Just before the end of 2019, a client mentioned that her word for 2020 was “value,” and my brain immediately went to work.  What happened next was kind of confusing because I didn’t exactly know what “value” meant to me.  Did it mean money?  Did it mean time?  Did it mean appreciation?

What if the word was “valued” instead?  Am I valued by my spouse?  How about my kids?  My colleagues?  My clients?  My customers?  My neighbors?

Sometimes I measure value by balancing it with regret.  Not too long ago, I connected with someone at a networking event, and we agreed to meet the following week at a nearby Starbucks.  He showed up 10 minutes late (with no apology or excuse), and spent the next 45 minutes telling me about his business.  I let him ramble, waiting for him to ask me about mediation.  When the hour was up, I excused myself, shook his hand, and left.  There was absolutely no value for me in that meeting, and I regretted wasting my time.   On the other hand, the value for me was a lesson learned — understanding that the value this guy placed on me had nothing whatsoever to do with the value I placed on myself.

When I am helping people in conflict, I believe that the service I provide has value.  When I share communication tools with my clients, and then learn that they are using those tools, I feel valued.  When I have a philosophical conversation with a friend, and he points out a concept that hadn’t occurred to me, I know that our talk has value.

In order to value ourselves, I believe we should consider adding value to those around us.  Here are four suggestions:

  1.  Provide expert and professional advice.  (Note to self:  there is more value to my professional advice if I wait until I’m asked for it.)
  2. Educate and Inform.  If you have a specific skill set, figure out who needs your help and then provide it.  Whether it’s a cooking tip, a book recommendation, or an explanation of whole life versus term insurance, share your knowledge and your information.
  3. Be accessible.  An attorney/employer of mine back in the day refused to return a phone call until he received three voicemails.  That’s not what I consider accessible, and he certainly could have added more value to the relationships with his clients had he chosen a different approach.
  4. Show appreciation.  You get what you give, and when you appreciate the value someone else has provided to you, it’s inevitable that you will be valued in return.

Obviously, value is a relative term.  My idea of value doesn’t necessarily match yours.  And business value isn’t the same as personal value.

The value I place on myself is a work in progress, and my definition of the word is constantly evolving.

How do you define value?  How do you provide value to others?  Do you do any or all of the four things listed above/  Please share your thoughts by commenting.