I’ve kept an “atta girl” file most of my career. It is a collection of letters, notes and emails from bosses, colleagues and friends who have encouraged me and/or recognized accomplishments at various points throughout my career. At times when I need a little personal boost, a few minutes reading through that collection can make me feel ten feet tall. Words of praise and encouragement are so critically important to us all. We know as parents how important it is to praise and encourage our children when they are learning to walk, feed themselves and take on the responsibilities of self-care. Praise is so freely given to the young, yet so seemingly difficult to give to peers, spouses, and to complete strangers.
Today, I challenge you to give the gift of praise. You know who it is in your circle who is struggling and needs a word of encouragement. The person who needs the extra motivation that comes from someone noticing the efforts they are making to achieve new goals in their life. Be the person who gives it freely. Yes, it may take an extra moment to put your busy Saturday “to do” list on pause, stop and share some time, words and wisdom. But do it. Let it be your first outrageous gift this Christmas season. Give Praise. Give it freely. And if you can, share the reaction you get. I bet it is contagious!!!
Being in the retail business, it is easy to lose the real meaning of Christmas. For me, it seems like Christmas is a year-long event. The items you are buying now, we sold to presented to retailers last January, received final confirmation of what they wanted in March, had to get our forecasts for production into manufacturers before Memorial Day and started shipping to overseas markets in early August. Displays went up early this year…competing in some cases with back to school and definitely fighting Halloween for display space on the floor. Right now, we’re beating salespeople silly with daily reports on what is sitting in warehouses (why not on the sales floor???) to avoid the unwanted cost of post-Christmas markdowns. And just yesterday, I received the samples and presentation for Christmas 2013 product from one of our manufacturers – already!!! I don’t even know yet what isn’t selling well for THIS Christmas! It’s easy to lose sight of what’s important at Christmastime in the retail world…and want to pull your hair out of your head! I don’t even want to think about Christmas for 2013…
But in the mad rush of shopping, “fantastic” sales and brilliantly wrapped presents, the real meaning is still there. It isn’t about gifts, it is about giving. It is about sacrifice. It is about selflessness. The ultimate gift was given so many years ago. To give up a child so that others could live is a pretty unfathomable gift…I cannot comprehend the cost of such a gift. Can you?
But what I can do, is daily identify those gifts I can give. Gifts I cannot buy, but will give. I hereby establish what I am calling “The Giving Pledge” and challenge you to take it too. Every day, I will identify a new gift to give and I promise you it won’t be something you can rush out and buy. But it will be something you can give. It will require a little sacrifice, perhaps a little time or emotion. But it will open your eyes and heart to the true meaning of Christmas. Who’s in?
A friend of mine challenged me to the “Gratitude Project” on Facebook. You know the project: find something each day of the month of November that I could express my thanksgiving and gratitude for. I decided to give it a whirl. It seemed like a fun little way to start each day and take a moment to think about the things that made me grateful. But somewhere along the way, I found myself learning more about myself and what really mattered to me. I struggled some mornings to make myself really think hard about the things that made me truly thankful. I really didn’t want them to be “things”. I wanted them to be more substantial than that. I wanted them to matter.
From that little project this idea was born. Getting real requires thought. It requires introspection. It requires brutal honesty. But it makes you learn more about yourself and how you can make a difference in those you share your world with.
I’m challenging myself to take each month…each day of that month…and make it real. The themes will come as they come. But they will all allow you to live an outrageously full life of real living. And you’ll find out more about yourself than you ever dreamed! Let’s get to it!