Deciding on the right gifts for each of the loved ones and work associates on your lists can be fun, and also can feel overwhelming.  Here's two principles that can help.

Gift-giving principle #1:  Choosing gifts is an instance of decision-making

To make good decisions, first clarify your underlying concerns.  Underlying concerns are the factors that need to be present for the decision to feel like a good one. 

For instance, for grandchildren gifts you might want all the kids to feel they have been treated equally.  That's a concern.  It may be important also that the gifts be affordable if your budget this year is tight.  A gift that includes an activity that can be done either on their own or with their siblings or cousins may be a third factor.  You might add the concern that the gift be something  unusual and therefore memorable.  You might want it to be whimsical rather than something serious or functional, and at the same time something that will be used over an extended period of time rather than a one-time fun experience.  That's a full set of concerns.

Gift-giving principle #2:  Once the concerns are clear, go out into the world to explore what's available.  That is, go shopping, look up craft or recipe ideas, etc to look for what kinds of solution options are out there.

Sitting at home and thinking of a gift that would be responsive to all the above concerns could feel impossible.  A little thinking might help.  At the same time, a batch of looking to see what's available in stores, or in craft and recipe books if you are a do-it-yourselfer, may be more helpful that trying to dream up a perfect solution from your armchair.

As you may have guessed, the concerns I've listed above were my own as I faced the daunting task of choosing presents for grandkids.  To my total delight, after several hours of looking at this store and that, World Market had a small shelf of inexpensive and quite whimsical gifts.  I found pads of paper for 3-D drawing, complete with 3-D glasses included in the package, and all for about $7 each.

My grandkids LOVED them.  They sat down, all ages together, at the dining room table and drew pictures for hours.  Individuals later sat down at different times to do more drawings.  Success!

The moral of this story goes beyond gift-giving.

Whenever you need to make a decision, alone or with others, clarification first of your underlying concerns will make the process flow more easily, and make the outcome plan of action more likely to be successful. 

Similarly, thinking is the starting point for creating good options for yourself, and at the same time, that's just the starter.  Going out in the world to explore options then is a critical step two. 

My postings on the Win-Win Waltz for when you need to make decisions of any sort with another person, and on decisions about career changes, illustrate this same principle in different arenas.  Enjoy!


Susan Heitler, Ph.D. is a clinical psychologist in Denver and author of the interactive online program that helps couples to build stronger and more loving relationships, PowerOfTwoMarriage.

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