Recently my daughter and I ran a 10K race. She is a student at the University of Texas and this was the annual Longhorn Run. I like to run and would count myself a runner. But let me be honest. I actually had not run this distance in a race in several years. Yet, I was excited for the opportunity and certainly motivated to get to run the event with my sweet daughter.
The conditions were perfect–overcast, cool, and even a light mist in the air–which is far more preferable that the hot Texas sun. We ran a good race, especially my daughter. She finished 274th out of a field of over 1500. And I survived. Enough said.
This is the first time I had ever participated in this event. It was very well organized. I have seen marathons that were run with much less attention to detail. The Longhorn pep band was on hand, there were water stations at every mile, and there were great dry fit running shirts as the entry treat. I am always a sucker for a good race shirt. The freebies at the end of the race were outstanding. Did you know that Jello makes Longhorn jello molds? Me neither–but we each got a set at the end of the race–along with various other drinks, energy bars, fruit, and water bottles.
During the mid point of the race I had a leadership thought.
I know, I’m weird. It’s just where my mind goes on a regular basis. It is not unusual for a well organized race to have designated people who are on the course at various turns to cheer you on. This race was an 8:00 a.m. start on a Saturday morning after a typical college Friday night. There were very few spectators and the only students who were present were either running in the event or working the event. But there they were, the designated cheerleaders doing their job very well–at every turn. For well over an hour they cheered for whoever ran by their corner. And it absolutely made a difference.
We all need a little encouragement when we are running long distance and feeling depleted.
I hope you are catching my metaphor. But here is where my epiphany came in. I noticed that if I even did the simplest of gestures–like giving these designated cheerleaders a thumbs up–they cheered even louder. If I said something to them, they cheered all the more.
It mattered to them to be noticed for what they were doing, just like it mattered to me to be noticed for what I was doing.
In other words, encouragers need encouragement too.
The louder they cheered the faster my pace became. They spurred me on as I spurred them on. There was a symbiotic relationship taking place–a mutual cycle of encouragement that was truly invigorating.
I am not a good encourager. Ask anyone. Ask my wife. I have to work at it, and I probably need to be more determined in this life giving endeavor.
One definition of “encourage” is to “make someone more determined, hopeful or confident.”
We all need a dose of that on a regular basis. And so does the person who comes by it naturally. Often it is those who readily encourage others who never hear a word of encouragement. They always seem “up.” They are already hopeful and confident–right? But that is not always the case and when you actually pass along a word of encouragement to an encourager you will receive back ten fold. Give them a verbal “thumbs up.” Speak a word of hope to them. You know who they are. Good leadership does that! Do it today.
The Apostle Paul stated it this way in his letter to the Thessalonians, “Therefore encourage one another and build one another up . . . ” Paul ascribed his reasoning to the One who died and gave his life for ours . . . the ultimate encouragement.