Today is Kevin’s birthday! It got us thinking more about the point of birthdays in general…what they offer for the person whose birthday it is and what they offer for those around them. Here’s what we came up with:

For the person whose birthday it is

Our birthday gives us an opportunity to reflect on our own life. What does it mean that we have been born into this world? How far have we come over the X years of our existence? Are we satisfied with what we have achieved, how much we have developed, and who we have surrounded ourselves with?

For those around them

Other people’s birthdays give us an opportunity to stop and appreciate those in our life that we care about. The best way that we know how to do this is by giving them something we value. In today’s world, that usually means money (or items that we exchange for this money). But you see, we are actually living in an attention economy, where the most valuable commodity that we own is our attention. We all live such busy lives frantically juggling between the countless demands and pressures that are constantly demanding our attention. So the greatest gift that we can give someone is in fact our full attention. If you think about it, a gift is actually a physical representation of just that. It’s proof that we spent our most valuable commodity on thinking about what the birthday person needs or enjoys, doing research on the best place to purchase it, choosing between the various options, buying it, wrapping it, and writing a card. The question is though, is that gift actually what the person really wanted or needed in the first place?

Check out this experiment that IKEA Spain conducted a few years ago. They asked a bunch of children to write a letter to Santa containing what they wanted for Christmas. Answers included: a game, a guitar, a piano etc. They then asked the same children to write another letter asking what they wanted for Christmas, but this time addressed to their parents. Answers included: to have dinner with me more often, to tickle me, to read me a story, to be together one whole day, to play with me. They all involved their parent’s full attention. If that’s not enough, when explained that they could only send one letter and presented with the choice of which letter they wished to send (to Santa or to their parents), guess which one they all chose? The letter to their parents.

So the next time your best mate’s birthday comes around, remember this: your presence is your greatest present. And we don’t just mean your physical presence…we mean your full mental and emotional presence too. Please keep in mind that you don’t need to necessarily wait for their birthday for an excuse to spend your attention on them, they’ll appreciate it even more if it comes freely throughout the year 🙂