“I’ve learned that people will forget what you said, people will forget what you did, but people will never forget how you made them feel.” - Maya Angelou
Many studies show what I have always believed: people perform better and are happier when they get positive reinforcement. Few people are motivated by financial bonuses because the wonderful feeling of getting a bonus is fleeting almost as soon as it is deposited into your bank account. But when people are given recognition by others that positively reinforces their efforts and accomplishments, the feeling lasts for a very long time.
Over the course of my career, whenever I would receive a “thankyou” note, an appreciation award, or even an email affirming my work, I would save them and put them in a special folder. If the message was verbal, I would take a minute to write down on a piece of paper what was said, by whom, and when and put that in the folder. Over time, the folder that I stored all of these “love notes” in was too small to hold everything, so I began keeping them in a designated drawer. And I named that drawer the “Love Me Drawer.”
Now, you may be thinking that saving all those notes and emails just creates unnecessary clutter. And you may be right about it being clutter, but I would argue that it’s necessary clutter. We never know when we will get positive affirmation from others and there is no guarantee that it will come along when we need it most. This means that we benefit from having a method for self-affirmation that keeps us motivated.
Remember you are appreciated
Everyone has moments where they are down-in-the-dumps, unmotivated, low energy, or feeling unworthy in some way. Those are the moments when the “Love Me Drawer” becomes magical. When I am feeling unmotivated or worse, like what I am doing doesn’t matter or is unappreciated, that’s when I take a few minutes to myself. I open the “Love Me Drawer,” take out a handful of affirmations and read them. This reminds me that I am appreciated and that I have made a difference. This had the magical effect of changing my attitude. Remembering how I had made people feel and the good things I have done is self-affirming.
Many people, I have found, can be very negative about their own contributions. Does this sound familiar? “I was just doing my job,” or “they give those recognitions out to everyone,” or “I didn’t do anything special." People who are down on themselves can benefit greatly from creating and feeding a “Love Me Drawer.” Whether this is an actual drawer or an electronic “drawer,” it helps to reframe your thinking about yourself and how you contribute, especially in those times where things aren’t going the best.
Leaders make a positive impact through affirmation
Leaders should contribute to other people’s “Love Me Drawers.” Take a few minutes to acknowledge your team or others and say “Thank You” for their efforts. While a simple thank you is nice, even better is taking the time to write a note or email to each person you want to thank or acknowledge in some way. I worked closely with an Air Force Major General during my corporate career. He took the time to hand-write a card acknowledging me for an achievement two decades ago. I have kept that card since as a positive reminder for the times when I am questioning myself. What a lasting positive impact this amazing and conscientious leader created just by taking a few minutes to hand-write a card!
Invest in affirmations
The person who takes the time to acknowledge and affirm others also benefits. Neuroscience studies have shown that helping others increases the odds of survival and that connecting with others when under stress can help create resilience.
Affirmation is a wonderful and beneficial practice: both affirming others and self-affirmation. I recommend you practice both and create your own “Love Me Drawer.” The investment in affirming yourself will continue to help you grow, succeed and be happy.