One of my most favorite things in the world is finding the perfect gift to give to someone.  I try to make notes to myself or pick up items throughout the year when I find something that I think would be just right.

It’s almost like being an investigator and a personal shopper all in one. I spend time thinking about the person and what might be meaningful or special to them.  The idea of gift giving to me is not about how much or how many things you can give someone, but how well you know them.

Don’t get me wrong, it’s great to receive gifts, but to me the gift is in the giving.  When I have spent time picking out a meaningful gift, I almost can’t wait to give it.  I am giddy as I watch the receiver open this gift that I have put effort into and then I get to witness the reflection of their feeling seen, understood, and known as they open it.   It’s the connection that grows between us.  This is truly what it means when we say, “It’s the thought that counts”.

However, I feel that people often use that phrase as an excuse when they don’t put time or effort into choosing a gift; when it isn’t well received or their lack of effort is evident when the gift is open.  “Well, it’s the thought that counts anyway…” they say.  Oh, then I see that your thought was that you could just give me whatever and expect that I would act like it’s meaningful to make you feel better and then I have more useless crap hanging around making me crazy because it all just becomes clutter…

What people want and need more than most things is true connection to others.  Personal connection is important to our well-being and our society is becoming more and more isolated with the help of technology.  Being seen, feeling heard, validated, and honored for the unique being that they are is the best gift that you could possibly give someone.  And when you are successful in doing that, you too receive a gift.  You get the gift of glowing from within just because you could provide that experience for someone else.  It’s amazing!

The perfect gift may be time spent together.  It may be a handwritten note or a handmade card.  Maybe the perfect gift is a song or a book recommendation.  It doesn’t have to cost anything.

maya-angelou

Maya was a wise, wise woman.  You can truly change someone’s day with a smile, a kind word, a moment of listening, and validation.  It’s all about how you make them feel.

Let’s talk about validation for a sec.  What exactly is validation?  Validation is the recognition and acceptance of another person’s thoughts, feelings, sensations, and behaviors as being real for them.  Validation is like saying “I understand your experience is real for you”.  It doesn’t mean that you have felt the same exact way or that you share the same opinion on everything or that you agree with everything they have ever done.  Validation is just about seeing that everyone is trying their hardest to live a fulfilling and meaningful life in the best way that they know how.  Everyone is just trying to make it, man.  And they are trying to make it in their own unique way.  Sometimes we just need someone else to recognize that.

To me, one of the absolute best forms of validation is giving a gift that really means something to someone.  Putting in time, thought, and effort to say, “I see you” by giving something that creates connection.

So, the holiday season is exciting for me.  I know some people feel stressed and pressured to get gifts and to make everything “perfect”.  Oh, pshaw!  Just take some time to think about those you care about and give them something that would show that you know them, you care, and you want them to experience joy.  Think of gift giving as an exercise in growing connection with others.  Research shows that when we spend our money on experiences rather than things, we are happier.  Give yourself and others the experience of real connection.

Call a friend you haven’t talked to in a long time.  Visit a neighbor who lives alone.  Get together with friends or colleagues and just spend time talking in person without electronics involved.  Bake something, create something, or buy something, but pause and think about growing your connection to others.  To me, that is what this season of giving is about.  Enriching our lives through connection.

Try it.  You may just agree with me that the real gifts come from the giving.  May you experience peace, joy, connection, and validation this holiday season.

We will talk again soon.

k