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How to Encourage Yourself – A Lesson Learned from Abe Lincoln

I used to live in Washington, D.C. as a teenager (many years ago) and one of my favorite places there was the Smithsonian Institute.  If we ever had a free afternoon, we would head over and just choose one small area and look around.  I think we had season’s passes.  I absolutely love American history, so that area of the Smithsonian was and still is, my favorite.  One display houses the personal belongings that Abraham Lincoln had on his person the night he was assassinated.  One item is a well-worn clipping from a newspaper…a very positive, favorable article, singing the praises of this great man.  The article called him, ‘One of the greatest statesmen of all time.”

If you are a history buff, you know that Abraham Lincoln was a humble man and by no means an egomaniac.  History also tells us that Lincoln battled self-doubt during his entire presidency, and it was at an all-time high during the Civil War, when it seemed that everyone was at odds with him, on both sides of the fence.

I think it is telling that a beloved man such as Abe Lincoln would carry around a newspaper clipping reminding himself that there were those who admired and respected him.  He needed to know that.  He had only to reach in his pocket, draw out the article clipping and read it to encourage himself.

Why am I telling you this story about Abe Lincoln?  Because the very first person you should be encouraging is yourself.  If you are the leader of a business, or a team of any kind, you won’t be able to lead your “troops” if you are in a state of continual discouragement.

Here are some ways to encourage yourself:

  1. Make personal mementos that are easily seen – What have you accomplished in the past that you would do well to remember?  Memorialize it with a memento of some sort.  Abe carried his newspaper clipping.  Are you an artist?  Then frame some of your best art for yourself.  Have you won awards?  Dig them out of that box and display them in your office or your home.  In the Old Testament, God told certain people to build memorial “stones” to remember their triumphs.  Even if you buy a bag of those smooth stones from a craft store, and keep one in your pocket to remind you of something wonderful, that’s a good start.  Be creative – figure out what ways you can tangibly encourage yourself with reminders.
  2. Surround yourself with people who believe in you –  Mark Twain said, “Keep away from people who try to belittle your ambitions.  Small people always do that, but the really great make you feel that you, too, can become great.” Good advice.  Choose your inner circle very carefully.  We all need cheer leaders, and we need people who will tell us the truth and still believe in us.  We can trust these people because they are both honest and they believe in us.
  3. Keep the end in mind – We will do well to know that there is a particular reward at the end of our efforts.  Keeping the reward ever before you will give you a rush of adrenaline as nothing else can.  If you aren’t excited about the destination of your journey, no one around you will be either.  Use anticipation to your advantage.  Always be looking to the future and how it will be different because of the race you are running.
  4. Be an encourager to others – If we expect to be encouraged and respected by others, then we must become an encourager and one who shows respect for those who follow us.  This would apply to parenthood, management, or any other position of influence that you find yourself in.  People are watching you – your kids, your employees, your friends, your clients, your vendors, etc.  They will take their cues from you when it comes to attitude as well as behavior.  No matter the battles you are facing or the challenges you may be having, don’t let it keep you from being an inspiration to others.  What these people will bring back to you will be worth its weight in gold.  They will encourage and inspire you!

How do you encourage yourself?  Please leave a comment and tell me…