Often, we think of gifts in terms of things. The latest gadget, a new sweater, maybe even cold hard cash. Sometimes we move on to experiences that can be shared, like taking someone to dinner or on a dream vacation.
But the most valuable gift you can give isn’t a thing or even a special experience. Instead, it’s a gift that helps fulfill a basic human need.
The Need to Belong
Human beings need to feel we belong and that others care about us. We need to feel connected, accepted and part of the “tribe.” Back in prehistoric days, to be kicked out of the tribe was essentially being left to die. Our need to belong is as basic as sunshine and water are for plants to flourish.
A key part of feeling like you belong is how much attention you receive. Back in elementary school, it’s how you knew which kid was the teacher’s favorite. The same goes for the office, everyone’s aware of who the boss talks to most and what that means for their career prospects. And this is also true at home.
The Best Gift
This is why the best gift you can give someone is your attention. Especially your complete and undivided attention.
When you give someone your attention, you build trust, connection and relationship. And it’s your network of relationships that lead to great opportunities, including ones that you haven’t even thought of or expected.
The great thing is it doesn’t cost you anything to pay attention to someone. It’s completely in your control and there’s a good chance you’ll even enjoy the interaction. Like watching your team member grow in confidence during your mentoring conversation or seeing the joy in a child’s face as they tell you about their latest adventure.
Who Needs Your Attention
While your attention doesn’t come with a price tag, it’s also not unlimited. So when it comes to paying attention to people, you’ll want to be thoughtful.
For most of us, there are two kinds of people who are most in need of attention.
The first kind are the people you’re taking for granted.
You’re likely to be on top of your clients (which could be internal or external), your boss and anyone else who’s part of your lifeline for producing the results that get you paid, promoted and recognized.
It’s the rest of your ecosystem that’s most likely to need your attention. People like your family, your team and “behind-the-scenes” support staff who are easily taken for granted, yet crucial for your happiness and success.
The second is yourself and your needs.
If you’re reading this, then you’re probably a hard-working high achiever who’s dedicated to excellence. That means you’re likely to sacrifice your own needs to deliver on your responsibilities.
In other words, you’re probably taking yourself and your needs for granted.
Whether it’s your physical, mental, emotional or spiritual needs (or all of the above) you’ve been putting off, this lack of attention to yourself will ultimately limit your progress and even keep you from achieving your aspirations.
This was a hard lesson for me to learn, and it took my own burnout experience to realize that ignoring my own needs was a terrible strategy.
So pay attention to your own needs – that’s how you’ll build your capacity to perform in the longer term and live the wonderful life you deserve.
Give Without Expectation
The gift of genuine attention is not one you can buy. It must be freely given without expectation of anything in return.
So if you haven’t been giving people (or yourself) attention for a while, remember that it’s about building trust, connection and relationship. It’s not a “give and get” transaction. Just make a start and keep going. It will all come good in the end.
Now it’s over to you.
Who will you give the gift of your attention to this holiday season?
Leave me a comment – I’d love to know.
And remember, you can give this gift more than once, and to more than just one person!
As part of paying attention to your needs when it comes to your career, I invite you to join Career Mastery™ Kickstart Summit 2020, my free online summit that helps you get your career off to a great start in the New Year.