After spending a lot of time over the past few months conducting research with people across the country and then speaking with my own friends and family about various aspects of the holidays, I’ve noticed an interesting theme. Humans are conflicted about gift giving and what that means these days.
A time to give
When the holiday season sets in, the first thing many are thinking about is the gifts that they have to buy. They think doing this will spread joy and make others happy. Meanwhile, research shows us that while giving feels good, having more ‘stuff’ doesn’t actually make us happy. Further, when we ask people about their holiday aspirations, so many simply wish for ‘more quality time’ with family and friends.
The gift of time
While gifts are a demonstration of love or care for someone (as demonstrated in Rethink’s beautiful Ikea ad for of all things – bottles), time continues to be arguably one of the most precious commodities. It’s kind of like the magic of waking up as a kid to a snow day. We pause all of our busy routines. Instead, we hang out make snowmen and catch snowflakes on our tongues.
Multiple studies of kids and teens indicate they acknowledge that quality time together with their families is what makes them happy (not the newest iPhone).
Even studies of people on the other end of the spectrum – those about to die – reveal a similar theme. In The Top Five Regrets of the Dying a palliative care nurse shared her insights gleaned asking patients what they regretted in their lives. Number two on the list is “I wish I hadn’t worked so hard”. Digging deeper, we see this is linked to the regret that many devoted a vast amount of time to work when it could have been more meaningfully spent cultivating relationships.
Experiences are more valuable than gifts
So, as I enjoyed last night playing a game of Catan by the fire with those closest to me, I reflected on this precious commodity of time, and how I can ‘spend it’ more wisely both professionally and personally. I’ve found this list for inspiration. It’s got lots of great ideas on ways to spend quality time and share experiences. It was well worth a moment of my time, and may be for you too.