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I remember as if it were yesterday—my good friend and mentor, Don Toy, and I were in the kitchen looking out his dining-room window at my wife-to-be and Don’s wife talking on the patio. I had found the love of my life but she didn’t know it and I didn’t know how to tell her. Totally out of the blue, Don leaned over and said, “She’s a good one—you better latch onto her.”
That’s all it took. I think I proposed that very weekend and we were married within six months of that day. And, by the way, she really was and continues to be the love of my life after 32 years of marriage!
I think of that one word of encouragement and the difference it made in my life and it takes my breath away. What if Don had not said anything? Would I have found the courage? Thankfully, those are questions I don’t have to answer.
But sometimes we don’t have that encourager standing by our side to say: “Go for it!” (at least one with flesh and bones). Sometimes we have to encourage ourselves.
Self-encouragement is essential to leadership. But how? How do you encourage yourself? When faced with a challenge that will clearly stretch you beyond anything you have ever attempted, how to you say to yourself: “She’s a good one. You better latch on!”
It occurs to me that self-encouragement requires four essential leadership perspectives:
- Perspective on Failure. You have to be able to see failure as a normal, even necessary, step in the path to success. If Penny Chenery had given up after Secretariat’s first loss, the world may never have known the capabilities of this amazing racehorse. Life is a trial and error process and failure is essential to that process.
- Perspective on Things. You have to be willing to lose everything. Great leaders lay it all on the line; they have a genuine sense that they came into this world naked and will have to leave naked, so things are less important to them than the thrill of a great challenge.
- Perspective on the Future. You have to be willing to hope. One of my all-time favorite books is Endurance—the story of the Ernest Shackelton’s experiences after he and his crew’s ship became frozen into an ice mass in Antarctica. In a passage I’ll always remember from that book, Alfred Lansing describes a moment when, after six months traversing the ice mass trying to make it to the open waters, the ice began to gently move. This, of course meant they were getting near. Yet, not one of the men spoke even a word about this new development. Lansing explains that they had become numb to hope because of so many disappointments. We too can become numb to hope if we’re not careful.
- Perspective on Your Own Capability. Finally, we need to understand that most of our fears are unfounded. We are far more capable than we allow ourselves to think. Most of our obstacles are psychological and have nothing to do with our innate capabilities. Given half a chance, most human beings are capable of greatness.
How about you? Do you have the audacity to believe you can do it? It really comes down to a decision we all must make. Will I fall to the level of my fears? Or rise to the level of my challenges?
Have you discovered some ways to encourage yourself that you can share with the rest of us? Please do so in the comments area below.
Greg Waddell provides consulting services for churches and organizations. Contact Dr. Waddell today at gregwaddell[at]leadstrategic.com to discuss the needs of your organization.