Habit of Encouragement

You need a habit of encouragement to create a default response of hope and positivity even when the clouds show up. Encouragement can be tough to find some days, even for a natural-born hopesmith. The more encouragement is practiced, the easier and more natural it becomes.

I avoided cleaning when I was in school. As long as there was a path from the bed to the door to the closet, I figured the room was clean enough.

Years later, the many that did our pest control when I was in school started doing the pest control for my husband and me. He confessed that there were times when he would come to treat our house, open and my door, and just say “not today.”

If my room had that treatment, you can only imagine what my bed was like – and you’d probably be right. 

When I got married – or more precisely when we started having children – things changed. The first chore any child ever had was to make his bed. I started them as soon as they were old enough to say bed. It didn’t have to be perfect, but it did have to be made.

Unfortunately, that meant I had to start making my bed. I didn’t want to tell – I wanted to show. So I started getting up and making my bed first thing every morning. And after doing the same thing every morning for more years than I can count, I feel off if I don’t get up and make my bed.

An unmade bed makes me feel sick because the only time it remains unmade is when I am sick.

It got so bad that on my first trip away from the family overnight in a hotel, I got up the next morning and MADE THE BED.

I had practiced so much that I did it without conscious thought.

That’s how we come to live encouraged – by practicing encouragement so much that we do it without conscious thought.

Habit of Encouragement:

Five Ways to Create Your Habit of Encouragement

  1. Hear encouragement
  2. Watch encouragement
  3. See encouragement 
  4. Write encouragement
  5. Speak encouragement

The more you do it, the more it becomes a habit you do without thinking about doing it. And for the record, that’s also the point when encouragement becomes one of your superpowers.

Building a Habit of Encouragement

Don’t worry – be happy.

It’s too simple to be meaningful. After all, you can’t just ‘not worry.’

But can we?

Can we choose to ‘not worry’ and to just be happy? It turns out that if you choose not to worry, you will be happier. And the more you focus on happiness – that pure, peaceful joy – the easier it becomes not to worry.

To get to a place of don’t worry be happy, you have to practice not worrying and being happy. And what better place to start a habit of don’t worry be happy than focusing on what you hear.

1. You Build a Habit of Encouragement through what you hear.

The things we allow in our ears go into our minds and then settle down into our hearts. 

If you aren’t sure you’re listening to the good, positive, and uplifting things that feed encouragement, just have your seven-year-old belt out the words to your most listened-to song in the middle of the checkout line.

Bonus points if he does it during the after-church rush.

When the boys were younger, I used our commuting opportunities to fill their minds with Christian music, Adventures in Odyssey, and Veggie Tales. When they were a little older, my husband had the opportunity to do a lot of the driving. He also DJ’d – and let’s just say that his taste in music ran a little more eclectic than mine.

I was raised on understanding the power of words, so I thought I had been aware of the lyrics I grew up singing. 

Wow – was I wrong.

When my seven-year-old son started his musical montage of Brick House, Thunderstruck, and other misc wonders, I blushed. I had underestimated the subtle sickness of pop culture. Even though not all of it was blatantly negative, it was bad enough not to be positive. 

We were feeding our hearts and minds with things that didn’t encourage.

I began monitoring songs with a new focus. Did it encourage? Did it uplift? Did it speak truth? (cause there are a LOT of songs belted out from the choir loft that are NOT truth, but I digress).

I began listening with the understanding that I was planting something and I wanted to be certain I was planting seeds I didn’t have to turn around and weed out.

What are you planting with what you are hearing? 

Today, listen with intention. Measure what you’re hearing and weigh the value of those seeds. If it’s not feeding your possibilities then silence may be the better option.

Hearing encouragement often goes along with watching – because you can’t watch a movie without hearing it and nowadays we all know that video killed the radio star. What you watch becomes a part of you. You’ll never stamp out of your mind the things that you let in through your eyes. The images stick around forever . . . and in case you’re counting, that’s a long time. It’s more than just important to make sure what you watch is things you want hanging around, it’s a matter of life – the life you want to create.

2. You Build a Habit of Encouragement Through What You Watch

Viewing options have changed since I was younger. They’ve changed since the Y2K scare. When you once had to wait until the weekends to watch cartoons, you can watch on-demand. Even worse, it follows you around now. It’s LITERALLY in your pocket – or on the back of the car seat – or in whatever restaurant you’re visiting.

You are watching even if you don’t want to watch.

The news seems to be the worst culprit. Since life-altering news isn’t actually happening 24/7, the networks have learned to drag out the news to make it fit their 24/7 cycle.

My husband and I had to get satellite TV when we first bought our home because it was too far from the main road to get cable. It turned out that we had to get west coast “local” channels. It never failed that at some time during the week, the news would break in with a car chase. It might not break in completely, but the chase would be broadcast in a tiny window in the corner of the screen.

No matter what station you prefer to watch for your news, they are all doing the same thing – they are trying to fill their cycle with the news that has happened. If you watch their loop 24/7 then you fall into a pit of despair. They dig through the content and tear down each piece of it until there’s nothing left – in the content or in your soul.

If you search through anything long enough, you’ll find despair.

But if you put that same energy into looking for encouragement, you’ll find it. If you’re going to watch, look for hope. There’s hope and encouragement in every day. Find good movies, shows, and livestreams and watch those to help you establish your habit of encouragement.

Encouragement Watching Suggestions:

I’ll add more as I think about them. Some of them I watch without thinking about the fact that I’m watching encouragement. I just enjoy them. And remember, just because they were something you watched growing up doesn’t automatically mean they are seeds you want to keep scattering. Pop culture is slithery that way.

What you watch is what you see and what you see is what you get. Invest in the things that will give you a better attitude and stronger focus on the possibilities you want to grow up. 

I’ve gotten back to walking each morning. Leave it to me to choose to revive this particular habit right about the time the hottest days of the year fall on us (or maybe it’s because I choose to revive this habit). But I keep walking.

Oh, and saying this is the hottest days yet is not a challenge to Alabama weather. I completely trust your abilities and would never challenge you that way.

My path has been in areas that aren’t populated. I wanted to keep off the road because sometimes I feel like the drivers take having a pedestrian on the side of the road as a challenge.

But the other morning, I decided to expand my walk into the neighborhood next door. It’s a steep hill and a good challenge. Along the way, I had a nice chat with a lady about her flowers. I had the chance to hear the birds singing their morning song. Plenty of other fun, forest creatures popped up to say hello. 

My attitude lightened. Despite the oppressive heat pushing down on me, I enjoyed the walk. I was looking for joy in the plants, the wildlife, and the scenery. I was also looking out for opportunities to send joy to others I passed along the way – I even stopped to pick up all the practice balls one neighbor had hit into a field. I was passing by them anyway. 

By looking for the brightness, I saw it. The more I looked, the more I saw and the brighter my day became.

3. You Build a Habit of Encouragement With What You See

My husband and I went to the local Farmer’s Market recently. Once we made the rounds through the different stands and got back to the car, my husband vowed to never take me again. “You’ve stayed focused on our loss this whole time.”

He was right – but don’t tell him I said that.

I had told story after story about how we lost things when the tornado hit in 2020. I saw the flowers and lamented how I couldn’t have a garden now because of the tornado and being displaced. I saw a lady selling elderberry syrup and lamented about how our elderberry bushes might now have survived – you know, because of the tornado.

Who knew it was possible to create a lamenting elevator pitch, but I had succeeded.

I saw things that were negative but I could have found just as many positives if I had shifted my focus. Instead, I focused on those negatives and missed a lot. I missed enjoying the young couple launching a business together and enjoying their day in their stand. I missed watching the many locals gather to talk with the stand owners and each other – just enjoying the bright Saturday morning. I missed appreciating my wonderful husband who put down what he was doing to take the Saturday adventure with me.

See what you can see and you will be what you have seen. There is joy and hope and light wherever you are if you are willing to see it. 

I think my Farmer’s Market encounter spurred my change in attitude for my morning walk. I had been called out for my negative focus so I made the intentional choice to look for the positive after that. I retired my lamenting elevator pitch.

But you know, I practiced that pitch for two years to the point I had made it a habit. 

What you practice will become your habit, so practice encouragement. A little shift from seeing the negatives to seeing the blessings made a difference in my attitude and a shift in attitude changes your world.

Shifting attitudes happens with the slightest change. As I use to sing to my sons, it only takes a spark. 

And it’s true – for life and for the bonfire. It only takes a spark to start the fire, but you will have to feed it and nurture it for that spark to build up to something that will warm everyone around it.

Encouragement provided the same spreading warmth a bonfire creates – and even more so because it spreads from its original location. 

Preparing for the Growing HOPE show each week pushes me to share encouragement, invest in the positive, find hope, and smile – and laugh. 

Even better, the words I write out are lasting. I find them days later or years later, and the original encouragement returns. 

I mentioned a few weeks back that I had found a note a friend had written me several decades back. The words she shared then were the very words I needed to read right then. I had a rough day and I needed to get an infusion of positivity. Her note had fallen out of a box of notes I sorted several weeks before, and I found it at the very moment I needed it.

Encouragement has a way of showing up like that just when you need it most.

Written words are lasting, so when you create words of encouragement they continue to seed encouragement as long as they are in existence (and sometimes even beyond because people remember them). 

4. You Build a Habit of Encouragement with What You Write

Growing up, I wrote letters to friends, to acquaintances, to family members, and sometimes to complete strangers. I enjoyed getting mail and wanted to spread that joy to others. It wasn’t unusual for me to mail a letter a day. 

At some point, I stopped. I suspect it happened a little at a time. “I’ll catch up on the weekend.” “I’ll wait until I’ve finished this project.” “I’ll catch up with Christmas cards.” or “I’ll do it tomorrow.”

Tomorrow is the great thief of intentional actions.

– Kathryn

#QuoteoftheDay

Tomorrow is the great thief of intentional actions.
- Kathryn

I fed my personal encouragement through journal writing, blog posts, and #GrowingHOPE.

But when I confessed that I had stopped my habit of writing courage to others, I stopped what I was doing. I put down my pencil, pulled out the stationary, and jotted out the two letters I had been promising myself I would write. 

It took a couple of minutes and I was encouraged for the doing – and I pray the recipients will be encouraged in the words I shared. My default place has always been to share hope so I decided to start practicing that once again.

The more you practice something, the more it becomes your default position. This episode of #GrowingHOPE had prompted me to stop resting on my buts and making excuses and to start writing encouragement again.

It only takes a spark. How will you spark a habit of encouragement with what you write?

The final focus for building a habit of encouragement is the tongue. The tongue is the most powerful muscle in the body and really in the world. It can end wars or start wars. It can give life or take life. It can stir hope or crush a heart. 

The words you speak are words you also words you hear, so they have a dual effect making them the most powerful words you will encounter.

How are you speaking to yourself and about yourself?

5. You Build a Habit of Encouragement by What You Speak

Several years ago, a video went viral (and you can still find it today). A small girl stands on the bathroom counter and speaks daily affirmations. She starts off just speaking the positives, but soon she’s gesturing and her voice is more enthusiastic. “I like my hair. I like my hair clips.” She goes on and on. You can tell she feels better for the effort and you will definitely feel better for the watching.

I worked at a ballroom dance studio where we met each morning and stood in a circle. “I am happy. I am healthy. I am terrific.” We’d chant three times and clap in between the speaking. By the end of the third chant, we all felt better than when we had started. Most of us would be smiling or laughing by the end of it. 

When you tell yourself positive things then you infuse possibilities in your mind and heart – and remember what we seed in the mind sets roots in the heart.

Grow a garden of life, love, and purpose living by speaking gratitudes, affirmations, and possibilities every day.

Get the bonus content: Unlock Encouragement

A habit of encouragement opens the doors, it smooths the path, it often lights the way. You find your possibilities when you are consistently invested in encouragement to the point it becomes your default.

Now, you may not have a group of forest creatures shows up to help you clean the house, but the encouragement will help you find your unique joy through the cleaning experience.

Living encouraged really will pave the way for you to change your world.

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Looking for more encouragement?

Practical Proverbs pulls encouragement tips directly from the Book of Proverbs.

Practical Proverbs with Kathryn Lang

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