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Fifty-five is a notable age.

This week I turned 55. I don’t know how 55 should feel or look. But, I don’t feel 55 and people tell me that I don’t look or behave it.

I am sure we’ve all heard the saying “the fifties is the new thirties.” Statistics support this view too. In fact, I recently saw a statistic that in modern countries such as the USA and Canada, the average expectancy of a man has increased in the 20th century from 46 to 74 and women from 48 to 80.

But statistics is one thing and how we feel, look and behave is another. Fifty-five is a notable age. It’s the middle of my life, or as my wife says: “at 50 we have earned the right to stop worrying about what other people think about us or what we should do, and only care about what we feel is right for us to be and do.”

So, 55 is a great opportunity to take stock of where I am in my life journey – what I feel great about, what I don’t, and most important what I want the next 10 years and rest of my life to look like.

I will always have ambitions, aspirations and goals. There are more things I still want to accomplish and get done, more wealth to build and more difference to make. Having said that, my biggest wish is to get up every day for the rest of my life feeling fully satisfied, blessed and validated by who I am and what I have accomplished thus far. I want to feel that I am pursuing my aspirations and goals as an expression of success and abundance, rather than scarcity and deficit.

Many years ago a friend caught me by surprise when he asked me the question: “How old would you be if you didn’t know how old you are?” And that question has stayed with me ever since.

My answer is: I am young enough to fully express myself every day in everything I do, to fully love the people that are dearest to me with all my heart, to pursue my wildest dreams without doubt or compromise, and to live every day of my life with the optimism, hope and excitement that “the best is yet to come.” It is scary at times to live full out, but I can’t imagine any other way to do it.

How old would YOU be if you didn’t know how old YOU are?     

Are you expressing love and appreciation to the people that matter most to you?

Last Friday was Valentine’s Day. I love Valentine’s Day because it’s all about expressing love, appreciation and gratitude to the important people in my life. After spending a great evening with my wife and kids, in which we all had the chance to express our love, appreciation and gratitude to each other, I thought to myself ‘how much more happy and empowered we all would be if we practiced this level of expression regularly’.

We run so fast, our lives are so hectic and driven, that without meaning to we often take for granted how others feel about us and what they do for us. We just don’t stop and say “Thank you” enough.

We wouldn’t dream of driving our cars with no oil in the engine. Friction would build up, the pistons would seize, and the car would grind to a halt. Expressing love, appreciation and gratitude is the oil of relationships. When we express our love, appreciation and gratitude we touch others and this motivates them to give even more. People can endure, even thrive, during extensive difficult times when they feel appreciated and loved.

I travel a lot in my line of work, and in the past it often took my wife and I some time to reconnect when I would return home. It’s not that we don’t love each other. In fact, we are madly in love. But, when I was away and my wife was at home, we had different routines. And it often took some conscious effort to reconnect and realign our routines when I came back. There always seemed to be a period of heightened sensitivity when we came back together. If I would criticize my wife, even for small and insignificant things like ‘the kitchen is not clean’ or ‘the kids are not in bed on time,’ it would often turn into an argument beyond proportion.

So, a few years ago we started a new practice – we agreed that in the first hours of my return home we would only express positive, supportive, and appreciative things to each other. There are always things to criticize each other for, and some of these seem more pronounced when you’ve been a part for a few days. Even though we’ve been practicing this routine for a few years now, I still find, even today, that it takes a conscious effort to avoid the negative comments and only focus on things to appreciate and recognize in my wife and kids. It’s not always easy, but it works and it is very rewarding for all of us.

People seem to be lazy and even stingy about expressing love, appreciation and gratitude. The lazy say, “well they already know how I feel. I thanked them last week or last month.” They don’t understand that expressing love, appreciation and gratitude is not about the information. The stingy say, “they could have done it better, it wasn’t that great.” They focus on what’s not good enough instead of generously highlighting others’ efforts and care. Both are letting the oil run out of the engine.

Wouldn’t it be great if we lived every day like it was Valentine’s day?

The Untapped Goldmine Of Gratitude

The research is in, and when it comes to employee engagement, recognition is a key factor. During strong economies or when companies are experiencing great success, most leaders feel that they have the wherewithal, resources and ability to invest in recognizing and rewarding the work their people do. This includes pay increases, bonuses and other merit-based incentives. It also includes indirect compensation – such as training programs, events, offsite meetings, and career development.

When times are tough, however, companies tend to cut back in all these areas, and employees become frustrated because they (and their work) are not being recognized.

However, in both tough and successful times, there is a goldmine of appreciation that most companies leave untapped. It’s the practice of deliberately and explicitly recognizing, appreciating and thanking the people around you. This doesn’t cost a penny, and it creates a very nurturing, productive and exciting environment for our teams.

Gratitude is a particularly powerful tool when used by managers, as well as between peers. But it’s of no use when you keep your appreciation to yourself. Instead, we must acknowledge our appreciation and have a conversation that highlights the other person’s greatness, values and achievements.

Acknowledgement requires courage and generosity on the part of the person providing it. Unfortunately, most work environments are rife with politics, silos and people trying to survive – which typically creates a challenging “us-or-them” environment. People fear that highlighting other people’s greatness will somehow take away from their own achievements. I have seen this play out again and again – especially in high-achieving, competitive environments.

However, if leaders create an organizational culture where the paradigm is “We’re in this together; we have each other’s backs and stand as one,” then the logic changes. People understand that the more giants they have around them, the bigger they are, and the more powerful their teams can be.

You can always find reasons to appreciate and acknowledge the people around you. Don’t assume they already know how you feel. There’s no reason to be stingy or lazy with your praise. You can acknowledge people for:

  • Their spirit, heart, attitude or energy.
  • Their actions or efforts towards going beyond the call of duty.
  • What they have done or created (i.e., their accomplishments and achievements).

To make gratitude viral in your organization, start practicing it yourself on a daily basis. Simply make it a point to acknowledge one or two people around you every day. You could also open team meetings by saying: “Hey, we’ve all been working so hard the last 30 days. Who would like to acknowledge someone on the team for his or her contribution?” Then spend 10 minutes or so letting your team praise each other. With enough repetition, gratitude will become a part of your culture.