A couple of years back a friend of mine gave me a memorial journal after my college roommate passed. It is a place to journal about those people that were closest to you who are no longer with you. It is a very cool gift.

Yesterday was Mother’s Day. I found myself spending time in my memorial journal writing to my mother. She passed almost 39 years ago. As I reflected on her, her influence, the unique energy she brought to life, I stopped on how she encouraged me. It was likely her greatest gift to me. It was a very visible way that she said, “I believe in you!” This was an important balance to my father’s focus on “what can Jim improve on.”

I needed both forms of ‘encouragement’ in my life, but mom’s came from a place of the positive which was important in helping me to not get too discouraged while I was working to grow. Over time, I saw the presence of both tendencies in my own personality. I could be very critical when things didn’t go well – often of myself. Encouragement was the pathway back to the light. It was present in my mom’s tone if not her words. “Your okay. There will be another opportunity. Learn from this experience so that next time you can do differently.”

Those encouraging words, those hugs, were instrumental to who I am still becoming. I realize that whether it is with my children, friends, acquaintances, clients, and those that I have led, encouragement has been, as Dan Reiland describes the “emotional fuel that enables people to hold longer, reach farther and dig deeper than previously believed possible.” I love the term ’emotional fuel.’ It has an ‘uplifting’ feel and sound to it.

As you know, I consider that leadership is a byproduct of relationship (thanks to my friend Richard Smith for his contribution to that notion). From that relationship we can build influence. Within that ‘building’ I believe that encouragement is often the critical element in how much influence we build. While some people seem to do okay, and maybe even thrive, with large doses of criticism, I know more people who excel to a greater extent when encouragement is ‘stirred’ in with the criticism in a larger proportion. I believe it is because encouragement is about drawing people to the ‘light.’ That light creates a greater belief in one’s self.

Have you ever noticed that most encouragers tend to be grateful? Being a person of gratitude improves your energy. It improves the ‘light’ you bring to others. It attracts others to you. That’s not a goal, it is a result.

Do you notice that some people give you energy by being around them, and others deplete your energy? What are the characteristics of one versus another? One observation I have made is that people who naturally give energy are people who communicate in a positive way. They are genuinely interested in others. They ‘give’ of themselves. The people who deplete my energy are more inwardly focused. They are more interested in talking about themselves – what they are doing, what difficulties they are having. They communicate a lot about what is ‘wrong’ in their world.

Life is full of challenges. The choice we make as to how we deal with the challenges life presents has a lot to do with the energy we bring. Are we determined to deal and move forward with a sense of purpose and survival? Some of those bad days will ‘take your breath away’ for a period. I have experienced several of those moments in my life. How I chose to deal and heal made all the difference. I have not found that negative energy is helpful. I have found helpful the encouragement of others during those times, and times in general. It was also helpful for me to encourage myself. Yes, out loud. When you can be your own worse critic it can be helpful to hear your own voice minimizing the critic and encouraging a different way to deal with the hurt and the disappointment that are present in life.

How do you see the world? How did you come to see the world that way? Was it evolution, or were their foundational moments in your childhood that were the genesis of that view? Does your view serve you well, or is there a bias that prevents you from experiencing more joy, or being more in the world? What would you like to change? What will it take for that to happen? Are you willing to do what it takes to make that change or those changes?

The foundational moments for how I see the world started with my mother; my dad in a different way. Those moments helped to shape the energy that I began to grow in becoming me. I am forever grateful to both my parents for their encouragement, particularly my mom. An encouraging word is a powerful tool in shaping a life.

The life you experience is often tied to the type of energy you bring. How would receiving more encouragement, or giving more encouragement change that energy? Would it change who you attract, what you experience? I know, big questions for a Monday, but then again, life is full of big questions. What we choose to do with them will influence our experience. Have an awesome remainder of May.

To a better you…