Along my triathlon journey, several people have told me I’ve inspired them. That’s nice, but I haven’t put much thought into it. Yesterday, I chatted with an acquaintance about her triathlons — she’s done one — and I described my three-year struggle with swimming (still struggling!) and why next weekend’s race will likely determine how much longer I continue trying. At the end of our conversation, she thanked me, and told me it really inspired her.
That set me to thinking why I like hearing that. My first thought was that it’s just about ego. But if it was just about ego, I surely would not be admitting to sitting on the edge of the pool, fighting back tears, talking myself into doing the workout. I wouldn’t admit to being mean to the volunteers at a race after getting really nauseous during the swim. I wouldn’t admit to having to talk myself into not quitting three minutes into a race.
It occurred to me that the reason it’s nice to hear “you inspire me” is that we ALL want to matter to someone. We have a fundamental need to be needed. Nurturing, reaching out, making a difference in someone’s life – we crave that. It’s one of the reasons having a pet is so healthy. No matter how frail you are, having an animal depending upon you means you’re needed.
I was raised to be polite. I say “thank you” a lot. When a cashier at a grocery store bids me, “Have a nice day,” I respond with, “You do the same.” While that may be more of an exchange than they’re accustomed to, I’ve decided they deserve more.
The people who we interact with, who make the little everyday exchanges possible, deserve to know we need them. So I hope to tell the next cashier, “Thank you – you were very efficient.” I want the woman mopping the floor & tidying the locker room at my club to know that I really appreciate her attention to detail, and my experience at the club wouldn’t be the same without her work.
Who do you interact with? Are they someone whose job is necessary, but maybe a little invisible? Think about thanking them and telling them how their doing the job matters to you. Imagine how nice it would be for them to hear that.