5 Lessons From a Dirty Santa Game

It seems like every year around the holidays, I am invariably invited to a holiday party involving a game called “Dirty Santa”.  If you are not familiar with the game, participants bring a wrapped gift that is worth a certain amount like $20 and everyone draws numbers. Number 1 picks out a gift, and unwraps it. Number 2 gets to decide if they want to “steal” Number 1’s gift or pick out a new gift.  This goes on until all the gifts are selected and then Number 1 gets a second and last chance to look at all the gifts and decides whether to “steal” once more. Dirty Santa

I find it ironic that we play this game during the holidays.  During a time of giving and selflessness, we play a game that encourages coveting thy neighbors goods.  Last year I was lucky, I pulled “Number 1” which is an advantageous position. You get the last “pick” but I have to say that I was robbed at least four times during the game.  By the third time it happened, I quit getting attached to whatever I selected.  It’s strange to not know when  someone was going to come over and take it.  I ended up with a gift I really like, a scarf from Italy, but I could have just as easily ended up with cheap men’s cologne (a clunker gift from a game a few years back).

I think these experiences have something to show us.  Don’t covet.  Yours, mine or theirs.

So here are some ways:

1. Detach.  Detach from the objects in your life.  I was on a business trip in Charlotte.  I left my favorite blouse and skirt in the hotel closet.  I didn’t realize it for about a week.  They were gone.  I resented it for weeks.  Every time I was getting ready to travel, or wear the perfect matching earrings, or shoes, it brought it up again.  I was filled with regret and continued beating myself up.  Water under the bridge.  Let. It. Go.

2. Content.  Have you ever noticed that when you are looking for a new car, all you notice is the make and model you are interested in on the road?  Or if, as I did, you really wanted a convertible, you regret it for months and start looking at the make you bought as a convertible with jealousy? Be happy with the toys you have.  Be content.

3. Path.  We all make our own path.  We all got here from different places.  Some went to college, some didn’t, some stay in the same town their entire life and some don’t. Some people value Ferrari’s and, others value surf boards.  If I grew up in Italy, I’d probably value that Ferrari and if I grew up in Florida or Hawaii, the surf board.  Don’t judge others by what they covet.  You don’t know their path.

4. Seek experiences. In an article in Psychology Today by Dr. Melanie Greenberg, she writes “Research studies show that spending money on experiences, such as family vacations, educational courses, or psychotherapy provides more happiness ‘bang for the buck’ than spending money on possessions. That is because much of the pleasure of possessions seems to be in acquiring them.” The lift you get from the purchase is short lived.  Buyer’s remorse.  Take a class, go to the musical or sign up for coaching.  Go for the experience.

5. Boost your set point.  There have been many theories that you might get a brief bounce in your happiness set point after winning the lottery, tie the knot or buy that new house.  Eventually you will return to your original happiness level (after the honeymoon is over).  The good news is that according to an article in American Psychological Association by Zak Stambor called “Is our happiness set in stone?’ we can change our set point.  He writes, “research shows that people can increase their happiness by making a conscious effort to count their blessings, reframe situations in a positive light or perform kind acts.” Reframe and count your blessings.  It’s difficult to covet when you are grateful.

My parents have taught me to not covet material objects.  The Christmases of my childhood were not blow out Toy-fests.  They were times of family, food and Monopoly marathons.  Outside of an Easy Bake Oven, I can’t remember many of the gifts from my childhood but I do know that I always want my brother, Rick, on my Pictionary team (he is a great artist) and my dad on my Trivial Pursuits team (retired History teachers are awesome teammates).  Enjoy your holiday and count your blessings.

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