I exist. I matter. I’m important.
Experts who study humans state that all we really want for fulfilment is someone to notice us and to engage and connect with us on a personal level. We want to be seen, heard, known, and understood. There is nothing higher on the satisfaction scale of life than to be recognized and affirmed. What else really matters? Again, experts state that if organizations kept this in mind, employee morale would skyrocket and stay there-if the organization truly meant it. If families practised recognition and affirmation, spouses would do their utmost to measure up and kids would relish a true sense of security, love, and confidence.
Now that I have been retired for many years, I can see that affirmation and recognition spurred me on to achieve rewards, satisfaction, and success in my life. Most of us can vividly recall pivotal moments along life’s journey when someone acknowledged us for noteworthy actions or deeds, and ignited a fire within us to climb new mountains. Looking back over my life, the words-recognition and affirmation-ring true.
Teenage years are crucial for us as we stumble toward adulthood. In September, 1949, at thirteen, I was headed for high school, a strict academic institution in the rural county of Glengarry in Eastern Ontario, twelve miles from where I lived. Just two months earlier, my family was split apart and I was placed as a foster child with a childless couple near my former home. To put it mildly, I was highly anxious and in dread of the future as I climbed aboard the school bus on my first day in grade nine. At school that first morning, 45 grade nine students assembled for orientation, anxious about the future. We met our teachers and learned the rules. It was a smooth start to what turned out to be one of the most rewarding five years of my life.
My first year, from day one, was a positive experience. I thrived in this new learning atmosphere. The biggest surprise of my life, however, came at year’s end when I learned that I had won the silver medal for academic excellence. It was the first time I was recognised for anything substantial. No one made a huge fuss about it, but to me, it was like winning a Nobel Prize.
From that moment on, I was on a roll, and like an addict, I couldn’t stop. It didn’t take much to convince me that I could, with a little more effort, go for gold the next year. As it turned out I hit that mark each time for the next three years that the medal was offered. The affirmation and recognition that these awards gave me were like jet fuel. Like the silver medal, this recognition proved to be a powerful incentive.