It all began when I was studying psychology in college in the 1960’s. That’s not as far back as you think. Just think of Abraham Maslow writing his paper in 1943 on what he called the “Hierarchy of Needs.” Both he and his pyramid have been revered for more than 70 years. I’m pediatrics compared to that J.

Maslow observed that physiological needs were the first that we were motivated to take care of, followed by safety, love/belonging, esteem and finally, at the top of the pyramid, self-actualization.

Sounds simple enough, right? We are motivated to take care of our most basic needs before we concern ourselves with higher level needs such as being self-actualized. After all, who worries about “finding oneself” and “living congruently” if one is freezing, starving and about to be attacked by a pack of wolves?

Ahhh, but wait long enough and science becomes “sigh-ence” replaced by something new, a new theory, one that actually has thousands of studies behind it. That’s just what happened when Dr. Edward Deci came along with his “Self-Determination” theory. Hello Ed, so long Abe? Not quite.

What’s all this psychobabble got to do with giving a gift? I’ll get to the point. The best gift you can possibly give this and every season is the gift of oneself. Nothing else beats giving your attention, your love, your admiration to one you care for. “The only gift is a portion of thyself,” according to Ralph Waldo Emerson.

Seeing that your loved ones have the basics met is often an act of caring and affection. Insuring that they live in safe surroundings, that they feel cared for and admired are proper things to do for a loved one.

But this year, here are three NEW gifts to give to meet universal needs:

  1. Autonomy. Make certain you give the gift of choice. Give a friend or loved one the choice of how to spend a day. Don’t demand, insist or expect from others. Give them plenty of room to be whom they choose to be. It’s the only way to insure peak performance, joy and happiness.
  2. Relatedness. Make certain you also give the gift of connection, of caring about others and being concerned with what they care about in turn. It’s a form of validation that propels closeness. Free of some personal gain allow others to care for you, not for your benefit, but for theirs. People need to care for others so accept it graciously. It turbocharges relationships when folks feel they are sharing in contributing to a larger, noble, cause with others.
  3. Competence. Make certain you build others up, revive their belief in themselves, refresh their yearning to grow and develop. Giving the gift of continued success, impact, growth and learning will last forever. The gift of positive self-esteem does wonders for wellbeing and health.

You can’t wrap these, and you won’t find them in any shopping mall. No, these are already in you. Just find the way to release and share them.

That’s why Kahlil Gibran noted, “You give but little when you give of your possessions.  It is when you give of yourself that you truly give.” What a prophet he was.

Happy Holidays, Happy Hanukkah, Merry Christmas and Happy New Year.