Christmas is a few days away and I can feel your panic from here. Did you buy enough presents for everyone? Did you buy the right presents for everyone? Have you forgotten anyone?
I've got some good news for you. You only have to buy one more present to ensure that everyone has a Merry Christmas -- including you. And there's still plenty of room for it in your overstretched budget. The one and only thing you need to buy is in.
That's not a typo. I didn't get cut off before I was done. I didn't mean to write insurance or investments or inlaid jewelry. (Especially not inlaid jewelry.) I meant to stop exactly there -- because the very best gift you can give to every last person on your list is the gift of buying in.
Buying into your life and the people in it is so much more substantial than anything material. Material gifts are like those foil covered chocolate bunnies that you used to get in your Easter basket when you were a kid. Sure, they wow you at first glance. They're so big and shiny! But it doesn't take long for you to realize they're hollow inside -- and that leaves you feeling hollow, too. But buying in is a gift that is solid to the core.
Buy into your relationship. Don't fall for the Lexus commercials. If you really want a December to remember, you don't need to buy your significant other a car to show you care. You need to actually care. Commit yourself to being there for your S.O. in a meaningful way. Read Dr. Gary Chapman's book The 5 Love Languages, then figure out what your S.O. needs to feel cared about. Is it quality time, words of affirmation, gifts, acts of service, or physical touch? Then make sure to feed your relationship with the nutrients it needs to stay healthy.
Buy into your kids. Put your smart phone or iPad down and pay attention to your kids. Spend time doing things with them -- and I'm not talking about fancy ski trips or lavish holiday parties. I'm talking about everyday life kinds of things like wrapping presents, playing a game, or baking Christmas cookies. Even if they've already reached the teen monster years and they roll their eyes at all of your lame suggestions, make sure you do things together and make sure you're fully present while you do them. Also remember to give them some positive feedback once in a while to balance out the times you have to call them on stuff that they are not on top of. And don't wait for big things like straight As on a report card or winning first place in the science fair. I'm talking about little things like not leaving wet towels on the carpet for once in their life or remembering to feed the cat without being asked a million times. If you notice it, mention it. They will be grown and gone before you know it. Make sure they have memories from their childhood to take with them that are both positive and interactive.
Buy into your job. You have to spend a significant chunk of your life at work -- make sure it's not wasted time. The more you care about your job, the more you will like it. Perform at a level that makes you proud. And if there's simply no possible way for you to like your job, dedicate yourself to finding a new one. But until you do, try your best to continue to bring your "A" game rather than getting lazy and phoning it in. Not only is this important to how other people feel about you, it's critical to how you feel about yourself.
Buy into your well-being. Make time to keep up with things that keep you healthy. Eat good food. Get together with your friends. Exercise. Or better yet, combine some of these things together and double your reward! You don't have to put together a team to compete in a relay marathon (unless you want to, of course); but you do need to set aside time for healthy outlets four or five days a week. Go for a walk with a friend, hit a yoga class, go for a swim with your kids, cook dinner together with your family, or head to the gym. It's not what you do that's important, it's actually doing it.
Forget about going to the mall one last time or worrying about the things on your list that are left to do. Crumple up that list and take a look around. Behold all the goodness and beauty that surround you. Then gather up some friends and loved ones, turn off your cell phones, and enjoy each other's company for a little while.
Have a very Memorable Christmas and a Meaningful New Year!