forms. His own heart laughed: and that was quite enough for him."
Self-love is an important aspect of self-discovery. Want to empower yourself with some serious self-love and acceptance? Start loving yourself (or increase the love you already have for yourself!) with the inspiration and motivation found in Loving Your Self: An Empowering Workbook for Increasing Self-Love. Filled with uplifting encouragement, thought-provoking questions, and engaging exercises, Loving Your Self is an essential tool for mastering the art of self-love. Learn more about the workbook here and purchase your own copy here.