Would it be too much to say that all growth emerges from appreciation? You or I take a class, for example, in “music appreciation.” We find ourselves becoming sensitive in new ways to the aesthetic value of music. Or we recognize one day what a parent or mentor did for us and we feel appreciative — grateful for their gifts, sometimes very unappreciated at the time. I try my hand at cooking and soon have a new understanding of what it takes to learn to cook well, to become more than a cook, but a chef who can bring together unique and arresting combinations of ingredients that surprise with their pure deliciousness. Perhaps this notion of appreciation answers a question that all self-reflective people (and hopefully all leaders) ask themselves: how do I grow? By what method do I become more of who I am meant to be? As soon as we appreciate, we take something into ourselves and begin to let it transform us, our understandings and ultimately how we behave. In turn this influences the essence of all our relationships.
Having this awareness that growth comes from appreciation, suddenly there is so much to appreciate: new experiences, perspectives, insights, people, events, history. I even notice the artful flight of the crow outside my window. I see the calmness of the lake’s waters behind the crow, and beyond that I notice the feat of creating the city on the other side of the lake. If I throw open the doors and windows of this little cabin of being called the self, I am flooded by a universe that begs for appreciation. I see into both the day and the night, good times and poor ones, appreciate what joy brings, and what sadness and suffering can bring as well. I become attuned to the vibrations of my environment: a crowded store, a tense room of executives, the sense of relief once a hardship is over. Suddenly my eyesight, my hearing are better, as if I’ve transformed to an entirely new kind of cat.
And among all the things I might appreciate, one comes forward that holds a special key, and that is self-appreciation. Not egotism or overweening pride, but surely more than just self-acceptance, bowing to a small portion of life, a fate. Self-appreciation is foundational, my fundamental belief in and capacity to trust my own judgments, to follow the threads that genuinely and uniquely belong to me, without denials and without deceptions. To appreciate everything I am, all the successes and failures, good moments and bad ones, great relationships and ones that need work, all those talents and all those opportunities, the whole kit and caboodle. With such a key you or I might unlock the world!