The holiday season brings with it the inevitable questions, "Who will I spend the holidays with?" "Which family members should I visit?" "Must I really go to this party?" Here is the answer to all of your holiday questions, as well as any that occur during the rest of the year or your entire life: Love yourself enough to be where joy guides you.

Toward the end of his Hawaiian vacation, my friend Jack came to visit me. As I drove Jack to the airport he confessed, "There were two things I always dreamed of doing with my beloved, and waited to do with her when she came along. One was to buy a house in a neighborhood I have always loved, and the other was to visit Hawaii. Last year I decided to quit waiting for my beloved to show up before I could enjoy those gifts. I bought the house, and now I have come to Hawaii and had a stellar vacation." Jack went on, "Now I realize that I have done those things with my beloved. My beloved, you see, is me."

When I next saw Jack, he introduced me to his fiancee. When he found his beloved inside him, he found his beloved beside him. As you find your beloved inside you, you will know exactly where to go and when, and find many different manifestations of love beside you.

Over years of counseling people in relationship and life choice quandaries, I have observed many happy endings. This has taught me that no romantic, friendship or family relationship issue is so overwhelming that you cannot find your way home; indeed, some of the most painful predicaments are preludes to glorious triumph.

Take Hannah, for example, a young Jewish woman who fell in love with a Muslim man. Hannah’s father was furious about his daughter’s romance and forbade her to date Rashid. Over several years Hannah attended my seminars and plodded through the saga of her star-crossed love. Finally she mailed me a copy of a letter she wrote to her father explaining to him that she appreciated all he had done for her, but this was her life and this was the man she loved, and she could no longer deny her heart’s calling. A year later I received Hannah’s wedding picture, and the following year her baby’s photo. Eventually her father dropped his resistance and accepted Rashid into his heart and family.

Then there was Erin, the wedding coordinator who could get everyone to the altar but herself. When she finally admitted that she was in the wedding business because she really wanted to be in a wedding, she let a good man into her life. Then someone else planned the wedding at which she finally walked down the aisle herself.

Wherever you stand on your relationship journey, any perceived deficit can get offset with a healthy dose of self-love. Self-honoring is, in fact, your first order of business. A love affair with yourself is not egotistical or self-indulgent. It is a prerequisite to all acts of true service to others. Those who love themselves have far more to give and share than those who dislike or deny themselves. It’s hard for a hungry person to feed others, and equally hard for a love-starved person to give and receive from a lover. Light your own fire and you will illuminate the way for others to light their own. They will catch you, and together you will amplify it.

Someone once sent me a pamphlet entitled, "Are you Letting Life Love You?" I meditated on that question for months, and I am still doing so years later. Every moment is a choice between letting love in or pushing it away. The universe would take you for its lover-are you willing to welcome it into your chamber?

This holiday season, find the courage to put an overwhelming sense of "should" aside, and live from "would." Where would love lead you: from your heart, out of choice, guided by joy? Say "yes" to everything that brings you closer to inner peace and "no" to everything that distances you from it.

A couple whom I did not know well invited me to their wedding in my town. I told them I would attend, but regretted my response. I told myself, "This is the last time I will engage in a social situation out of obligation. Next time I will honor my inner voice." When the wedding day came, an hour before I needed to leave for the ceremony I decided to lie down to take a nap. To my surprise, I woke an hour after the wedding began! My inner being commandeered my action and I ended up honoring my true choice. Since that time I have made it my mission to honor my true choices without having to fall asleep to do so. Like quitting smoking or losing weight, it’s either now or it’s not. The one thing you cannot postpone is joy.

This holiday season practice staying awake in self-love. Be the light that the holidays seek to celebrate, and you will attend every party, gathering, service, and ceremony-or not-with your true beloved.

Alan Cohen
Alan Cohen is the bestselling author of the newly-released Spirit Means Business, illuminating how you can successfully merge your career and financial path with your spiritual life. He will present a program related to this book on the West Coast in August. For more information about this program, Alan’s books and videos, free daily inspirational quotes, online courses, and weekly radio show, visit www.AlanCohen.com.

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