We all like to hear words of encouragement, someone telling us we’ve done a good job, or they like something we created, or that they believe in us and that we can do what we’re setting out to do.
But encouragement is even more powerful that we at first think.
When you encourage someone once, it gives them a little boost in confidence and a nudge forwards. But when you do it regularly, you give them not only that injection of motivation each time, but you actually help them change the way they see themselves.
If someone feels for example they are no good at writing, that every poem they write doesn’t rhyme properly, or is too simple, then a few words from you one time might not have much impact.
By giving consistent encouragement and support though, you give that person something to live up to. They feel, consciously and subconsciously, that because someone has, to use our example, told them they are a good writer, they better step up and be a good writer. And so, without really thinking, they raise their game, and write more, write better, write more deeply, and give it more focus and energy. And more encouragement comes.
Of course the opposite of this can happen too, we can give people a negative role to live up to.
If you are told constantly that your artwork is poor, or not good enough, then you will, in almost exactly the same way, focus your creative forces on living up to this negative role. The attitude almost becomes “Well you said I was useless so I might as well show you how right you were.”
Being aware of this side of encouragement is as important as the positive side.
Can you think of a time in your creative life, or any part of your life, where someone gave you a few kind words of encouragment, and you felt so proud and motivated?
I remember when I was around 12 and in English class I’d written a poem called The Hunter. It was about a lion hunting their prey, who then in turn became the prey, hunted by man. My English teacher loved it and asked me to stand up and read it in class. Then again. Then a third time! I was very shy and self conscious but I did it, and the glow I had from someone believing in what I’d written and wanting me to read it not only once but three times gave me huge confidence, and overcame the embarrassment and shyness of having to read out loud in class.
The next school year I was put up into the higher set for English by the same teacher, and his influence way back then resonates still.
Encouragement is incredibly potent, and it doesn’t cost anything to give.
In what ways can you encourage someone close to you in something they’re doing today?
Finally, a quote to sum up the value of encouragement more succinctly and elegantly:
“Praise is like sunlight to the human spirit: we cannot flower and grow without it.” – Jess Lair