Molly Fisk: Appreciation 101

As you know, I’m not just a poet, I’m also a life coach. I can hear your inhalation before you let out a huge groan, but swallow that sound, the kind of coaching I do is  pretty radical. Yes, I can help you figure out how to clean your garage, apply to college, finish your novel, or ask for a divorce. But I’m also going to be teaching you, over and over, how much our culture has influenced your thinking and how many of its unhelpful messages we’ve all absorbed.

One of the biggest we get hammered with — in advertising, work, school, and the rest of our waking hours — is the idea of “false scarcity.” There isn’t enough, or soon there won’t be enough, and this will put us in danger. Whether it’s a run on organic eggs at Grocery Outlet or a rush to buy Boeing shares when the price dips, we’ve been trained to respond to threats of scarcity.

Much of American life has been built on the concept, since it’s such a good way to make people go shopping, and we’re in a capitalist economy. But really, how many eggs can your ice box hold, and how long do eggs last, anyway? If you can take a minute to stand still, often your common sense will appear to remind you there is not currently an egg shortage in California. Maybe there will be some day, but there isn’t one today. And today is actually where we are.

I mention this because false scarcity leaks from economic terrain to pollute our brains in other regions, including the lobe of appreciation. People used to think hearing compliments would go to a child’s head and she’d become stuck-up or egotistical, so doled them out sparingly.

This is ridiculous. Praise doesn’t make you stuck-up, it makes you feel warm, and known, and loved. Who doesn’t want some of that? Yet we regularly don’t say the sweet things we’re thinking about friends and colleagues, strangers, even the cashiers at Grocery Outlet. This is false scarcity in action. Appreciation is free, it’s beneficial to the recipient, it makes the donor feel better, and it’s a way to tell the truth, something we all could emphasize in this modern world full of spin and fear-mongering.

Because we aren’t used to it, though, we have to practice — it can feel awkward. When you start, keep it short and simple. “How nice of you to help me take my bags out to the car!” “Thanks for holding the door, stopping the bus, letting me go ahead of you in line with my carton of milk.” If someone’s smile just made your day, tell them! If you appreciate your kid being ready for school in the morning, your spouse getting home on time for dinner, your dog not chasing the cat, say so. There is no limit, here.

You’re allowed to tell people good things more than twice a century. Try twice a day, to begin with, and then ramp it up.

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  • Ruth Ewald Archer January 23, 2017 at 4:29 am

    So true! It’s heartwarming and the sun shines on all those in the smile. It’s infectious too!

    • Molly Fisk January 25, 2017 at 7:21 pm

      😉 !!

  • Julia January 21, 2017 at 2:50 pm

    Eggs last a lot longer (as I remember from my childhood) than the dairy industry would have us think.

    But thanks anyway, Molly!

    • Molly Fisk January 25, 2017 at 7:21 pm

      I know how to put them in water and decide if they’re still good or not, but I can’t remember how long they tend to stay good. I see a home science experiment on the horizon!

  • Shirley January 21, 2017 at 9:30 am

    Why do we fail to show appreciation more? Takes a certain amount of awareness to realize what we gain and the effort made when someone does a nice thing for us.

    • Molly Fisk January 21, 2017 at 9:57 am

      I don’t know, Shirley, but once we’re aware of it, we can practice and get much better. After some awkward beginnings (in my case), it comes pretty naturally to me now. And if I’m having a bad day, I try to do it more often. It helps me not feel victimized. It makes me feel wealthy and generous… feelings I like. 😉

      • Susanna Gaertner January 21, 2017 at 4:26 pm

        …what excellent advice on a day when we particularly need it…yes, we can and should make a difference in our immediate surroundings, making these ground zero for what might become larger circles of gratitude and positive behavioral change…
        Thanks, Molly