We’re only a few days away from Christmas, and while not everyone celebrates that particular holiday, this time of year is a cause for celebration for many all over the world. It’s a time for reflection, a time for companionship and a time for giving.
The Western world tends to get really caught up in the giving part — or more accurately, the receiving part. That’s not something that can be deterred easily. Getting people to be more into the giving than receiving is a tough sell. It can be done, but it takes a lot on the part of many to break through.
But what if that sell could be much easier? What if I told you that the one giving the gift could also receive the same gift in kind — and yet it would be completely different than the one they gave? Better still, what if I told you that this gift is the ultimate holiday gift?
Now that I’ve got your attention, I’ll tell you.
The ultimate holiday gift is attention.
How is attention the ultimate holiday gift?
When you pay attention to someone or to something, you add value to it. Whether it is a family member or friend, a piece of software or a work project — when you give it your full attention it increases in value. And not just for the person or “thing” receiving it. You receive the value as well.
That value can be returned in knowledge, expertise, love, gratitude and — yes — even monetarily. The key to determining the value rests in how much of your attention you give. The more you give, the more you get.
How do you give more attention? By connecting and disconnecting. Connect as fully as possible with the person or thing you want to give attention to and disconnect from everything else. This doesn’t need to — and shouldn’t — be permanent. But it does need to happen in those moments.
The currency of attention is time. How much you want to spend is up to you, but remember that quality is always more valuable than quantity when you’re dealing with “time economics”.
Attention can be given and taken freely. It can also be applied when giving gifts other than attention.
For example, you can start planning now — or giving attention to — those who you want to give gifts to next holiday season. Rather than wait until it must have your attention (and likely less than full attention at that), you can take small moments to build up the list of people and corresponding gifts throughout the year. This means you’ll be better prepared going into next year and don’t need to focus on holiday shopping in the six weeks leading up to Christmas. It also means you won’t forget anyone that might not make the cut due to simple forgetfulness or a constrained budget.
The end result is a less stressful holiday season, which is better for everyone. And you’re able to do that by giving attention to a list like this over a longer timespan and taking your attention away from it whenever you want because you’re on top of it.
Even when you offer your attention for a short period of time, the effects of that full attentiveness can have a big impact over the long term.
You may work really hard on a small project and leave everything else in the dust over a 2 week period. Then when the project is finished you move your attention back to other things while that project begins to live a life of its own. A book that you might decide to write and self-publish or an app you’ve developed would be perfect examples. As these items sell, you’ll make money over the long-term because they have a longer shelf life than the time you spent giving them your utmost attention.
Relationships can benefit from both short and long term attention. Client relationships for small projects may only last a few weeks, but they’ll have a lasting impact on both them and your reputation. Longer term relationships with family and friends can be handled by giving attention to the little things (occasional phone calls/emails, connecting on social networks, etc.) and also the larger things. But the bottom line is that in order to have a give and take happening with attention, you need to be as fully engaged as possible.
Attention is the ultimate gift, but it is also the hardest one for many of us to offer. In a world where our attention can be easily taken away from us and to things and people that don’t warrant it, we must actually pay attention to, well…attention.
Which means that attention is the ultimate gift you can give not just to others, but to yourself as well.
I’m wondering how many of you were able to give this piece your full attention while reading it. Did you shift away from it? Was it because I couldn’t hold your attention or that you couldn’t (or wouldn’t) give it? I’d be interested to know in the comments.
(Photo credit: Christmas. Gift woman showing beautiful red gift box. via Shutterstock)
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