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Bridging Thanksgiving to the season of giving

There once was a couple, about to be married in the spring. This was their first formal holiday season together. Unfortunately, one had to be away on business. He planned ahead and ensured he had left what he felt was a very special gift for his fiancée. He told her he had it hid somewhere in their home and gave her hints. She excitedly played along with the treasure hunt he created for her. When she finally discovered the hiding spot and opened the gift she cried with disappointment. She thought “Why would he bother?”

Now, what could that gift have been that it disappointed her so severely? Was it a poem? Was it a stuffed animal? Was it $100 bill?

The fact is, it doesn’t matter.

Any one of those gifts would be well received by one person and yet would disenchant another. The fun of the treasure hunt was overshadowed by the man’s fatal flaw- not making the gift personal. We all want, need, and appreciate different things—which can make this holiday season a challenge!

Starting the holiday season is Thanksgiving, a time when we each think about the beautiful things in life for which we feel thankful. Some people may give thanks for a beautiful home full of cool techie gadgets that make their lives cutting-edge and super convenient. Others may give thanks for the sun, the moon, and the stars. And yet others may focus on their wonderful relationships with friends and family. All of these are very different, and these examples highlight how diverse our appreciations of life’s blessings can be.

With ActivLife, we focus on personalizing wellness. As we indulge in this season, we take time to consider how and why personalization works, and how we can take a personalized approach in other areas of our lives to make our holidays extra special—and personal!

Personalization is all about taking something generic and making it meaningful and special to a specific individual. We can take that concept and apply it to the holiday season to create a bridge between receiving and giving. Giving and receiving are two sides of the same coin.

As we transition from Thanksgiving into the winter holidays, our focus turns away from being grateful for what we have received towards giving gifts to others. In fact, it’s almost impossible to live in the United States and not be inundated with the concept of buying and giving gifts. From Black Friday, to Cyber Monday, all the way to “last minute gifts,” we are bombarded with options. It can be overwhelming to say the least. But, like the man in the story above, sometimes we can miss the mark with our well-intended gifts by not getting personal with what we give—time, gifts, hugs, or even simple words of affirmation.

So how can we ensure our good intentions result in the desired effect? How can we get the positive “Oooh! I love it! You are the best!” reactions that let us know we hit the mark? The answer is to make your gift meaningful, whatever it is, by ensuring it is personal. For some people, this is second nature: they are skilled gift givers. For those who are not naturally talented, here are some helpful hints to ensure your entire holiday season is filled with gratitude and joy:

  1. If you plan to give someone a gift, ask them specifically what they gave thanks for at Thanksgiving. That will provide you with the insight into what they are currently focused onand are feeling appreciative for. If they say tech gadgets, bingo! You know exactly what to give them. If they say they are grateful for the sun, the moon, and the stars, that may be a bit more difficult, which leads us to the second hint.

  2. Ask them questions and listen to their answers. If they mentioned being thankful for the sun, the moon, and the stars, ask them if they mean watching and tracking their movements, if they are more into astrology, or if they used those three examples as a general appreciation for nature. Their answers will guide you to very personal insight into their interests and values—be it the gift of quality time through a nature walk in the icy cold under glittering stars, or a map of the heavens above.

  3. If you are looking to give something to someone you don’t know that well, take the Thanksgiving holiday to pay special attention to what they did to celebrate. If perhaps they did not get to do what they wanted to, ask them how they would ideally spend their Thanksgiving if they could have done it their way. This again will give you insider knowledge of what is important to them and how they enjoy spending their free time.

  4. When you give someone a gift, add a little note (bonus points if it’s hand-written!), or explain in person why you chose that gift. Sharing the effort you made to get to know them as an individual, and attempted to find something that was personal and meaningful, adds to the meaning of the gift giving and receiving experience. Even if your gift is as simple as a gift card, linking it to their personal preferences can enhance the exchange and even make a positive impact on your overall relationship.

By focusing on what an individual appreciates in life and expressed gratitude for over the Thanksgiving holiday, you can learn a lot about what makes that person happy. Those sentiments can be a bridge into the giving season, allowing you as the giver safe passage over the sometimes dark and troubled waters of finding a meaningful gift that will please the receiver as much as it pleases you to give it.

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