As 2017 drew to a close last week, I was reflecting on the importance of encouragement, and how essential it is to achieving goals, staying motivated and just enjoying life - whatever it throws at you!

I was also reflecting on how difficult life can be for those who don’t get the encouragement they need…

What does it mean to be encouraged?

The root word literally means to give strength, or to hearten. Encouragement is all about being given the courage, the ‘heart strength’ if you will, to do something, or to face a difficult situation.

It’s easy to dismiss the idea of courage being a necessary aspect of our day-to-day lives, but without it things get difficult really fast.

Think about it for a minute: how often do you find yourself facing something - maybe a situation or environment - that you feel a little nervous or stressed out about? It might not be easy, but you are able to face and deal with those things on a regular basis, because you have the confidence to overcome them.

It takes courage.

The little things may only take a little courage, but at some point or other we all face big things in life. And without the ‘heart strength’ we need to face those issues, we may struggle to succeed and to overcome them.

Well, if courage is so important, how do we get it?

Sometimes, it’s the result of our own internal knowledge or confidence - our certainty in our own ability to overcome and to succeed.

Sometimes, we have to gain courage from the people around us. We have to be encouraged.

As the first days of the new year flash past, I’m conscious of my own ability - not only to receive encouragement - but to give encouragement to others.

We all have the power to lend courage to those around us. Whether by a kind word, a genuine smile, a helping hand, or a reminder to someone of how great they’re doing.

It can be easy to focus on the negatives in life, especially when things aren’t going so well.

But when we focus on building each other up, and focus on the things that give us hope, energy, strength and courage - in short: when we focus on being a positive influence - it’s amazing what a difference we can make.

Don’t believe me? Give it a go! You might find 2018 becomes your best year yet…

P.S. If Social Service is one of your highest Area of Interest scores, then helping and encouraging others is going to be especially energising for you!