The Nagging Questions We Ask Ourselves at the End Of Each Year How you can give the greatest gift of all—the intangible—in the New Year. BY GABRIELLA VAN RIJ
When you consider what really matters in your life you begin to ask the right questions.
“ For my family, Christmas was steeped in traditions; however, the only thing I truly recall was the gift of being together, thus the intangible…”
Each year, when the New Year comes rolling in, so do the inner doubts and reflections that are part of our year-end experience.
Did I succeed? Has my business or career grown? Is my family happy and healthy? Do I have enough money to get them the gifts they want?
All these questions are nagging at me as I clean up from the holidays. I can’t help but wonder why success is measured by our society in tangibles… I cannot measure my success in tangibles, nor do I want to, as this is not in sync with my passions or my values.
For me, success is measured by the intangible not by the tangibles we think we see! What does that mean? The tangibles we see are the big house or car that you already physically own. We think these things matter because of others’ expectations of what we should have to be successful and to be of a certain social standing. Having these tangibles is then a way to prove to others and yourself that you have succeeded.
This brings me straight back to the nagging questions I have about success and how we measure ourselves and others.
As I watch my colleagues talk about their accomplishments of the past year, I see a picture in my distant memory of a mother decorating a tree. Christmas, too, is about intangibles… For my family, Christmas was steeped in traditions; however, the only thing I truly recall was the gift of being together, thus the intangible. When did Christmas become such a big industry that we as families have become a slave to it?
We seem to focus so much on giving and receiving tangible gifts that we forget that they will not be remembered. Think back to your childhood while reading this and you will remember the smiling faces among the things that you treasured, but not really what was in the wrapped presents!
Sadly, this truth is not reflected in our talk and in our actions. Your child will go back to school after the New Year and teachers and friends will immediately ask "What did you get?" and not "How was your Christmas?"
Today, there is so much pressure on every member in a family to outshine everyone around you at work or school that I truly feel sad for those that forget that there are so many things we cannot see but they are there. They truly matter!
Here are a few examples of intangibles that matter every day:
* Knowing that you can count on that one person to help you through difficult times.
* Every child who knows deep down that their parents will help them even if they are mad
* The immense satisfaction a mother feels when her child takes those first few steps
* The ability you have to put a smile on someone’s face, just because you can!
* In all our milestones, having someone encourage us as if we were an athlete crossing the finish line.
* That happy face in the crowd that clapped just a bit louder than everyone else
That, ladies and gentlemen, is success—when we have that one friend or relative who gives us courage to be ourselves!
How others make you feel cannot be seen, but boy can you feel it! All these examples are intangible—not evident or untouchable, we cannot see them—but that does not mean they don’t exist. In fact, I wish that people paid more attention to the intangible. Why?
If you ask any human being who they value the most, they almost always answer family. Then I ask what do they value most, even though geography, culture, and personal values might influence the answer to this question, the overall response I have heard the most is "some form of security." Which often equates back to family.
So is success then not logically how each individual values and cares for their families and friends?
At the end of a person’s life, don’t we consider a person successful, not by their job, but by how well they treated their family and friends?
Set aside your self-doubt, the nagging questions, and dump the pressure to look good, and instead count the family members and your friends who are in your life. Your relationship with each individual and the joy it brings can be the new measure of your success!
So when you reflect on the New Year, forget for one moment all of the materialistic gifts—the tangibles that we obsess too much over—and try to concentrate on giving as many intangible gifts as possible in the upcoming year as you can to everyone around you. The gift of yourself, being there, listening, laughing, being truly present are the gifts that matter most and that will be truly remembered.
A few action points if you would like to give the gift of the intangible:
1. If you are a parent and have adult children, write down a short story of something your child did when they were younger that moved you and that is locked in your memory forever!
2. If you are a parent of a child, you can suggest they make a coupon book for you instead of a tangible gift. For example, they can give you a coupon with breakfast in bed. Or a coupon where they clean out your room!
3. If you are a friend searching for the perfect intangible gift to give another friend, share a fond memory together that you hold dear. The receiver will sit in awe hearing it!