Wouldn’t you like to pave the way forward for someone, particularly if it didn’t require a lot of time and effort on your part? Recently I’ve been asked in various situations some form of the question of of how we can encourage children with their dreams, and how can we, as adults, foster a life of happiness for our youth. As I reflected on the frequency with which I was asked that over the course of two weeks, it struck me that children aren’t the only ones who need encouragement.
In general, conversationally we tend to discourage rather than encourage. I propose we take a bold step and begin by fostering the nascent creativity in children and extend that to adults and all stages in between. Imagine — by encouraging the next young woman or man you talk with, whether they are your child or not, you could be fueling their dream to create the next solution to one of society’s current problems. Or just giving them the power to believe in themselves enough to dream, and create, a little further.
Let’s encourage everyone with a positive notion, starting with ourselves. Start saying “yes”. Answer in the affirmative to opportunities, ideas, and creative insights.
Businesses invest in employee recognition plans because they have learned that encouraging people positively has an impact on the bottom line, as well as raising morale. The impact teachers have through encouraging students enables them to do their best in life, not just excel in academics.
Encouragement fosters confidence. Confidence lends to us wanting — and being able to — go after whatever we want more effectively. Self-esteem is the foundation of well-being. Ideally, we start raising confident children by encouraging them, and we carry through with encouragement of our adult friends, bolstering their confidence.
Instead of responding with doubt when opinions are voiced, let’s listen for the nugget of insight within the words. If we can’t find any insight, let’s hear the fear hiding behind the words, and be instrumental in helping push past it.
At the base of all doubt, the reason we tamp anyone’s enthusiasm down, including our own, is fear. It takes confidence in our ability to go after our own dreams before we can support another person.
Listed below are some simple statements to pull out for encouragement, in times of doubt, or even to repeat in front of the mirror as affirmation to get the day started strong. Picture saying these in response the next time someone — of any age — tells you their idea, dream, or secret!
10 Commandments of “Yes”
- Absolutely! I can imagine that.
- What a great idea! I’d love to hear more as you develop that.
- Wow! You come up with the [best/most creative/most original/] ideas!
- I LOVE that idea! You have to promise you tell me how you are going to follow through on that!
- Tell me more — that’s intriguing! I want details!
- I can see it! You can do that, no question about it!
- I would have never thought of that. You are so clever to come up with it.
- That sounds just like you. What’s your next step?
- What stage is this at? I love the idea!
- I only wish I had thought of it! It is so perfect for you!
….and a bonus: How long do you think it will take? I want to start planning the celebration party!
Dive a little deeper into the encouragement and give the reasons why the other person’s great idea will work. If they are sharing their thoughts with you, chances are you know them at least well enough to state a trait or quality that can bolster their success. Delineating how that personal quality of theirs will help them on their path to achieving their goal will demonstrate that you aren’t just mouthing positive words, but that you really do believe in them and their dreams.
If you find you just aren’t able to encourage another person’s dreams — stop. Why not? Maybe you have some dreams of your own that need a bit of bolstering? Start there. If nobody else is saying those statements to you, say them to yourself.
Words are powerful. Be intentional with how you use them. Make them work for you — and those around you.