Do you ever feel discouraged?
Or at least a lot more than I should.
In fact, I started writing this post today because I began to feel discouraged. There was no particular reason, just more general feelings and thoughts which attempted to flood my mind and pull me into a discouraged place.
That might come as a surprise to a lot of people who know me personally, because I tend to be very positive and upbeat about life.
But I have a confession to make.
I battle with discouragement a lot.
I often find it creeping up on me, tapping away at my thoughts, attempting to get its claws into me.
A cloud that comes down and brings a foggyness to my outlook. Reminding me about all the obstacles, frustrations & challenges before me. It surrounds me and it’s difficult to break through.
It attacks my confidence, enthusiasm and identity. I can feel:
It sucks away at the energy and life within me attempting to
kill my passion,
steal my joy &
plunder my peace.
Until I feel like I have no energy left to fight it anymore.
But I have learnt I have to fight it early on …. Regardless!
I can’t let it win. I have to break free from discouragement and it’s hold over me before it pulls me into a darker place that I will struggle to get free from.
I have to daily ‘take on’ the thoughts of discouragement and choose to see with more hope and faith. Some days that battle is harder than others, however, it is necessary to see life more positively.
WHAT DISCOURAGES US?
There are lots of different things and each one of us is affected by it in different ways.
Perhaps someone let you down, broke your trust, walked away.
Maybe your job or school work is harder than you expected and you are not making the progress you wanted.
Perhaps marriage and having children hasn’t been the experience you dreamt of.
Maybe life just seems to be hard and you are struggling to muster up the strength to continue each day.
Perhaps your plans and dreams haven’t worked out, things have gone wrong and you can’t see a way forward.
Discouragement knocks at your door and it’s hard to resist the flood of negative thoughts it brings with it telling you:
You are a failure
You are not going to make it
You are not good enough
What you do is not enough
Why not give up
No one cares
You will just get hurt
Why do you bother
Things are never going to get any better.
All this is just too hard!
Life is just too hard!
We can’t let discouragement win!
I believe that discouragement is one of the biggest struggles that leaders, in particular, have to overcome. Until you become a leader, in any setting, you have no idea how hard it is.
You have to find the energy and passion to keep going yourself, plus a load extra to carry everyone else with you. It’s hard. There are a lot of responsibilities & commitments, that you have to shoulder. When everyone else drops out you have to stay standing strong and do it alone if necessary.
It’s in this area that I probably face the most discouragement.
To be a leader you have to have vision. This means that you are constantly seeing what ‘could be.’ Discouragement often takes hold when the ‘could be’ seems miles away from the current reality and the progress you are making seems so slow.
Every leader has days when they feel discouraged, wish they could throw in the towel and ignore their responsibilities. Discouragement comes knocking and it takes all your might to keep the flood gates closed.
This is why we should think about how we can encourage leaders.
Trust me, they need it!
Discouragement often takes hold when the ‘could be’ seems miles away from the current reality and the progress you are making seems so slow.
HOW CAN WE DEAL WITH DISCOURAGING THOUGHTS AND FEELINGS?
We have to fight discouragment. We have to push through it.
Discouraged people discourage people.
Negativity spreads like wild fire.
When people are discouraged it spreads. It takes a lot of courage and strength to break through an atmosphere of discouragement and refuse to be part of letting it spread. But it is the only way to stop it in its tracks.
Discouraged people discourage people.
Rick Warren wrote about discouragement:
“Fight back! Discouragement is a choice. If you feel discouraged, it’s because you’ve chosen to feel that way… Hang on! Do what’s right in spite of your feelings. No feeling lasts forever.”
Some people don’t like hearing that our feelings can be a choice. It means we have to accept more responsibility for what we feel, think and how we behave.
But I believe we have a lot more control over our emotions than we might think. I am not talking about hiding them or pretending they are not there, that isn’t healthy. I am talking about learning to not be ruled or defined by them.
Emotions and feelings usually begin with thoughts. We cannot necessarily control the initial thoughts that come into our head but we can choose whether we dwell on them or not, whether to let them draw us into a negative mindset. Which is something I spoke about in Breaking Free! From Worry.
When thoughts of discouragement enter my mind if I do not stop them in their tracks they have the potential to snowball and pull in other thoughts until my perspective becomes overwhelmed and I feel rubbish about everything.
HOW CAN I FIGHT DISCOURAGEMENT?
Be honest with myself.
Trying to ignore discouragement often makes it worse. It can pull us into the dangerous place of pretending and you can only pretend for so long before the reality comes crashing down upon you.
I realise I can’t do it alone.
I am personally grateful for the inner strength that comes from my relationship with God. I talk to him. I listen to his still small voice encouraging me, renewing my strength and vision.
I speak to someone I trust and I know will encourage me.
My husband Matt is great at that. Or a close friend can help. Someone I know who will help me to see with a more positive perspective.
I read words that will help me.
From the bible, good books, articles, or the hundreds of inspiring quotes I store in my phone.
I try to remember everything that I can be thankful for.
Even when other things are going wrong around me.
I look for opportunities to encourage someone else.
Sometimes getting the focus off me and my problems, being aware of other people’s challenges and choosing to encourage them, helps me to break through my own discouragment.
It can take a lot of courage to choose to be hopeful in the face of discouragement. To keep trusting and believing even when things are a struggle.
But it’s the only way. Despair is not an option.
It starts with a choice.
Choose to be encouraged. Learn how to encourage yourself and let others encourage you.
You can then become an encourager rather than a discourager to other people and help to turn the tide away from a culture of criticism and negativity.
There is always something good going on around you that you can celebrate.
We just have to choose to see it.
I would love to hear what you think:
Do you struggle with discouragement?
What do you do to deal with it?
There are lots of things we can do to fight against discouragement. Carey Nieuwhof gives some good advice in this blog post.