If you observed Christmas and practiced the tradition of Santa Claus when you were growing up, here is a simple question for you:
Were the presents that came from Santa wrapped or unwrapped?
From my days studying family dynamics and sociology, I recall it is not uncommon for a young married couple to have a first lingering disagreement around this question. If one in the marriage comes from a home that wrapped Santa’s presents, and one comes from a home that did not wrap Santa’s presents, there is at least some discussion about what the new couple will do once children enter the picture.
Why would an issue so objectively insignificant (we are talking about how a mythical figure delivers presents), become the center of an early disagreement for a couple? Because it feels very significant. It is about the norms of what important events in the life of a family should look and feel like. And, of course, if our family wrapped (or unwrapped) Santa’s presents that must be the right way to do it. Because we wouldn’t have done it wrong!
So, we passionately make the case to our new partner who disagrees with us why Santa should deliver presents wrapped or unwrapped. Our way is the right way. It just feels wrong to do it any other way.
But, when you really think about it, it doesn’t matter, of course. Children get enjoyment from the presents and the excitement of Santa whether the gifts come wrapped or unwrapped. And isn’t that the outcome we are really seeking?
How many times in your workplace has someone on your team doggedly held to a process, an event, an activity, an approach for no other good reason other than, “it’s the way we’ve always done it.” When we are faced with such a circumstance, we would all do well to remember that the real gift that Santa gives is not the one that is either wrapped or unwrapped, it is the outcome – the wonder, the joy, the experience that our children will take with them throughout life. And when we think of it in this way, we realize there are many more important aspects to our family events than the specifics of how a mythical figure delivers presents.
So, the next time someone in your shop begins the “it’s the way we’ve always done it,” argument without really examining what the fundamental goal or outcome should be, just remind them of Santa delivering presents. Because, upon examination, what we believe to be important really may not be at all.
Disclaimer: In Jason’s house, Santa delivers gifts unwrapped – which, of course, is the correct and only way. 🙂