For years I have had a word of the year. I pick one that can crossover in my personal and professional life and we try to live it out in our NCT9-1-1 culture. There are many methods for choosing a word of the year and some year’s I go through a process. Other years I am struck with a word after little thought and know that is the one right away. This was one of those years. I choose my word of the year during my year end reflection. At the end of 2022, I was sad. As I reflected, I was disappointed that “the new normal” still held more negative than I was willing to accept. I’m devastated with the rise in suicide and that we have been unsuccessful in teaching the vital life skill of resiliency. I was shocked at the number of people who quit going out into the world and stopped engaging with people face to face. I don’t mean during lock down but still today. I am amazed at how bad the staffing crisis is in public safety and throughout most other industries in our nation. And I could go on. . . And on. . .
However, I am an eternal optimist, full of hope for a good future and my mind will not allow me to wallow in these negative observations. So I focused on what I could do to turn some of the sadness around. That’s when I got my word of the year for 2023. Encouragement. We all need more encouragement to get through hard times and prepare for our bright futures.
What encourages you without any external intervention from others? For me it is the sunrise and sunset. As a transforming morning person, I have discovered sunrise for the first time in my life in the past three years. The transformation was not on purpose and I was not trying to be awake and outside to experience sunrise on a regular basis. I was building a positive habit of walking outside twice a day (morning and evening). I quickly learned that walking during sunrise was amazing! Not only fresh air, exercise and an opportunity for professional growth and learning through listening to podcasts and audio books, but also taking time to recognize the beauty of the sunrise and the sky all around it. The ability to see the amazing colors and cloud formations calms me and makes me smile. It gives me a sense of peace and wonder. It makes me stop and give thanks. The greatest thing is that it happens every day! Each sunrise and sunset is different but these amazing and beautiful acts of nature occur every single day. It is a constant, something I can depend on. Sunrise and sunsets encourage me. No matter my life circumstances or worries, there has never been a day that there wasn’t a sunrise and sunset. No matter how bad I feel, I know that tomorrow is a new day that will be introduced by a sunrise. I also know the sun will set on every bad day and with it is the hope for tomorrow.
Something I love about encouragement is that it is contagious. If I am encouraged, I can pass it on. If I have on my rose-colored glasses (that I wear most of the time) I can see the good in others and can focus on either reinforcing that good or looking for potential. I can recognize and appreciate the good works of those around me. I can share with them about their potential and cheer them on as they are growing. I can even share positive and inspirational stories about others to remind someone of the good in the world and the possibilities. I can brainstorm with others to paint a picture of a better tomorrow.
We have all been told that our words are powerful, and they are. Verbalizing encouragement to others doesn’t cost us anything or take too much of our time. But kind words that are sincere and authentic can make a person’s day (or more). I’m not just talking about complimenting your friend on her new hairstyle, although that is encouraging. I’m talking about taking the time to encourage someone you don’t know or maybe even don’t like. When was the last time you encouraged a co-worker? Some people haven’t heard a kind word today and may really need one. Sometimes people are walking around on the edge just trying to keep it together. We never know what others are thinking or experiencing at any given moment. But we do know that an encouraging word can make a difference. There are people all of us admire and respect but have never told them. Let’s take the time to do that. Let’s encourage others.
I did something new this year and I tracked my progress on practicing my word of the year. In fact, it was a habit goal for me this year. I developed a list of people I could encourage and how and I journaled who I tried to encourage each day, even when it was a stranger. I was intentional on this so I could practice encouragement daily instead of just every now and then. Tracking and journaling my gratitude really stepped up my game in that area and I knew this would help me in practicing what I preach as well – my word of the year.
I hope you will join me in finding your constant encouragement and focusing on it daily. I also challenge you to verbally encourage someone every day. You have nothing to lose. In fact, it really makes you feel good when you share kind words and see an emotional response as they say thank you. It is wonderful when the recipient of your encouragement tells you that your words made their day. It’s truly a win/win. While 2023 is ending and I will have a new word soon for 2024, I hope I’ve made a lasting change by practicing encouragement that will last a lifetime. Have you encouraged anyone today? Why not? You never know, your words may be exactly what was needed. They may even be the words that inspire that person to greatness!
Note from the author: This was not generated by AI, but from my heart to yours.