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Christmas … make it a time of goodwill and appreciation


As we trim the tree, pimp the presents and truss the turkey, Christmas carols remind us of the need for ‘good will toward men’ – acknowledging of course that men really means people.  But are we truly living that good will?  Police claim that there are “a third more incidents of domestic assault on Christmas Day compared to the daily average.”[1] Hardly living proof of the concept of goodwill.

Having goodwill requires us to feel a degree of appreciation towards other people in our lives.  Appreciation is one of the most unassuming and yet most powerful emotional states we can experience and Christmas is the ideal time to spend a moment focusing on that particular emotion, recognising its benefits and putting it into action.

Appreciation as a specific emotional state, while simple, 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 of this supposed period of goodwill, can you remember seeing people making statements of appreciation for the efforts of others around them? It is very strange, given the fact that as a motivational technique appreciation is incredibly powerful, that you hardly ever hear anyone giving a colleague some specific appreciation in relation to a task or how they may have shown up.

This is especially true among men. One man offering appreciation to another man at work has been considered ‘soft’ or inappropriate in a business context. I’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. I 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. So if we want to become good at appreciating others, we need to give ourselves some appreciation first. One way of starting to do this 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. Specifically those aspects of yourself that you can appreciate in these areas. Since it is only you that will ever see this list be completely honest and avoid being aspirational. Keep the list in your wallet 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, 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 “goodwill to all men”, and women – and this is not just for Christmas, but throughout the year. Let’s consistently appreciate the efforts of those around us and extend the goodwill to all.

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

 

[1] http://www.christiantoday.com/article/christmas.action.to.tackle.domestic.violence/15558.htm

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Dr Alan Watkins

Alan is recognised as an international expert on leadership and human performance. He has a broad mix of commercial, academic, scientific and technological abilities.

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