S.M.A.R.T. Traditions

I will preface this by saying that I am not a fan of the holidays:








I will say there was a time, way back when, when I did enjoy them:


Yay for the holidays. 1989.









I will get a bit deeper by explaining I really only enjoyed them when my grandparents were alive. There is something amazingly warm and beautiful about holidays with loving grandparents. Once they passed on, my zest for the holidays fizzled.


I love these people!






My sister, who is one tough chick that I just plain don’t mess with (she is a diesel mechanic, need I say more?)  told me I need to start new traditions to turn my “bah humbug” into “aww yeahhhh it’s holiday time“.

But, it’s much easier to be Grinchy McGrincherson than it is to accept holiday cheer.

So, I continue on, year after year, with my humbug ways, dreading November and December for the Thanksgiving/Christmas/Hanukkah celebrations (I’m half Jewish).

But, for whatever reason, this year feels slightly different. As if there is some glimmer of hope to resuscitate my long lost holiday spirit.

On Thanksgiving day, Jeremy (@jtwatkin) shared Thanksgivings New and Old, a post all about traditions. It got my wheels spinning: Just how do you begin new traditions? And of course, I start singing:

Fiddler on the Roof


Tradition is defined as:

A way of thinking, behaving, or doing something that has been used by the people in a particular group, family, society, etc., for a long time.

But, they all had to start somewhere, right?  And, how do you know if what you’re doing is going to turn out to be a tradition? And, what if the tradition stops? Is it even still a tradition?

Okay, enough of the questions!

Traditions are a lot like goals. They start with an idea, a plan and are put into action. I have a hard enough time with goals so maybe that’s why I am having a difficult time grasping the idea of beginning new traditions.

So I reached out to my trusty goal setting friend, SMART, to see if there are any common themes. Here’s what I found, each with a question to get your wheels spinning:


Significant, stretching, simple, sustainable

Traditions are pretty specific creatures–it may be something you cook/bake, playing a game, songs you sing, movies you watch, etc.

A Question of Tradition: So, what do I want to accomplish?

Motivational, manageable, meaningful

While it’s hard to measure holiday cheer, traditions can be extremely motivating. They are also full of meaning for those you share it with. Sometimes, you may not really capture the meaningfulness until the traditions are long gone.

A Question of Tradition: How much of what will I need? How will I know when it is accomplished?

Appropriate, achievable, aspirational, acceptable

Traditions can be achieved if you have the proper attitude and skills to do so. But, you first must identify what is in your realm of reach.

A Question of Tradition: How can the goal be accomplished? What do I need to do to make it happen?

Result-based, resonant, realistic, reasonable

Obviously, these traditions need to be relevant to you and those you are sharing the tradition with. However, in some cases, it’s really exciting to be a part of traditions of others. It opens your mind to a whole new world.

A Question of Tradition: Does this seem worthwhile? Will this enhance my life?

Time oriented, time sensitive

One tradition I do recall is my aunt making my great grandma’s brownie recipe every Christmas and Hanukkah. Apparently, before I was born, my great grandma made these for the family and my aunt carried it on. But, we only ate them at that time of year. Traditions are very time oriented little creatures.

A Question of Tradition: When?


I’m aware this isn’t a super customer service related post, but traditions are a way of communication therefore it can be applied to life in and out of the office. So there!

While I work on figuring this out, I’d love to get feedback from you about new traditions you’ve made and how you did it. Share with me!



Jenny Dempsey is the Social Media and Customer Experience Manager for NumberBarn.com. With over a decade of customer service experience, Jenny has been recognized through social media channels as a thought leader. She is co-founder and a regular contributor on the Customer Service Life. When she's not helping or singing to customers, she is studying to become an Integrative Nutrition Health Coach. Be sure to check out DempseyWellness.org and follow her on social media!


  • Great post Jenny and thanks for giving us the opportunity to weigh in on your thought process. I don’t know if this will help you but here’s where I’m at with Christmas traditions. We look at ways during this season to give to others or do something for others in a way we haven’t done before. There’s some stretch there but there are a lot of people who have a lot less than we do and it’s a chance to make a difference. Just a thought…

  • I’ve battled with hating the holidays as well. Not because I miss someone, but because they are just a lot of stress (cause big groups and family stress me out) and I’ve long wondered what the heck the point was.
    The cool thing is that with kids, you can make your own traditions because whatever you do most years, that will be ‘what we always did’ to them. So, we decided to have our own Christmas day where we do it just how we want. We don’t even really do gifts that day. We sing Christmas carols and bake and take a walk around the neighborhood all bundled up, even if it’s snowing or raining. It’s just a nice day to be together and not work, we don’t drive anywhere, no cleaning, we try to make most of the food, other than the fun baking, the day before. Sort of like a Sabbath. And then we do what all the other parts of our extended families want to do on other days and we can enjoy that we are a part of these things, but we already had our own Christmas.
    Making new traditions is part of adult hood! Do it your way and have fun! Even if that just means you and Miso walking in the snow and toward an annual Gingerbread latte, make it yours!

  • I think traditions and SMART goals are often polar opposites. There’s room for both, but they’re different.

    Look at the origin of many traditions and you’ll find that most happen organically. Something just takes on a life of it’s own until one day we look back and say, “Hey! It’s a tradition.”

    Goals are much more deliberate and represent pre-planning. I’m a big fan of those too (you can see my handy S.M.A.R.T. goals guide here – http://www.toistersolutions.com/goals)

    I think we need both.

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