The Gift of Encouragement—How Generous Are You?

One day you’re setting the world on fire and the next you feel like a complete loser. It seems to happen so fast.   

  • Your old boss loved your work; the new one not so much.
  • You used to navigate software effortlessly; now the new system has scuttled your productivity.
  • The work team once looked to you for leadership, now there’s a new member they’re following. 

You’re not alone. It happens to all of us. 

Perspective matters. 

We’re often our own worst critic, setting expectations for ourselves that are, perhaps, higher than is reasonable. Why? Because we want to: 

  • Excel over others or test our limits
  • Chase rewards like performance ratings, raises, or promotions
  • Measure up to what we’re told is our potential
  • Exceed our prior levels of performance 

These are pressures we create and/or accept for ourselves. This pressure leads to stress that can affect our performance, taking our self-confidence with it. 

The key to a successful career is to avoid the downward spiral of eroding self-confidence. The sorry truth is that you can kill your own self-confidence through negative self-talk, but it’s highly unlikely that you can restore it by giving yourself a pep talk. 

Encouragement as gift 

The beauty of encouragement is that you can re-gift it openly and should. You don’t need to give it back to the person who gave it to you, but you do need to be ready to give it when someone else needs it. 

Lest you think that encouragement really isn’t that important, consider what these two highly successful people have to say. 

Jim Furyk, professional golfer and 2010 PGA Tour Player of the Year, recently played in the 2011 President’s Cup, a tournament that pits a select team of U.S. golfers against an international team. Furyk won all five of his matches, a rare and totally unexpected feat. You see Furyk had just come off, quite possibly, his worst year on the tour. 

Here’s how he summed up his surprising success:

I enjoy the team atmosphere, and knowing Phil [Mickelson] for as many years as I have … I’m guessing he asked to play with me, because …I struggled so much this year and played poorly, probably the worst of anybody that’s sitting up here right now.

So knowing him for as long as I have, being good friends, I assume that he asked to play with me because he felt like he could get a lot out of me this week; that maybe he could help me and pump some confidence into me and get me playing well, and he did that.

You see, we give the gift of encouragement by what we do, not just by what we say, although they can go hand in hand.

Michelle Williams, the actress who plays Marilyn Monroe in the new film, “My Week with Marilyn,” was asked by the Today Show’s, Ann Curry where she got the courage to take on such a daunting role.

…in the beginning I just tried to ignore the risk because I thought if I really contemplated it, it would only stand in my way. 

You could say she wagered her self-confidence on her ability to succeed in that role. But Michelle revealed something else in an earlier interview with Mo Rocca on CBS’s Sunday Morning:

A lot of the time I feel like– I feel like I’m living hand to mouth on people’s compliments. I don’t ask anybody, like, ‘What did you think of that scene?’ or, ‘How did it go?’ or blah, blah, blah, because I get addicted to positive affirmation… There’s just so much uncertainty when you’re making your work, doing your job….

In all, we need credible compliments that encourage us, people to stand by us when we struggle, and the insights of others to help erase our doubt and replace it with optimism.

Give generously 

Encouragement builds on itself. The more we give, the more we attract. We need to make giving it a habit, our way to lift others up. In the process we’ll see our own situations in a brighter light. Please encourage generously.

Photo from lie_inourgraves via Flickr