The origin of the word “encourage” dates back to circa 15th century. It derives from an Old French word: En=”make or put in” with couer= “heart.” Thus, to encourage is to instill heart into someone. I have written a lot about finding good peer coaches, but an encourager does not need to be a coach. They just need to believe in you when you have doubts.
Why do you need encouragers? Because there are going to be times when you do not believe in yourself. Events may conspire to obstruct your progress toward a desired goal or vision. You may lose confidence in your ability to pursue it. When things are going wrong, an encourager can believe in you when you don’t and give you “heart” to continue to move forward.
I encourage people to have at least 3 people (including themselves) that they can rely on when things are going wrong. You need this number in case someone is not available right at the time of need. Afterall, we cannot expect others to always just be waiting for our call.
If you do not have at least 3 people who can fill this role, then read on. If you are really good at talking to yourself in a positive way, then you just need 2 additional folks. But if your self-talk does nothing to pep you up, consider having 3 additional people.
To identify who would be good for you, think back in your past—even into childhood to some individual who was really good at pumping you up. For me, that person was a boss I had early in my career. He would give me tasks I had never done before, and I would freeze at the thought of just getting started. What this boss did was to remind me of my strengths and where he had seen me use those strengths in the past. Then he helped me keep the new task simple—at least identifying a simple next step. But the most important part was helping me remember my strengths. This was all I needed to encourage me to get going again.
When you identify that individual who could uniquely encourage you, think about some of the ways this person interacted with you. Was (s)he calm or energetic? Talkative versus quiet? What did (s)he talk about? Did (s)he draw on external observations or internal characteristics (eg strengths)? How did this person hold your vision or mission in front of you?
Now think about someone in your life who behaves in a similar manner. This person might be a good encourager for you. It would help if the person were also supportive of your vision and mission as well. It is hard to encourage someone to do something if you don’t think that effort is worth it or beneficial to others. When you have identified someone who has these characteristics and you believe is supportive of your cause, you are ready to go to the next step:
Ask them to be your encourager.
Did that just scare you? Many of us are reluctant to ask for help, but here is a way that might make it easier for you.
If you approach this person and share how you appreciate something you have seen them do—eg how they spoke with someone who was down and got them moving again, you have given them a gift to start with. Then you can ask if you could approach them when you are in the same situation for a similar pick-me-up. And you can offer to provide the same in return if you feel that is appropriate.
That is not so hard, is it? You give someone a gift of acknowledgement and ask them if they will share their talents with you. Even if they say no, you have given them something of value.
And if you are thinking this is selfish, think of this as being in service to your vision and mission. You are just enlisting others to help make the vision real and help you accomplish a mission that furthers that vision.
Give it a try and let me know how it goes.