We all know what it feels like to be encouraged: to have someone on our side, who believes in us.
Their support is motivating, driving you on when the road feels hard.
If we’re lucky, we have many of these people in our workplace.
It is great if that person is our boss: someone who makes an effort to bring out the best in us, and push us to our limits - but not beyond.
I remember once writing a very important document for the Board of the National Crime Agency: the new Strategy for tackling Organised Crime through attacking the Proceeds of Crime.
My boss, the Director of the Proceeds of Crime Department read the first draft - and said to me: this is good, but it could be better.
I went away, grumbling slightly, and spent more time on it…
And the next draft WAS better.
I needed that extra push to take it from “good” to “excellent”.
But encouragement could come from many quarters: from colleagues; from peers in external organisations; or from a mentor (whether formal or informal).
But actually, the most important aspect of encouragement is the internal one.
I liken this to an internal cheerleader: we all need our inner voice to be supporting us, encouraging us, motivating us.
Rather than the opposite…
The importance of encouragement, and the power of the inner voice, is illustrated beautifully by the story of the Toad and the Tower.
Once upon a time, in a land far away, there was a group of frogs, living in a pond.
These frogs were happy: their time was spent splashing around in the water; catching flies; and playing games.
One day, they decided upon a new game.
On the edge of their pond was a tall tower.
The frogs decided to have a race to the very top of the tall tower.
The winner would be acclaimed as the bravest and strongest frog in the pond!
Other animals heard about the race, and got excited.
Of course none of the frogs would be able to get to the top - that was far too difficult.
But it would be funny watching them try.
But a toad that also lived near the frogs, decided that she not only wanted to watch - she liked a challenge, she wanted to join in…
Race Day dawned!
The animals gathered together at the base of the tower, watching the frogs and the toad limber up before their mammoth climb.
“I can’t believe they’re actually going to try to do this”, said a rabbit to a hedgehog.
“I know!,” said the hedgehog. “Have they not seen how tall the tower is - of course none of them are going to make it!”
The badger, as the animals’ senior representative, counted down:
And they were off!
The frogs and the toad hopped their way into the tower, and started jumping up the giant steps spiralling away above them.
The frogs were better at jumping than the toad, and soon left her behind.
But it was really hard jumping up those giant steps…
Outside, they could hear the other animals talking to one another:
“Where are they now? How long do you think it will be before the first one gives up?”
“Not long! I don’t think they’ll make it past a few steps - and no-one will get past 10!”
The frogs kept going, but as a result of hearing these comments, the steps felt even higher, and the task ahead even harder…
The animals outside started to shout up the tower,