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What if investing less than five minutes per day could change our outlook, help us to become more optimistic, and make us feel better about ourselves? And what if this same set of activities could also leave others with whom we interact wanting to be around and spend more time with us? It may seem fantastical, but it might be easier than we assume. 

The power behind this shift resides in two fundamental truths. First, we tend to find what we look for. When we seek and expect to find good in others, we see more of it. Discovering more good leads us to being more positive and optimistic. Second, when we share with others what we notice about the positive behaviors and characteristics they demonstrate and the difference they make, they feel better about themselves and us. The more that we notice the good around us, the better we feel. The more we share with others the good they bring, the better they feel.  

The good news is that we do not have to allocate significant new time or add demanding tasks to our daily routines to experience such a shift. What is important is where we focus and what we prioritize. We need to look for specific actions, interactions, and impacts to collect and share. In fact, noticing as few as two or three things a day and sharing our observations with others is enough to get started.  

How we share our observations also matters. Mentioning what we notice is good, but for real impact and staying power, we need to spend at least twenty seconds adding details, examples, and context, and describing their impact. In fact, the twenty seconds we spend acknowledging a person’s strengths and impact can make their day or week—and maybe even shift the direction of their life. 

So, what should we look for? Here are five areas to begin: 

  • Note someone’s area of strength and tell them. Everyone has strengths, including some of which we may not even be conscious. Hearing about them—and how they impact others—matters. Even when someone notices and calls attention to what we already consider our strengths, that makes us feel good, and we may be inspired to invest even more.  
  • Look for someone’s contribution and mention it. Every day, people do things that make life and work better for others. The action may be something with a high profile, or it may be barely noticed. Regardless, our world works best when people are willing to act in ways that benefit others. Having these behaviors noticed can make practicing them feel more significant and often encourages even more contributions. 
  • Listen for a good question and reinforce it. Schools are places where questions abound. Of course, not all questions lead to inquiry and insight and initiate action. When we hear a good question, regardless of the status of the source, we need to treasure it. We also do well to share our gratitude for the question, why we believe it to be important, and where it might lead. Our reinforcement can provide their reinforcement to build the courage to ask even more important questions.  
  • Watch for a unique insight and capture it. Like good questions, insights are not always easily recognized. Our attention and support might be the stimulus needed for someone to continue to examine important challenges and uncover important knowledge.  
  • Reflect on what we appreciate in others and share it. Even during trying times, there are people around us whose care, support, and general presence we appreciate. However, we may not take the time to tell these people what they mean to us and why. Hearing that they are valued and make a difference can easily make their day and more.  

We may be surprised to find that others are often not conscious of the power of their actions and the difference they make. Our willingness to observe and share the impact they have costs us little beyond our attention and a few minutes, if even that, of our time. However, our pointing out that difference lifts its significance and amplifies its impact. Best of all, we will have made the lives of others better while also enriching ours. 

Thought for the Week

AI can teach and share knowledge, sure, but it lacks the key elements of human modeling, nurturing, and connecting that are essential components of a comprehensive learning process.

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