Why is it so hard to find the perfect gift to give to that special person in your life? Whether you are looking for anniversary gift ideas, Christmas present ideas, or just that special gift for dad, looking for creative gift ideas seems to be an elusive task. What makes that special gift so hard to find?
This is a difficulty that everyone experiences. Finding gifts is already a chore in itself, but some people just make the chore more difficult and more complicated. Here are the top three reasons that make finding the perfect gift difficult, as well as some suggestions on how you can avoid them.
The Trap of Stereotypes
Reason 1: You are under the spell of the illusion of perfection. There is no such thing as a perfect gift for anyone. Each gift is unique to each recipient’s specific personality and life condition. If you still believe in the idea of a perfect gift for a particular type of person or stereotype, that same idea can be a limiting factor. It can effectively pigeonhole your hunt for a laser-targeted gift for your recipient. An illustration is appropriate at this point.
Say, you are searching for a gift for your friend, who, incidentally, is also a fitness buff. So, your most likely starting point for your online gift hunt would be the idea of gifts for gym rats. At this point, you are already probably madly searching on Google for gift ideas for gym lovers. Google doesn’t fail you, of course. In fact, it will overdeliver and give you hundreds, maybe thousands, of web pages that claim to sell you the right gift to give to your gym-loving buddy. You spend hours examining page after page of gift suggestions, and your head starts to whirl. “Which one is perfect for my friend?” you ask exasperatedly.
What is wrong with that scenario? Nothing seriously evil about it, actually. But, you have successfully closed your eyes to other possible gift ideas. Your friend may be a gym lover, but she or he could also be a single parent, or a writer, or a struggling musician. These are aspects of your friend’s life that may be simply incidental, and to pigeonhole through incidentals could be folly in your gift giving.
The gift that you find for your friend’s gym-loving side may be of lesser value to his or her life at this point because your friend’s immediate need may not be related to his or her weight training activities. In fact, your friend’s more immediate need could be in his or her home improvement project. And, you missed out big time on that one simply because you got so engrossed with the idea of your friend’s being a workout freak.
Amazingly and paradoxically, the moment you let go of the idea of the “perfect gift,” you open yourself up to actually finding it.
Wants Versus Needs
Reason 2: You are focused on giving in to a person’s wants, rather than to his or her needs. Again, nothing wrong about that. Your gift will still be appreciated by the recipient. But, why stick to being a wish-granter for wants when you can be a wish-granter for needs? People can live without getting their wants, yet people can’t go on living with their needs unfulfilled. In fact, your recipient’s life will become easier and less burdensome if you do something to help fulfill her or his needs.
If you’d rather be more purposeful and helpful in your giving, take the more noble route: be a wish-granter for needs.
Why is wants-based gift giving more difficult than needs-based giving? Simple fact: human wants are absurdly infinite, but each human being actually only has few needs. Between infinite wants and definite needs, which road is less arduous and simpler for the gift giver? That’s a no-brainer question, huh? Yet, the major folly of most people is in satisfying wants first instead of needs. Our needs are often eclipsed by our wants, and we sometimes tend to confuse one for the other—even in our gift giving.
Take the case of my student friend. Last Christmas, I wanted to give him a special gift, something that he could use. Should I give a notebook? A new school bag? He wanted a new tight-fitting shirt, to add to his closet-full collection. He wanted new running shoes, too, one that he could wear “on Tuesdays, Thursdays, and Saturdays” (his actual words). I ended up giving him an alarm clock. It wasn’t on his wish list at all. I gave it anyway. Why? Because he was having trouble waking up early—either for school, for an appointment, or for a cramming session at dawn. Apparently, he needed the alarm clock but just didn’t see it as something he needed. Was it hard to find an alarm clock? Definitely not. Did my friend appreciate the gift? You bet he was elated, especially with the note that I sent the gift with: “Time is precious. Time wasted is opportunity wasted. You are a gifted person. Use your time well to make this world a better place.”
Person Fitting Versus Gift Fitting
Reason 3: You are making the person fit the gift, rather than finding a gift that suits the person’s needs. Consequence: you end up shopping for excuses to give this or that gift to the person you have in mind. This is what will most likely happen if you begin your search through gift registry sites. You get a long list of themed gift ideas (e.g., gifts for boyfriends, gifts for weddings, gifts for husbands, and so on), and for each gift that catches your attention, your mind instantly tries to come up with an excuse to give such gift. Once you find the perfect excuse, you start believing you’ve found the perfect gift—but have you really? This is what I call hit-or-miss gift shopping and it is an excuse-driven gift giving approach.
Contrast the hit-or-miss method with the needs-based approach. This latter approach requires you to think hard about the recipient’s needs, find one specific need that you’d like to help out in, find a gift item that will fill that specific need, and go shopping for brands or models of that specific gift item (that is, if you are giving a tangible gift). With this approach, right from the start, you already know what gift to give and you perfectly know why. Your remaining task would be to find a brand, model, or provider that matches various other criteria such as budget, durability, convenience, customer support, etc.
Finding the right gift for your loved one always requires painstaking effort, especially if you are beholden to the idea of perfection, if you give gifts to grant want-wishes (instead of need-wishes), or if you fit a person into a gift idea (rather than the other way around). Yet, you can make the quest less difficult and less time-consuming for you by avoiding the top three causes of difficulty in finding the perfect gift for any recipient.