THE BLOG
01/14/2015 06:10 pm ET Updated Dec 06, 2017

Life Skills for Work and Play: Sustained Appreciation

Have you ever felt like you constantly do things for others, but they don't quite appreciate them fully?

Have you ever been guilty of not acknowledging good deeds by colleagues or not saying thank you enough to those you should? Well, you might be a really bad person or you might just have a low 'sustained appreciation level' (SAL).

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Photo: Michael Kyprianou

At Work Example:

You just scored a great job that you were after for a while. You definitely feel like you deserve the job, but you're still really grateful for having been given the opportunity. You start out and it's great, they even come to you on the second week of work and tell you that they're adding a new staff canteen to the building which will provide free lunches to all employees of the company.

You think, Wow, I wasn't expecting that, this is great. It's going to save me a load of money too.

So a few months go by and you think, Wait a minute, there isn't enough cheese in the free lunch and I really like cheese, you go on to make your complaint to those in charge and they tell you that the menu is fixed, it can't be changed. You are now annoyed and feel that your opinion doesn't matter to them and that you deserve better.

Congrats, you just became a victim of an inability to exhibit "sustained appreciation," you have a low SAL.

At-Home Example:

You constantly hint that you'd like your partner to help you set up the home office and one day, you get back and it's all done. The desk is perfect with its rustic feel and the bookshelf is solid as Homer's Iliad sit's there waiting to be read. You love it and say so.

Then a few weeks later, you bring home some work and sit down to finish it. It was your turn to make dinner, but your partner is cool, of course it's okay, get on with your work.

A few more weeks go by and your significant other forgets to make a reservation for you two to eat out that evening. You get annoyed and tell them that they don't care about you and that they should think about others too.

That's a low SAL. To not be able to accumulatively store the good deeds and then weigh them against the negative over the course of a specific time period.

It's important that we work to improve this as it helps us achieve two big life skills:

1. A higher level of appreciation and acknowledgement of the world around us

2. Better relationships with others

Sustained appreciation is "the act or mental process of feeling continuous gratitude (of being able to store that moment's gratitude) for something that you have or have access to that you previously did not."

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Photo: George Vou

4 tips for a high SAL:

  • Keep a journal - When you write things down, you tend to remember them better. More remembering usually equates to more awareness, which puts things into perspective with is what you want.
  • Say thank you - Saying thank you is telling the other person "I know you did something for me," and it's telling your inner mind that 'this person is okay, I'll make an effort to remember this."
  • Meditate - To sit down with your mind and look inside is one of the best things you can do. It's like revising your notes with a really clear mind. So sit, relax yourself and reflect on the positive actions people have done for you.
  • Tell other people about the good things - When you tell somebody else about an act of kindness or a moment of positivity, it's like you're telling it to yourself again, at least on an emotional level. Do so in order to remember what others have done for you.

To appreciate does not mean you can or should not ever have more, but it does mean that we place things in order, at least in our minds, and remember to be continually grateful.

It's perhaps an undervalued skill, but the difference between adopting it and not is huge in the way that others see you and you see everything else.

It's not a "nice to have," it's a "should have" and your relationships with others will ultimately be stronger for exhibiting it. It helps put things into context and allows you to view issues from a broader perspective, with more data points.

Raise your SAL now and work towards a better quality of personal and professional relationships.