Why now is the perfect time for appreciation

As we emerge, blinking into the June sun, it’s worth taking time to focus on appreciation. Many of us have struggled with lockdown, distance from friends and family, even illness and loss in the last year. Appreciation could be just what we all need to start to turn things around.

Appreciation is one of the most unassuming and yet most powerful emotional states we can experience. While simple, it is not widely practiced. How often do we actually say thank you? How often do we express our appreciation for the help and support of those around us? Even if we are grateful, do we just acknowledge it to ourselves or do we proactively say something to others? 

Think about what you’ve been doing over the last few days, can you remember seeing people making statements of appreciation for the efforts of others around them? It is very strange, given its power as a motivational technique appreciation, that we rarely hear anyone giving a colleague some specific appreciation for something they’ve done or for how they have behaved.

I’m afraid this is often especially true among men – although definitely not all men. One man offering appreciation to another man at work has been considered ‘soft’ or inappropriate in a business context. We’ve only come across a few leaders who appear to have recognised that appreciation is hugely motivational. For example, some have developed the habit of sending personal hand written notes when a colleague has done something above and beyond the call of duty. We know of some executives who were so touched by such gestures of sincere appreciation that they kept the notes for years, but that kind of appreciation is, sadly, very rare. It’s just not a habit that we have cultivated – despite its extremely positive impact.

If you want to develop the art of appreciation it might help for you to start with yourself. We are often very critical of ourselves and will often judge our performance very harshly and beat ourselves up for days or weeks for our own failings. If we want to become good at appreciating others, we need to give ourselves some appreciation first.

One way to start is to write down all the things you sincerely appreciate about yourself. When doing this consider the following six areas of your life: mental, emotional, physical, professional, social and spiritual. Note down what aspects of yourself you in those areas. Be completely honest. You’re not going to share this list with anyone, so keep it ‘grounded’, honest and.

Keep the list with you – in your purse, wallet or phone case – and look at it every day. Each time you look at it, deliberately cultivate that inner glow of appreciation. And remember the primary beneficiary of this practice is you. You get to feel better about yourself more of the time, not in a false ‘happy clappy’ sort of way, but in a more quiet, unassuming way filled with warmth.

The more you learn to appreciate yourself, the more your life will become imbued with this positive emotion of goodwill. If you can then start to generalise this emotion from yourself to others you will genuinely start to feel that the power of appreciation spread.

For more on techniques for developing appreciation, see chapter 5 of Dr Alan Watkins’ book Coherence: The Secret Science of Brilliant Leadership.

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