By Jimmy Warden
The need for encouragement
We all want to do our best. I truly believe that. Some people may think I’m naive for saying such a thing, but I believe that we are all doing the best with what we know. However, that doesn’t always seem sufficient. We scrutinize our every move because we zigged when we should’ve zagged. We think we are constantly making the wrong decision. However, most times we’re not consciously trying to do that. We’re trying to do our best with the circumstances we face each day with the current level of knowledge that we possess. We come to the understanding of the quality of our decision-making upon reflection. It isn’t until we ponder the mental balance beam of pros and cons do we decide if we made a good decision or a bad decision. Too many bad decisions and we have a hard time understanding ourselves; believing in ourselves. We don’t know if what we’re doing is important to the world. We don’t feel like we’re being a meaningful contributor. These are all reasons why we need to give and accept more encouragement.
In life, we often have tasks that need to be accomplished. Whether they’re at our jobs, in our relationships, with our families, or with ourselves; there is almost always something right in front of us that needs to get done. When it comes to these tasks, we frequently try to put our best foot forward. However, when the pursuit of our task completion doesn’t play out the way that we’d like it to, or something happens that we didn’t anticipate, we start to feel down on ourselves. We think that our actions are what caused the negative outcome, so we engage in negative self-talk. We judge ourselves and feel like we’re going to be judged by others. As a result, we lose motivation to move forward and take more action in life. We become stagnant.
However, when we give encouragement to ourselves or others, it could inspire the people we’re encouraging to take action. Taking action is the only way to create change. As some before me have said: “Nothing changes if nothing changes”. Encouragement can be a catalyst for change.
Encouraging ourselves can be the ultimate catalyst. We all have a mix of growth and fixed mindset tendencies depending on the context of our environment, the challenge at hand, and the people around us. Far too often we feed the negative voice and allow ourselves to stop our momentum that we’ve built. Instead, trying to reframe this negative voice into something positive can be of tremendous benefit. It is important to be positive, but in an authentic way if we truly want to unpack the power of having honest conversations with ourselves or others around us. Imagine how different our lives would be if we even replaced one third of our negative thoughts about ourselves, our circumstances, or the world at large.
When we encourage others in an authentic way, it could could be a spark that they’ve been yearning for. It could be the kick in the pants that they need to get off the couch, in a literal or metaphorical sense. Sometimes, all someone needs is a little encouragement to take action because they’ve already gone through their own narrative of all the reasons why they shouldn’t take action. Any small gesture of positive talk towards someone else also tends to go a lot further than we think. They’re not just words, they’re affirmations of someone’s potential.
Encouraging others is also helpful because it creates a system of support for the challenges we face in life. Challenge is inevitable in life, but the stronger our support system is, the more manageable challenges become. Both in our lives and the lives of those that we support.
Often, support is like a boomerang. The more you give it, the more it comes back to you. Having people to talk to, console with, and receive love and wisdom from is something that money can never buy. If we can be someone else’s support, we can fill their cup and simultaneously fill ours when our support is authentic. We’re helping someone in a time of need, and we have the understanding that we’re doing something that goes beyond ourselves, no matter how small the gesture of morale-boosting may be. Not only that, but they’re more than likely to help us out due to the fact that humans thrive on the concept of reciprocity. You know, that whole “I scratch your back, you scratch my back” idea.
Accepting encouragement is equally as important. All person to person relationships are a two-way street, so if we’re not willing to accept the encouragement that we’re receiving, we won’t be able to experience its benefits. A couple of its benefits include boosts in motivation and self-esteem. We use encouragement as fuel for our self-esteem and motivation by accepting it and acting on it. At the end of the day, we can receive as much encouragement from as many people as possible, but if we reject it, it does us no good. We’re essentially rejecting gas for a car when its tank is on E when we disregard the nudges from ourselves or others. The more that we can accept encouragement, the more likely it is that we can change our mental narrative because we need to make changes in our behavior in order to change our narrative. Accepting encouragement can give us the fuel we need in order to make change.
It’s important to accept encouragement to raise our confidence and increase our self-esteem because we need fuel to fight our internal battles. We’re already beating ourselves down in life quite a bit and are in a negative headspace when we do that. Encouragement can counteract that to help us change our mindset and understanding of our worth. Accepting encouragement can teeter the action balance in favor of taking action by raising our self-esteem. The more that we can feel confident in ourselves, the more likely it is that we’re more motivated and willing to take action. It takes confidence, an inner belief in the self to take on something that’s never done before. After all, someone who genuinely encourages you, believes in you, and sees a lot of the positive actions you’re taking that you don’t always see yourself. This is a big reason why we should be more open to accepting people’s positive regard for us. We should accept it as evidence in the same manner that we accept our own thoughts and beliefs as evidence for our mental narrative of our life.
How can I give more encouragement?
Just like muscles on a body builder, or intelligence of an intellectual, the act of giving encouragement must be built through deliberate engagement and repetition. Essentially, we need to come up with a plan for how we’ll give encouragement. First, we must start with the self. Then, we can move onto how to support others.
Encouraging ourselves can be tricky because no one knows us better than us. We know all of our strengths (hopefully), and we DEFINITELY know our weaknesses. This is where our mindset comes into play.
Because we know our inadequacies so well, we often fall victim to our fixed mindset when they’re put on display. These are the times when we’re pushed just past our level of capabilities, but don’t quite have the right skillset to help us rise to the challenge. This is when we have a choice in how we articulate our internal dialogue. Do we want to support the failure fallacy by telling ourselves how much we suck? Or do we want to give ourselves a pat on the back for our effort and tell ourselves we’ll get it next time? These tendencies are often the make or break in personal development. Those that air on the side of the growth mindset are often much more willing to try again because their belief system supports their growth, whereas the fixed mindset is much less willing because it has been predetermined that failure is inevitable. The more that we can work through our negative internal dialogue through reframing, the more likely it is that we’ll be able to give ourselves some legitimate encouragement.
The act of reframing can be as simple as taking a statement such as, “I’m not very good at this” and adding the word yet to the end of it. Adding this one word might not seem like it would do very much, but it gives the speaker a glimmer of hope and belief that one day they will arrive to the level of skill they desire. This is where the fire begins. The growth mindset reframe is the mental kindling for the physical fire we’re trying to make with our daily actions. The more that we use these statements, the more kindling we have, the larger our fire becomes.
Once we have honed in on reframing, we can use that knowledge base to help others with their thought reframing, especially if they’re not quite at our level of frequency. By teaching others the art of reframing, we can help them believe in themselves when they hear words of encouragement from others. It will also help them get themselves out of their personal negative thought patterns because they’ll be able to apply the skills of reframing in their internal dialogue.
In order for reframing to truly work the way that it is intended to, we all need to accept that failure is inevitable, especially if we’re constantly pushing the boundaries of our potential. Without this understanding, reframing does us no good. We should expect to fail. Not always, but when the challenges we’re facing are pushing us to our personal threshold. When we’re at that point, failure manifests. These are the best times to use reframing, and it is vital that it is a genuine, supportive statement.
How can I accept more encouragement?
Accepting more encouragement starts with accepting that we have limitations. Why might it start there? Because if we believe that we’re destined to be superhuman, then fail, our sense of reality and sense of self become turbulent. Even Superman has kryptonite, so we need to understand that we’re not invincible and that we’re going to make a lot of errors in our lives. Once we accept that, we can start to understand when we’ll need encouragement.
It’s pretty obvious that we need encouragement when life has us on the ropes or life has knocked us down. However, we’re often still in good position to keep fighting despite those challenges. We just need to keep in mind that failure is not final or fatal; it is a stepping stone to a greater version of ourselves. This is when we find people encouraging us. This is when people are in our corner. They’re the ones that are watching us fight day in and day out. They have a different perspective on what we bring to the table, so when they tell us we can do something, we should listen. And that’s what it takes to accept encouragement.
Too many times we let wise words of others go in one of our ears and out the other because we didn’t want to listen to what they had to say about our potential. We already had it fixed in our minds that we wouldn’t be able to accomplish what we set out to do, so we just tune out what our supporter has to say.
A way to do this is by thinking, “maybe this person is right”. This is going to take a lot of practice to do this on a consistent basis, but it will pay itself tenfold when when we can. If we prefer questions, we could ask, “what if this person is right?”.
At the end of the day, encouragement boils down to belief. Belief in ourselves, belief in others, and belief in what others have to say about us. The more that we can believe the positive aspects of the encouragement we’re receiving, the more that we’ll be able to overcome the inevitable difficulties that will come our way in life. The more that we believe the encouragement that we’re giving, the more that we’ll be able to help ourselves and others.
So let’s be more encouraging. To ourselves, and those we love.