If You Are Breathing You Need Encouragement

The difference between praise and encouragement...

The encouragement really struck home last week. As I read some email and comments, it confirmed how we truly thirst for encouragement and how we look past the pain and struggle people are experiencing every day.

I loved the feedback. Don’t we all love a word of praise? Any word of praise is always welcomed. It makes us feel good, accepted and appreciated. But unfortunately praise is a lot like desert—it is a temporary feel good choice that can be harmful in the long-run.  

I began to wonder if people understood the difference between praise and encouragement. When I asked the question, people paused as if to ask, “What do you mean—difference?” Think of it this way. You go to the doctor and he or she prescribes a medication based on their diagnosis. After a few days on the medication your condition is not any better. In fact, it has gotten worse.

Upon returning to the doctor you find the diagnosis was correct, but the prescribed medication was wrong. When people are struggling, trying to break through resistance, or learning something new the proper prescription is encouragement.

Let me explain. Praise is an expression of affirmation, a compliment, recognition for an accomplishment or simply acknowledgement delivered as feedback. Praise focuses on your results, how talented you are, or your outward appearances.

Praise lacks the distinguishing and improvement enhancing quality of encouragement—the expression of affirmation through language or other symbolic representations to instill courage, perseverance, confidence, inspiration, or hope in a person(s) within the context of addressing a challenging situation or realizing a potential.

If you want to discover the height of your talent and potential or to positively impact the course and trajectory of the people you love and lead—the prescription is encouragement. Encouragement does not concern itself with the past but serves as a stimulus and always has a present or future orientation. Encouragement communicates a positive message crafted in three things.

  1. Choices. Emphasis on the decision making and commitment.
  2. Process. The execution and mastery of the steps required for success.
  3. Progress. Emphasizing the level of improvement made versus the gap or shortfall.

“How do you identify someone who needs encouragement? That person is breathing.”

—Truett Cathey

Last week, Billy Hurley III won his first PGA Tour title. At this same tournament last year, Billy appeared on national television to report his dad was missing and asked for help locating him. He was later found at a public library in Texas watching his son play golf on a computer, but two weeks later took his own life.

Over the last twelve months Billy’s journey has been filled with adjustments, adversity and challenges. Professionally Billy had fallen to the 607th ranked player in the world—he was struggling. He was not qualified to play in this year’s Quicken Loans National that honors current and past members of the U.S. Armed services. A Navel Academy graduate, Billy was invited to play in the tournament on a sponsor’s exemption.

Going into the week he had made money in only six of the 15 events he had played on the PGA and Web.com tours and had not finished higher than 41st. No one, maybe with the exception of Billy Hurley, expected this week to be any different.

What was fueling Billy’s work was the encouragement of the people close to him. The foundation of encouragement is the infusion of courage that enables or inspires someone to take the next step regardless of circumstances, challenges or resistance.

Anne Frank wrote, “Everyone has inside of him a piece of good news. The good news is that you don’t know how great you can be! How much you can love! What you can accomplish! And what your potential is!”

Encouragement is the fuel that pushes us towards our potential. Be thankful for those who praise you. But cling tightly to those who encourage you—they will help you break through the walls that stop most people.