I have the privilege of working for a company that holds recognition as one of its core values and the cornerstone of its culture. Not only do we have various forms of employee recognition initiatives, but once a month we get together and spend forty five minutes recognizing one another. One by one. Every single month.

Other than my mom’s attempts to get me and my siblings to express our gratitude during Thanksgiving dinners, I had never experienced anything like it before! Especially in the corporate world, where it’s mostly about financials and not enough about humans. It takes a special kind of organization to look beyond the grind and really see the force behind it. Its people.

What’s even more incredible is that it never gets old. The recognition of each other’s efforts fuels us up in a way that only appreciation can. A heartfelt thank you never fails to get a smile out of each one of us and provide us with a sense of pride and satisfaction every time we hear it.

Here’s the thing about recognition, it sounds like fluff but it’s just the opposite. Psychology and neuroscience have supported with numerous research studies the difference that it makes in our minds, our psyche, and our lives.

All human beings long to be valued and appreciated. It is basic human nature. If you think of Maslow’s motivational theory and pyramid of human needs, esteem and belonging are the needs we’re inclined to satisfy once our basic physiological and safety needs are met. We all want to feel loved and respected. I think we can all agree on that.

What’s also remarkable about recognition is that it not only serves as a positive reinforcer (positive consequences to positive actions) but also contributes to a sense of self-efficacy. Self-efficacy is the belief in our ability to succeed. We approach goals and challenges based on what we believe we’re capable of accomplishing.

More often than not, we don’t realize what we’re capable of accomplishing or what we already have until we hear it from someone else. It is not until we believe that we can succeed that we actually do. And sometimes we need it to come from somebody else for us to actually believe it. That is the power of belief. And that is the power of human connection.

I’ve seen what recognition and encouragement can do to people. It lifts them up in an instant and allows them to discover parts of themselves they didn’t even know they had. It takes them to a whole other dimension. You just have to believe in someone long enough for them to start believing in themselves.

And that’s when the beauty of it takes place! They start to blossom right before your eyes. Stretching themselves to challenges they didn’t even know they were capable of overcoming. And giving themselves a true chance to succeed. A chance maybe only you had given them but they can now give themselves.

That’s how powerful appreciation is. It changes lives. It changes people. Take a minute to let someone know you notice their efforts and you’ll see what I’m talking about. Sometimes just showing others you see them is enough to change their whole self-perception. And with their self-perception, you change their reality. Their view of their reality and therefore their view of the world around them.

Isn’t it amazing? How we can do so much with so little? We think we need to have money or power (or both) to make a real difference when all it takes is a simple “thank you” or “I believe in you” to change somebody’s world in a heartbeat. Now that’s what I call true power. And it’s within the reach of each and every one of us.

Always remember that it takes five positive comments to outweigh a negative one. So yes, constructive criticism is important, but not nearly as important as appreciation and gratitude.

Be true to what you believe but also be merciful. Choosing your words wisely and only sharing those that serve a purpose. We are all trying our best and sometimes (if not most times) we just need some compassion and appreciation to see our own worth and potential. It is love that brings out the best in people. Always remember that.

Imagine if we all committed to it? Recognizing each other a little more. Appreciating each other a little more. Believing in each other a little more. If we could spare more compassion and less frustration. More acceptance and less judgment. More love and less indifference. Wouldn’t that be the world you would love to live in? The world you would love your children and future generations to experience? If that is not leaving the world a bit better than how we found it, then I don’t know what is.

 

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