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Do People Really Want Birthday Gifts?

Do People Really Want Birthday Gifts?

Birthdays are instantly associated with gifts and paying special attention to the one celebrating. For one day a year, each of us becomes the center of attention and our wishes are fulfilled. But that might not always be the case, surprisingly. While as kids most of us liked throwing a big birthday party and looked forward to the colorful wrapped packages our friends would carry, some of us have changed a little or ended up disliking birthday traditions. Some people don’t like to celebrate their birthday after a certain age, but still appreciate gifts. Others have established a strict no-gift policy in their lives. Or they might prefer activities and spending time with friends and family more than a packaged object. Remember the friend who has been traveling the world this past year? He can’t use a fancy decorative bowl. Mothers of young kids have no space to store another toy, so no wonder they seem terrified at the site of a big plush bear. Everyone is different, and everyone is continually changing because of personal choices or unexpected happenings. So next time you think about mailing a fun birthday gift to your friend who you haven’t seen in two years, stop and think how much things could have changed in their life. Ask yourself if it is what they need or if it is the best you could give them right now.

Statistics and examples

While there are no official statistics that reflect people’s preferences when it comes to receiving birthday gifts, I am pretty sure the results would be widely varying if everyone told the truth. Many times we really need a particular thing or have a long wish list, but telling others that feels selfish and uncomfortable. Even if you say you need new clothes, for example, no one can ensure that you won’t end up with five floral dresses and two hand knitted beanies when you actually wear black suits everyday.

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For me, the most difficult person to choose a gift for will always be my mother. It’s because she is very selective when buying for herself, and she rarely likes what others get her. Deep down I know she doesn’t want us to spend money and that’s why she tells us she wants nothing every year. There were some success stories, but mostly it has been a miss with the presents I have made/bought for her. My dad hands her an envelope and she can get herself whatever she likes. Such an easy way to go, but I think it just works better with certain people.

As for my father, he really appreciates my thoughtful presents, the handmade ones or the ones I have been planning for a long time. However, he would never admit he didn’t like anything, so he is the easiest kind of guy to choose a gift for.

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A friend of mine from university would make a wish list a month before her birthday and show it to everyone. Items in the list ranged from eyeliner to a mobile phone, so I guess the first ones to choose were the luckiest.

My husband and I, after many stressful years spent thinking of creative ideas, have agreed that the best gifts are the ones we need. We don’t really expect anything else besides spending our birthdays with each other, but if there has to be a gift, it will be something from our wish list or “need” list that we will use all the time. I got him a gadget and he got me sunglasses this year. They are things we’ve been using daily and now carry extra value, making us take better care of them. A different case is my brother, who doesn’t expect gifts, but asks for them strategically (from our parents, obviously). He won’t gift others anything either, unless he finds something really cool or he can afford an expensive present. I like that he doesn’t put too much stress on the topic and goes with his own flow.

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My rule of thumb

If you asked me what I like for my birthday, I would always tell you there’s nothing I need. You could get me anything and I would be content. That doesn’t mean I’d keep it forever and not re-gift it though. All I can promise is that I’d be genuinely happy with your gesture of thinking of me on my special day. Although I get more joy from giving presents to others, receiving them feels awesome too. The best presents I can remember, were from people I didn’t expect a gift from and the ones I had asked for. On the same note, I always feel the need to give others birthdays presents, because it’s their day and I need to remind them that. For people like my best friend, birthdays are grumpy days, with no celebrations. That doesn’t stop me from giving her something small when I meet her a few days later. After all, it’s a way of celebrating her and expressing my gratitude for her being in my life. As a rule of thumb, I go with something small when the birthday girl/boy is not expecting any gifts and for something really meaningful or what they asked for, in case it’s a family member or close friend (who’d be secretly sad/disappointed if I didn’t give them anything).

Why birthday gifts disappoint

While Christmas gifts are usually the hardest to shop for, birthday gifts are no better. You may only have one person to focus on, instead of 20, but it doesn’t make it any less difficult. Chances are you often forget about birthdays, unless you put them on the calendar, phone alarm or are reminded by social media alerts. The lack of time rushes you to get something last minute just for the sake of it, spending more money than you can afford or choosing something totally unrelated to the birthday person. Sometimes you have literally run out of gift ideas after many years of getting presents for him/her. Also, we all know that dreadful person who already has everything and what we get should be nothing short of spectacular. It happens though, that people change and what you thought would make your high school friend jump of joy, fails to give her the slightest smile. Or there is a particular current intention in their life, such as going clutter free or living a more meaningful life. No matter how appropriate or expensive your gift is, it will end up trashed/sold/donated because it doesn’t sync with their intention.

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How to prepare better gifts

To make things easy for yourself, get back to basics and write this down if you need to. “No one should expect gifts for their birthday and you don’t have to get every one something. But every present should be chosen with a purpose and received with gratitude.” To ensure this, do your homework. Here are some simple tips to help you get it right every time:

  • First of all, go on and ask them. They might not tell you what they really want, but they will for sure let you know if they don’t want gifts for any reason.If they are just being thankful and reflective on what they already have in their lives, it’s up to you to decide on a gift or not. Make sure it adds value to what they are doing. Spending time together or sharing a special activity is always unforgettable. Donating to a cause they care about is a nice pick too (you can also apply this to kids/teenagers).
  • If the reason they don’t want gifts is because they are not celebrating this year, ask why. For cases of loss or illnesses, go with flowers and a short note. Reading heartfelt and encouraging words during difficult times is comforting
  • When you have decided to buy something, set a budget and find the best your money can get you.
  • Consider their interests and likes. The less generic the gift, the more chances they will like it.
  • Whenever you can, choose a “package” gift, something you can share together, like going out for dinner or taking a weekend trip.
  • If you know them well, get them something  they love, but would never buy for themselves.
  • When you can only afford small or cheap things, make sure they are either beautiful or useful.
  • Edibles make perfect gifts, as long as they fall in the range of that persons favorites. They can be easily shared, which makes things more fun. Also, no clutter left behind.
  • If the person has an expensive item on their wish list, offer cash or gift certificates towards it. They will remember you as one of the people that made it possible for them to buy it.
  • When you live far away from each other or don’t communicate often, rely on the internet to find possible hints for what they like. Social media platforms and website where people share their wish lists make it easy to see a pattern of what they care for.
  • Sometimes you have to go the other way round. Start from yourself and think about what it is that you really want to say to them through your gift. If you want to express love or appreciation, choose something that best reflects what love or appreciation means for you. When you want them to be surprised or laugh out loud, put your skills to work and deliver that. It might not work well in every case, but at least you had an intention behind your gift and you can always explain that to any confused or disappointed gift receiver.You might be surprised at how many people will react differently after a short explanation note or a verbal story, telling you “It totally makes sense now!”
  • If nothing helps and you are short on time and ideas, try your luck with a fun quiz. Don’t expect much though. The best it can give you is a hint (or a good laugh) and maybe spark a better idea eventually. Also, here are links to a horoscope gift guide, DIY gift ideas and free meaningful gifts to inspire you further.

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Last Updated on March 13, 2019

How to Get out of a Rut: 12 Useful Ways to Get Unstuck

How to Get out of a Rut: 12 Useful Ways to Get Unstuck

Have you gotten into a rut before? Or are you in a rut right now?

You know you’re in a rut when you run out of ideas and inspiration. I personally see a rut as a productivity vacuum. It might very well be a reason why you aren’t getting results. Even as you spend more time on your work, you can’t seem to get anything constructive done. While I’m normally productive, I get into occasional ruts (especially when I’ve been working back-to-back without rest). During those times, I can spend an entire day in front of the computer and get nothing done. It can be quite frustrating.

Over time, I have tried and found several methods that are helpful to pull me out of a rut. If you experience ruts too, whether as a working professional, a writer, a blogger, a student or other work, you will find these useful. Here are 12 of my personal tips to get out of ruts:

1. Work on the small tasks.

When you are in a rut, tackle it by starting small. Clear away your smaller tasks which have been piling up. Reply to your emails, organize your documents, declutter your work space, and reply to private messages.

Whenever I finish doing that, I generate a positive momentum which I bring forward to my work.

2. Take a break from your work desk.

Get yourself away from your desk and go take a walk. Go to the washroom, walk around the office, go out and get a snack.

Your mind is too bogged down and needs some airing. Sometimes I get new ideas right after I walk away from my computer.

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3. Upgrade yourself

Take the down time to upgrade yourself. Go to a seminar. Read up on new materials (#7). Pick up a new language. Or any of the 42 ways here to improve yourself.

The modern computer uses different typefaces because Steve Jobs dropped in on a calligraphy class back in college. How’s that for inspiration?

4. Talk to a friend.

Talk to someone and get your mind off work for a while.

Talk about anything, from casual chatting to a deep conversation about something you really care about. You will be surprised at how the short encounter can be rejuvenating in its own way.

5. Forget about trying to be perfect.

If you are in a rut, the last thing you want to do is step on your own toes with perfectionist tendencies.

Just start small. Do what you can, at your own pace. Let yourself make mistakes.

Soon, a little trickle of inspiration will come. And then it’ll build up with more trickles. Before you know it, you have a whole stream of ideas.

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6. Paint a vision to work towards.

If you are continuously getting in a rut with your work, maybe there’s no vision inspiring you to move forward.

Think about why you are doing this, and what you are doing it for. What is the end vision in mind?

Make it as vivid as possible. Make sure it’s a vision that inspires you and use that to trigger you to action.

7. Read a book (or blog).

The things we read are like food to our brain. If you are out of ideas, it’s time to feed your brain with great materials.

Here’s a list of 40 books you can start off with. Stock your browser with only the feeds of high quality blogs, such as Lifehack.org, DumbLittleMan, Seth Godin’s Blog, Tim Ferris’ Blog, Zen Habits or The Personal Excellence Blog.

Check out the best selling books; those are generally packed with great wisdom.

8. Have a quick nap.

If you are at home, take a quick nap for about 20-30 minutes. This clears up your mind and gives you a quick boost. Nothing quite like starting off on a fresh start after catching up on sleep.

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9. Remember why you are doing this.

Sometimes we lose sight of why we do what we do, and after a while we become jaded. A quick refresher on why you even started on this project will help.

What were you thinking when you thought of doing this? Retrace your thoughts back to that moment. Recall why you are doing this. Then reconnect with your muse.

10. Find some competition.

Nothing quite like healthy competition to spur us forward. If you are out of ideas, then check up on what people are doing in your space.

Colleagues at work, competitors in the industry, competitors’ products and websites, networking conventions.. you get the drill.

11. Go exercise.

Since you are not making headway at work, might as well spend the time shaping yourself up.

Sometimes we work so much that we neglect our health and fitness. Go jog, swim, cycle, whichever exercise you prefer.

As you improve your physical health, your mental health will improve, too. The different facets of ourselves are all interlinked.

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Here’re 15 Tips to Restart the Exercise Habit (and How to Keep It).

12. Take a good break.

Ruts are usually signs that you have been working too long and too hard. It’s time to get a break.

Beyond the quick tips above, arrange for a 1-day or 2-days of break from your work. Don’t check your (work) emails or do anything work-related. Relax and do your favorite activities. You will return to your work recharged and ready to start.

Contrary to popular belief, the world will not end from taking a break from your work. In fact, you will be much more ready to make an impact after proper rest. My best ideas and inspiration always hit me whenever I’m away from my work.

Take a look at this to learn the importance of rest: The Importance of Scheduling Downtime

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Featured photo credit: Joshua Earle via unsplash.com

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