Give Yourself a Gift

‘Tis the season for giving.

One of the best gifts I ever received I gave myself. What will be your gift to yourself this season?

Six years ago at a year end function after a day of making plans for the new year, the team gathered for dinner. Towards the end of that meal my then leader, Matt Lawler said:

‘I’ve been asking you all for commitments all day for next year. Tonight I want you to commit to one thing for yourself next year. What commitment are you going to make to yourself next year?’

That’s a powerful ask. The answers given by the team revealed the value of taking a moment for yourself and committing to something.

My commitment that night became a new habit and the basis of a much better way of working. I committed to make breakfast for my family at least 3 workdays a week. Now it seems a very small commitment, but at the time I was travelling 3 or more days a week. I haven’t been perfrct but I’ve exceeded that commitment in most weeks since.

Why did such a simple gift make a difference?

  • A gift of time: time is the ultimate way to allocate priority. It never comes back. Time with family is precious.
  • A gift of change: By making this commitment I had to change the way I worked. My new habit pushed out old lazy ways of working and gave me voice to argue for better ways for the team to work
  • A gift of perspective: the commitment helped me realise why I was working and where I got pleasure in life. That ultimately drove to the changes that led to the wonderful work & life I have today.

I’ve told Matt since how much that personal commitment gave to me. Here’s a chance to experience a version of same in this season of giving:

‘What are you going to commit to do in 2015 as a gift to yourself?’


The legacy of our smallest gifts is long and strong. What to you may be a moment of effort can be a whole life to another. Give.

A year ago I went to a conference. As I stood around in the lunch break, I was approached by someone who began our conversation with the daunting greeting: ‘Hi Simon, you won’t remember me’. Sadly, at that moment that was mostly true. This conference attendee saved me from my embarrassment with an introduction and went on to thank me for changing their life.

How can you change someone’s life and not know?

The story began four years earlier.

I have an open door policy on career advice. Ask and you at least one conversation. Over the years I had the wonderful opportunity to chat with hundreds of people about their career ambitions.

The conference attendee and I had worked for the same organisation. We had shared time over a cup of coffee to discuss career advice. A frustrated HR analyst was interested in using a passion & expertise for mathematics more in their work. I simply suggested that an analyst with a passion for maths investigate opportunities in data science which was starting to develop into a hot and growing field with a shortage of talent. 

I had never reflected on that conversation again. The advice was simply me sharing something I knew with someone who needed to know it. We never discussed it again.

Now before me was that same analyst who said: ‘I now work as a data scientist. It is the best job I’ve had and I love my work. Thank you’

I was honored to be afforded such thanks. I felt embarrassed to receive any gratitude at all. All the hard work of that career change was done by the person giving thanks. I had done nothing more than point an individual in a new direction with a little piece of knowledge.

Small gifts can enable change

Our smallest gifts can help to change the lives of others. What we know may seem minor to us but to those who don’t know it is a revelation. We might just have the piece that fits in their life or work puzzle.

Serendipitous moments magnify the power of small gifts. Supply your gift at the right time and great change happens because someone or some circumstance is just right for change. Miss that moment and who knows?

This is the power of giving generously and working out loud. Share your knowledge, expertise and capabilities. You cannot know how far your talents go in helping others to make change.

You can’t know your ability to help others until you ask. If you aren’t going to ask, at least share so that they can find it themselves.

‘Tis the season of giving. Give generously. Have a happy festive season.