People all around us need courage. Life beats us up, and we need that boost to propel us through the hard stuff of each day. Wouldn’t it be great if we could gift wrap a hefty dose of courage and give it to those we encounter? We can. Encouragement is giving the gift of courage. In fact, the word itself means to put “courage in.” When we encourage, we put courage in another person.

The bulk of my exercise these days comes through a high-intensity, high interval workout studio called Orange Theory. The concept is to work out in various ways near your maximum heart rate. I have to admit, the workout is a huge challenge. An instructor is working with the class giving instructions on the next thing to do. I have noticed that the best instructors sprinkle their next call with encouragement by name. “Tommy, way to push it!” Each time I hear my name, I feel a little surge that keeps me going and even pushes me harder. It doesn’t make logical sense that a few words make that kind of difference, but they do. The few words of encouragement put courage in me. 

All-day long we have opportunities to put courage in the people we encounter. At work, we can encourage those around us, whether we are the boss or one of the crew. We encourage those that work for us, with us, and even those that lead us. Encouragement not only has the power to put courage in others, but it also has the potential to change the culture around us. Encouragement lifts the tide and is contagious. At home, the place where encouragement is too often withheld, we have the most significant opportunity for impact. Unfortunately, encouragement is replaced with sarcasm. Because we know each other so well, encouragement means that much more. Beyond home and work, each day affords countless chances for encouragement. Waiters and waitresses, store clerks and teachers, friends and acquaintances all hunger for genuine encouragement.

Here’s the rub! Encouragement must be genuine. False encouragement is called flattery. Flattery has the opposite effect as it communicates that there is nothing genuine to say. Some people intentionally hold back encouragement, fearing that it will puff people up and make them soft. I believe that those who take this tack are making a grave mistake and missing a grand opportunity. Encouragement, when heartfelt, brings out the best in people and spurs them on to be even better. Why else do we cheer at sporting events? 

A few people I know have the gift of encouragement. My wife, Weezie, is one of them. Encouragement flows naturally, regularly, and authentically from her lips. For the rest of us, encouragement is a muscle that we need to exercise. As with all muscles, at first, the exercise will seem hard and unnatural. As we push through, we become stronger, and the encouragement flows freer. The beauty of encouragement is that everyone, regardless of position, talents, or status, can build the practice of encouragement. Enlist the help of a friend, co-worker, or spouse to encourage you to encourage others. There are very few habits that can have such a mighty impact with so little effort. Encouragement is all positives with no negatives. Where do you most need to develop the habit of encouragement? Begin today. Give someone you care about the gift of courage.