You'd better be planning to give your sweetheart something for Valentine's Day. Flowers, candy, a nice card, a dinner out. You do that because you have feelings of gratitude and appreciation that you want to express--but also, because you don't want them to think you are taking them for granted. That never leads to anything good.
You know who else you shouldn't take for granted? The people you spend all day with at work. People are looking for a work experience that does more than pass the time and bring a paycheck. It's everywhere you look, that search for meaning, but it's not something that's new or belongs to the Millennial generation alone; everyone, deep down, wants to leave a positive mark on the world in some way through their work.
You already know this. It's what you ask yourself in quiet moments: Am I leaving a mark?And what actually does leave a mark in life? Knowing that you matter to other people, that's what.
So, when I talk about "love" in the context of work, I don't mean you should start leading group hugs or sending Valentines to your buddies in Accounting. I mean you should make it an everyday practice and a way of life to really see the people around you and really focus on their needs--from your customers, to those you're mentoring, to those who are mentoring you. That's how you have an impact.
Walk into your day job ready to practice love the way a musician practices an instrument or a child practices learning to read: by making it an essential part of every day.
So how do you practice love in the workplace?
1. Give others the gift of your full, truly undivided attention.
Meaning: put the phone down, and step away from the laptop. Being fully present with someone is important--but it's so difficult if everybody is looking at their phones and responding to them instead of to the people in front of them. How people respond to your full, 100 percent presence is always wonderful. Try it on your customers, too. I guarantee it will make you more competitive in the business world, because it's so rare.
2. Let other people teach you something.
If you're a Baby Boomer, go find a Millennial and ask them to teach you how to use Instagram or Snapchat. If you're a Millennial, go find that older person in the office and ask for their advice on something, and really listen to the answer. You'd be surprised how invisible experienced workers sometimes feel in the midst of youthful energy around them, and how happy they'd be to know you're paying attention.
3. Make your work a gift to other people.
Operationalize love as a business principle--not love as a sentiment, but love as a practice or a discipline. I mean, let's define love for a minute. When you love someone, you take care of them. Yes, even when they can't do something directly to return the favor. Even if they might be less than cheerful in return. Love means you're available and attentive when they need you, as much as when you are getting along and having a good time together.
What does love look like to you? Is it giving a colleague or client an extra five minutes of your time? Is it listening to someone tell you about their day? Or is it something as simple (and ostensibly obvious) as knowing--and using--the names of the people you work with?
In the many small acts you do every day, you have the influence to make the difference between an unfulfilling work experience and one that brings true joy to yourself and others. It's why I say that "love is just damn good business."
Valentine's Day is the perfect time to start a business practice--a working lifestyle--of letting others benefit from the power of your heart.