I recently had the privilege of writing my "Mother of the Groom" speech, and was able to relive many memories of my son when he was small. The entire process made me emotional, but above all, very proud of the man he has become.
I still remember when my boys were little, how they loved to sit and look at the photo albums of themselves as babies. They would ask the same questions over and over again about themselves. They wanted to know that they asked funny questions (like the time Christopher was learning fruit names and learned that an orange was orange. He picked up a lemon and asked if it was "a yellow.") They wanted to see themselves as babies laughing and learning to walk. They loved the photos of themselves asleep in strange places (such as the Jolly Jumper.)
It made them happy to see the good, and sometimes funny, things they did.
As I was reviewing those memories, it occurred to me that we aren't particularly good as adults at looking back at the things that we do that make us proud, or remind us that we are good, smart and professional at work.
We tend to focus on the things we didn't do, the professional designations we don't have or the things we did wrong. We focus on the negatives instead of the positives.
Just as I created memory books for my children, we need to create those types of memories about ourselves at work: a type of memory file we can look at when we feel a little bit fed up, slightly inadequate or under-appreciated.
We're aware we need to tell our loved ones we love them, encourage people who are suffering and have compassion for others. But do we do the same for ourselves? Do you have a memory folder at work?
I suggest you make one, by printing out hard copies of the things that need to go inside. I know that kids like looking at photos on an iPad the same way we looked at our photo albums, but I don't want your memory folder to get lost on your computer. I want you to see how big it is in your filing cabinet.
If you felt a sense of satisfaction for doing something you weren't sure you could do, put it in your memory folder.
Here is what you need to put in your memory folder:
A print-out of every (and if this means 200 of them, then print out 200 of them) email that says you did something awesome. If someone sends you an email thanking you for doing whatever it was you did, print it out.
A copy of any report, document or project where you "stretched" yourself, by working outside your comfort zone. If you felt a sense of satisfaction for doing something you weren't sure you could do, put it in your memory folder.
Print out your LinkedIn profile, especially the section where you have recommendations and endorsements. If you don't have any recommendations, get a few. They can be from colleagues, supervisors, members of your association, team members or leaders on any projects you've been on, or from your local church group, daycare, condo association, etc. Get as many recommendations as you can, for any job or volunteer work you've ever done.
Include a long version of your resume. Put every job you've ever had on it, and the tasks you did in that job. This isn't the type of resume you'll ever send a prospective employer, because it's too big. It will list all your education, awards you've received and designations. List your accomplishments and special projects, and the role you played.
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Include your favourite photo of yourself. It doesn't matter if you were 20, or if you were 80 pounds lighter (or heavier) than you are now. It should be a photo that makes you smile, and feel warm and fuzzy. (One of my favourite photos of me is me on a beach, in a bikini, when I was seven years old. I'm not even sure it looks like me, but I remember the day, who took the photo and how I felt in that moment.)
A study done by researchers at Harvard University found that when people were reminded of their best work as if they were hearing their own eulogy, they had more creativity and less stress.
Reviewing my son's history is making me smile, and I expect that when I relive these memories on his wedding day, he will smile, as well.
I hope your memory file makes you happy, too, and that it plays a significant role in helping to motivate you professionally.
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