(This is one of a part of a series of WORDS TO LIVE BY. This series grew out of a workbook I first made for my young daughters and discussed at the dinner table. These Words include values, good ideas, and Words to aspire to….and learn from….enjoy!)
Today’s Word To Live By: Encouragement – Definition: help, support – Antonyms: denunciation, derision, deterrent, discouragement
Years ago I was unemployed for the first time in my life and I struggled to find a new job. Frankly, I applied everywhere and I would have taken just about anything. The Lehman Bros. “thing” happened and I just was in a funk anyway, so it was tough. I finally did find a good job at a solid company. I had a boss that was very encouraging, very supportive. Many people on the team were also encouraging, helpful, etc.
I had a tough time getting out of my own ‘funk’ and getting back the confidence and esteem that I once had. Part of the job required me to go away for training with others from around the country. I really enjoyed the whole experience and think about those people and times fondly. I recall that first day at training. We were all pushed outside of our comfort zone, which was good but hard. I knew no one. I was struggling to do well…. we all had to do a few different tasks, presentations, calls, proposals, etc. etc.
“The finest gift you can give anyone is encouragement. Yet, almost no one gets the encouragement they need to grow to their full potential. If everyone received the encouragement they need to grow, the genius in most everyone would blossom and the world would produce abundance beyond the wildest dreams. We would have more than one Einstein, Edison, Schweitzer, Mother Theresa, Dr. Salk and other great minds in a century.”—Sidney Madwed
Then, one of the other ‘students’ just like me, made a comment. I wish I could remember exactly what he said. I think that I was just plain shocked, I wasn’t expecting it. Anyways, he encouraged me that I did some things well, others things were good but could improve, and gave me lots of encouragement. He stated how he had struggled with the same thing and was right there with me.
He didn’t gain anything by helping or encouraging me – at least none that I could see. He was just being a good guy. Others in our group seemed to continue to encourage each other. I found myself doing it more than usual. We became a cohesive group and stayed in touch for quite a long time after, which was unusual, I’m told.
I think back in grade school, in high school, college, and in life. Sometimes, like the example above, I don’t remember what someone said specifically, but I definitely recall times when people offered encouragement. It may have been something small like spelling a word, hitting a ball, doing a chore. It sometimes was bigger things like a relationship, a job, a big financial challenge. I can see and feel those words of encouragement. They still warm my heart today.
I think about times when I encouraged others. First, it feels good to me when I think about supporting others. Second, I frankly am a little sad that I didn’t do it more often. I know that I want to do it more in the present and future. It isn’t that hard, is it? Encouragement, support, help isn’t that hard to offer is it?
Real friends are loving in an unconditional manner. They accept you for your faults, the quirky things that you do or so, and regardless of what you “do for them.” Friends offer support. Friends are a good influence. Friends offer encouragement. We need to choose our friends carefully. It doesn’t matter their income, status, style, or dress. I try to be a good friend too, but again I sometimes feel that I am lacking here.
Tony Dungy, NFL coach, player, and author, said once, “Peer pressure works in both directions.” Do we encourage? Do we support? Do we set a good example?
Do we provide a positive influence to others? Are we complainers? Do we point out others weaknesses or kick them while we are down? Or do we help them up and give them a gentle push when they need it?
Encouraging others is about helping them focus on what they’re doing right, what’s going right in their life, and what good things they have to offer. We can encourage others by helping them see the donut and not the hole. We can be positive. Encouragement can be specific words like “you can do it.” Sometimes it might be a silent action of setting an example. Sometimes it is simply a sign of solidarity.
I believe that we’re each created for a reason, that we have a purpose. It may be something big and cool like writing a bestseller, saving a life, or something spectacular. Or it may be simply giving that one person, maybe even a stranger, that little bit of encouragement one day in our life. Maybe its about that one little comment that we gave our friend, which seemed almost inconsiquential to us, that literally saved their life as they were going through their challenges.
I recall a tough time when many people around me seemed to question me, put me down, and I questioned myself, I made some bad choices and I was feeling low. Then I happened to think about two little statements – one statement my father said to me once about his own struggles and basically amounted to being “if I can do it Jim, then you certainly can do it….”. Another one was from a teacher of mine….I’m sure he made the comment almost in passing and probably forgot about it soon after, but his words of encouragement have helped me keep moving on for years and I even thought about it again this morning when I had something come up.
Life can be tough, it can offer challenges, right? We can lift each other up, we can tear down, or we can do neither, just passing through life without input or gusto. We all need encouragement. We need support. Humans need this sort of thing from our friends and from strangers.
There are studies that show that when we encourage, support or help others, it not only helps that person’s spirit, mind and body, we the encourager benefit. Endorphins and other good things flow in our bodies and theirs – we both feel good. But wait, it’s not over yet – studies also show that observers, people who watch you and I encourage another person – also benefit – they have many of the same ‘feel good’ benefits. All three parties win. We all receive the benefit of encouragement.
There is an article titled “19 Healthy Reasons to Help Others” that states “If you see someone who is drowning and throw him a rope, he gets a benefit, no question about it. But you might, too. Your body might flood with feel-good chemicals that have a deep evolutionary heritage. You might get a little extra buffer from life’s stresses. Your heart might beat a little healthier. Your immune system might perk up. Your mood might lift.” http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2011/07/28/health-benefits-of-volunteering-helping-others_n_909713.html#s316118&title=Helpers_Live_Longer
There is a great book for children – but we all can benefit from reading it – about helping others such as I just mentioned. It is written by Carol McCloud – Have You Filled a Bucket Today: A Guide to Daily Happiness for Kids….except it should just say “for people”.
As I mentioned above, sometimes I just don’t think about encouraging others as much as I should, or as I’d like to ….. but I certainly want to ….. I’d love to provide a positive influence on others each and everyday.
When was the last time you made a call, wrote a letter, said something along the lines of encouragement? Can you mentor someone? Is there even something little or anonymous that you can do?
Encouraging others leaves a wonderful trail of great memories in our lives and the lives of others. Like the memories I spoke of above from loved ones and from strangers, these memories will hang around for years and for decades. Let’s create some encouraging memories, let’s create some goodwill and do unto others what we’d like done to us.
“When the need for encourament words or inspirational words come, it does not matter who is saying them or why but what becomes vital is to feel encouraged, motivated and inspired to take what ever life throws as you.”
No matter where you are in life or what your consequences are, you can give….and I bet when you give, you’ll receive something back too.
What can you do to encourage yourself? Ask great questions – empowering questions. Think about past successes, reflect on good things in life, talk nicely to yourself.
What can you do otherwise? Do you know of an encouraging book? Watch a good movie (like Rocky)?
What are some encouraging songs and music that can kick start your day?
What are some ways that you can encourage yourself in the morning? In the car?
What people in your life encourage you? Did you thank them? Can you return the favor? Can you emulate them to help others? How can you build habits around encouragement?
Can you challenge someone? Can you mentor? can you just lend support?