Last summer I celebrated my fortieth birthday. My wife wanted to really wow me with the perfect gift. She canvassed her male colleagues at work and they were full of suggestions: an expensive watch, the latest drone, or a Ferrari for the day (even the guys recognized some limits).
Gift giving can be fun and rewarding, but can also create anxiety about whether we're picking presents that please those we care most about. And we often miss the mark during the season. Economists estimate that between 10 and 30 percent of the value of a holiday gift is lost due to a mismatch between what we buy and what people want. To compensate, we buy the biggest, most expensive gift we can afford.
But does giving more really mean delighting more?
In my forthcoming book, Stretch, I explain that we are often distracted and held back by wants and wishes for more — more time for projects, more choices to pick from, and more money to spend. As alluring as this thinking is, it misses an important point: what we do with our existing resources usually matters a lot more than what we actually have.