I recently ordered a ton of toys with the hope of keeping my crazy little puppy Barkley entertained (and if anyone has any tips for keeping a puppy busy, let me know!). When the box arrived, Barkley was pleased with some of her new playthings, but she was obsessed with the big piece of cardboard they arrived in. (You can see the same thing happening in this old Mastercard commercial.) Babies and puppies tend to find packaging just as exciting (if not more so!) than the items they encase. And even as an adult I've experienced this—receiving a gift wrapped in a box or gift wrap that I liked even better than the gift itself.
I call this the Packaging vs. Present Phenomenon, a situation very common in kids (and pups!) in which they appreciate the packaging more than the present. As we get older, it seems less and less common for us to be thrilled by the box a gift came in, mostly because we've become so trained to look past the outer wrapping to see what's inside. While watching Barkley play endlessly with a cardboard box while ignoring the new toys scattered around her, I realized there's a lot we can learn from this Packaging vs. Present Phenomenon...
5 LESSONS FROM THE PACKAGING vs. PRESENT PHENOMENON
1. Appreciate the simple things.
The box and wrapping, such simple things, are what babies and puppies are drawn to when they receive a gift. They appreciate the basics—some colorful paper and a hearty slab of cardboard—and will happily play with just one item without even realizing there are other objects around them. We could learn a lot from their focused appreciation. With so much to see and do these days (just a little online time has me lengthening my wish list like crazy!), it's tough to remember how valuable each little simple thing is. Whether it's a neatly wrapped gift or simply a quiet moment alone, it's worthwhile to acknowledge (and enjoy!) life's little pleasures.
2. Explore objects from another point of view.
One of the cool things about watching a puppy or a baby with a box is seeing all of the silly things they'll do with it. It certainly never occurred to me to put a flap of the box in my mouth and chew on it, but Barkley sure seemed to enjoy nibbling on the cardboard corners. (Then again, I'm not a teething puppy so it's probably no surprise that this didn't occur to me...) When a puppy encounters something new, she explores it. Pushing it with her nose, biting it, and pawing at it. While I wouldn't recommend biting into newly discovered things (unless they're edible, of course!), there's something to be gained from really taking the time to look at something in a variety of different ways.
3. Find value in what matters to you.
Puppies don't care that a toy cost $10 while the box it came in was (relatively) free. All they care about is what grabs their attention and seems like fun. What they value isn't based on status symbols or the latest trends. They focus on what's important to them, right in that moment. If the box seems like more fun, the box has more value (regardless of how many times a human squeaks a new toy right in front of them). We, too, should value not what we're "supposed" to value, but what actually matters to us. We shouldn't be held back by what we should value; instead, we should be inspired by all that we could value.
4. Use your imagination like a kid.
Apparently one of the reasons little kids like boxes so much is that they are absolute wonderlands for their imaginations. For an adult, a box is just a box. But for a kid, a box can be anything—a castle, a dungeon, a boat! (I can't speak for a puppies imagination, but I'd like to believe that Barkley has some creative ideas for what exactly a box's purpose is.) The more we try to see things the way a kid would, the more we open ourselves up to new and more creative ways of thinking. In fact, I saw proof of this in this episode of Brain Games. The more we try to think like a kid, the more creative we get. And the more creative we are, the more exciting (and positive!) life becomes.
5. Focus on the inner and the outer.
Eventually, after playing with the box for some time, Barkley got around to investigating her new toys (some of which have been lifesavers for me!). While the box seemed to be a favorite, she also appreciated new toys to play with. Seeing how she reacted positively to both what was in a box and the actual box itself reminded me of how important it is to focus on both the inner and outer aspects of our lives. For example, it's essential to focus on creating a great relationship with yourself—and it's equally as important to create great relationships with others. We all tend to focus more on one than the other, but don't forget to spread the love to both the packaging and the present.
Pretty funny how much I got from watching a little pup play with a cardboard box, huh? Perhaps it's just my overanalytical mind at work, but I'd like to think that the five lessons I wrote about above show how even the simplest things can have value, can teach us things, and can make us appreciate not only the moments we experience, but the lessons those moments come packaged in.