When I was very young, my mother gave me gold stars whenever I did something she liked. Usually they were small gold foil shapes with sticky backs, but Mother also saved some really big ones - three inches across - for extra-special accomplishments. Together with Mother's love, those stars made me feel special, important, and appreciated.

As adults, we are much more likely to receive criticism than appreciation. Our boss, our spouse, and the others in our lives expect much from us. When we fail to live up to their expectations, they criticize, but when we go beyond the call, or better yet do something delightfully unexpected, we are likely to get an "ummm..." response at best.

Appreciation, whether verbal or as physical shiny gold stars, is perhaps the greatest gift we can give to those around us. In the timeless How to Win Friends and Influence People, Dale Carnegie lists "Give Honest and Sincere Appreciation," as one of his fundamental principles.

When was the last time you offered sincere appreciation or a gold star? Perhaps it was recently. In a few offices, gold stars have become a common, if sometimes insincere, practice. Some on-line communities provide gold stars - or green stars or butterflies - for members to award each other. However, most of the time most of us fail to express our appreciation to those people who make our lives better in small, or large, ways.
Consider these ways to express appreciation:

1. Give someone a shiny gold star. It's only tacky or childish if your action is insincere.

2. Send a note of appreciation. Again, if it's sincere, it's always gracious and never inappropriate.

3. Speak your appreciation directly. Say "I appreciate what you did."

4. Say "Thank You" as often as you can.

5. Express appreciation for the person as well as the deed. "I appreciate YOU. Thank You for being my friend - or co-worker, or..."

Give somebody a gold star - Today.

Author's Bio: 

Visit Jonathan's Daily Inspiration blog, and read his article 7 Secrets for a Happy Life.

Jonathan Lockwood Huie is an author of self-awareness books, and has been dubbed "The Philosopher of Happiness" by those closest to him, in recognition of his on-going commitment to seeing Joy in all of life.

** Today is your day to dance lightly with life. It really is.