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    The Power of Praise

    How giving it is the key to getting it

    How to Get Gold Stars:

    Praise is gratifying to the person getting praised, of course, but it also boosts the happiness of the praiser — at least I've found that true of myself. Still, what about the opposite problem? I find it fun and easy to give gold stars, but so often I'm craving them myself. I struggle (admittedly with only moderate success) to master my need for gold stars. I've repeatedly asked my husband to give me more of them: "Manipulate me! Lavish me with praise, and you could have me jumping through hoops like a tiger at the circus! Just give me my gold stars!" He laughs, and he understands my nature, but he still doesn't do it.

    Some of my happiness-project resolutions are aimed at this desire, and I tell myself, Don't expect praise or appreciation. Nevertheless, for all my efforts, I have to admit that I still crave those gold stars. It helps if I tell people I'd like gold stars. If you give a gentle reminder, they might happily shower you with praise. Here are some other strategies I use to try to curb my neediness:

    1. Do things "for myself" For a long time, I self-righteously told myself that I made certain efforts "for the team" or "out of love for my family." While this sounds generous, it led to a bad result, because I sulked when my husband or whoever was involved didn't appreciate my efforts. Now I tell myself, I'm doing this for myself. This is what I want. I want to send out holiday cards. I want to organize the cabinets. This means I'm not waiting for a gold star. No one else has to even notice what I've done.

    2. Find ways to reward myself Maybe other people aren't giving me credit, but I can give myself credit. I keep a chart of my daily resolutions, and I get a little jolt of satisfaction when I reward myself with a check mark next to a resolution. I give myself gold stars!

    3. Express your appreciation for what other people do One good happiness rule is that if I wish people would act a certain way toward me, I should act that way toward them. If I wish people would be freer with praise, I should make sure I'm ladling it out myself. Also, I've found, when I push myself to feel grateful for what others are doing, I remind myself of how much they do for me — and that eases resentment.

    4. Remember that being taken for granted is a form of praise It's ironic: The more reliable you are, the more likely you are to be taken for granted. If you always meet deadlines, if you never lose your temper, if you're always prepared, people can overlook your efforts. And really, that's a compliment. My only clear childhood memory of being picked up from school is the one day that my mother was late. Every other day — year in, year out — she was on time. As a child, did I ever say, "Hey, Mom, I really appreciate the fact that you're never late"? Nope. But it mattered. How about you? Have you found effective ways to give or get praise?

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