Who in your life has encouraged you to grow? Who comes to mind when I ask you to tell me about a person who has brought you new growth or helped you achieve something great? What quality in them do you think it is that did that?
Encouragement Leads to Growth. Carol Dweck wrote a book titled Mindset where she described a study in which two groups of students were given different treatment, and as a result they performed differently on tests. The first group of students was told that they were super smart. The second group of students was not defined at all but instead encouraged to do well and encouraged to keep going when things got hard. Both groups took the same test. The ones that were defined, even though it was a positive definition of being super smart, topped off once it got too hard. When they reached a certain level where they no longer knew the answers to the questions on the test they quit, because they felt like they’d already reached their limit. If they were smart and this was what they were capable of then anything beyond that was too difficult for them. Meanwhile, the ones that were encouraged and not defined soldiered on, and they ended up doing better on the test. What this study shows it that it is encouragement that leads people to growth.
It is encouragement that helps people to want to do well. Regardless of whether it is someone you want to help or someone who is helping you see if you can encourage rather than define. There is nothing wrong with telling someone all of their great qualities, but even those great qualities puts them in somewhat of a box, rather than encouraging them to keep going. Instead you can say; “I think you could do it,” “What are you going to do now,” “Use your creativity,” or “Let’s see it.” Likewise do you surround yourself with people who are encouraging rather than just people who tell you who you are and what you need to do?
When I started taking Pilates years ago the #1 quality that I wanted in an instructor was someone who was encouraging. I had been around military type teachers for many years before that and I found it to be harsh and demeaning. So, I found someone who was very encouraging. She was understanding, she was supportive, she was kind, and she didn’t crack a whip on me. This actually made me want to do better. It made me want to learn more and try harder. So much so that I actually grew a ½ inch in Pilates. I grew! Granted Pilates is about posture, but I grew a ½ inch because of the work I did on my posture and I owe a lot of it to her, because she helped me. She encouraged me.
Think about someone in your life who means a lot to you. What are the ways that you can support them and encourage them to believe in themselves so they can become resourceful in themselves. That is the gift that you can give to them.
Heather Hans, LCSW, MSW, MBA, CPIC, is a Visionary, Healer & Teacher, and the author of The Heart of Self-Love: How to Radiate with Confidence. It is Heather's firm belief that loving oneself is necessary to have fulfilling relationships and a successful life.