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The Power of Appreciation begins with sincerity. Dale Carnegie stressed this in his timeless book How to Win Friends and Influence people. “Flattery is from the teeth out. Sincere appreciation is from the heart out.” You cannot fake appreciation; it is established by truly being grateful for everyone and everything in your life. Appreciation begins with a deliberate decision to focus on opportunity instead of obligation. When we focus on obligation we often miss opportunities to make a difference in world. How often do people wake up and say, “Ugh, I have to go to (work, school, etc.) today” or “I hate (work, school, etc), I wish I was sick so I could stay home.” How many people who think like this make a difference in others’ lives? Not many. What if instead they said, “I am so grateful I have a (job, school, etc) where I can make a difference in the world.” Focusing on opportunity instead of obligation does not mean there aren’t things we don’t like about work or school. Nobody ever said we have to enjoy every moment of every day, but focusing on opportunity instead of obligation will give you joy even in doing things you don’t particularly enjoy. The good news is focusing on opportunity is a choice. It is essentially saying you are choosing hope, appreciation, and making a difference over allowing frustration, despair, and fear to emotionally carry you through your days.

In our character and leadership school programs we try to help students focus opportunity and it has made a huge difference. Three of the most common phrases you will hear from middle and high school students is, “School sucks”, “I hate school”, and “I don’t want to go to school today.” We first validate how the students are feeling. We tell them there are things about school that sucks. We assure them there are aspects about school they won’t like, and we promise them there will be days they won’t want to come to school. Then we talk to them about the opportunity they have to shift their mindset from obligation to opportunity. We assure them that after school there will be things about their career that suck, there will be things they dislike, and days they won’t want to work. We challenge them to change these common phrases from obligation to opportunity. We have had students say, “I’m grateful I have the opportunity to go to school and be with my friends” and “I appreciate having the opportunity to learn” and “I’m going to focus on opportunity today.” The students who follow through with this challenge see monumental changes in their attitude, grades, and friendships. We have received numerous letters from students thanking us for challenging them to change their mindset.

The science of appreciation

Appreciation is our body’s natural combatant against fear, doubt, and worry. In our brains limbic system lies a synapse (the brains connection points) called the amygdala. The amygdala is the synapse which integrates our body with emotions, emotional behavior, and motivation. Emotional behavior is largely affected by the emotions of fear, doubt, and worry. If you have ever been chased by a large dog or have given a speech in front of a big crowd then you have felt the emotional effects of fear, doubt, and worry surging through your body. That is your amygdala firing sensations through your body to let you know something is wrong, but as we’ve discussed 95 percent of our fear, doubt, and worry are unwarranted.

Over 6 million people are diagnosed with anxiety disorders in the United States alone and most patients are given prescription medication to help reduce the effects of their anxiety. Others use illegal drugs, drink alcohol, develop sexual addictions, use tobacco, and more to counter the effects of the amygdala. Unfortunately, when the medicine wears off the anxiety still remains because the emotional behaviors still remain. As the old saying goes, “If you do what you’ve always done, you’ll get what you’ve always got.” Unless we change emotional behaviors we will always get the same emotional responses to fear, doubt, and worry. The good news is there is a way to naturally combat the negative emotions from the inside out.

According to Dr. Harold Bafitis the amygdala cannot fire when you are in a state of appreciation. Being appreciative by finding opportunity instead of living out of obligation literally eliminates fear, doubt, and worry from our lives. Appreciation isn’t just some fluffy topic meant to make you feel good for a short period of time. Appreciation is a natural drug to combat negative emotions and the best part is it comes without negative side effects, any special consultation with a doctor, or feelings of drowsiness. If you discipline yourself in appreciation you will physiologically change the way your body functions. In order to discipline yourself in appreciation you must develop simple practices to remind yourself to be appreciative every day. Before I share these practices with you I want to again remind you that discipline is never easy at first. It will take consistent effort for you to develop these practices, but it is worth it. As my mentor used to say, “Discipline weighs ounces and regret weighs tons.” You will never regret the decision to be disciplined, especially once you’ve gained the rewards associated with it.

  1. Say 25 things you are thankful for everyday.
  2. Say “thank you” when anyone helps you for anything
  3. Be generous with your time, talents, and treasure
  4. Smile–a lot.

These four practices are simple, but they’re not always easy to remember. Never forget how much sincere appreciation will benefit your business. The more appreciative you are, the better connection in relationships you’ll have, and we can never forget that the strength of our business is based on the strength of our relationships.

(This is a subscript of A Clear View: Unleashing the Power of a Positive Self-Image)